The order of the Gamache books, from first to most recent, is:
Still Life, A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold (same book, different title), The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against Murder/The Murder Stone (same book, different title), The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, The Long Way Home.

Here now are some of the reactions to the books, from latest to first:





Former Chief Inspector of Homicide, Armand Gamache, has found a peace he’d never imagined possible, away from the front line of the police and in the tranquil village of Three Pines. But when his friend Clara Morrow asks for help, he can’t bring himself to refuse her, despite the old wounds it threatens to re-open. Clara’s husband, Peter, is missing, having failed to come home on the first anniversary of their separation, as promised.

As Gamache journeys further into Quebec, he is drawn deeper into the tortured mind of Peter Morrow, a man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist that he would sell his soul. As Gamache gets closer to the truth, he uncovers a deadly trail of jealousy and deceit. Can Gamache bring Peter, and himself, home safely? Or in searching for answers, has he placed himself, and those closest to him, in terrible danger . . .



From number one New York Times bestselling author, Louise Penny, comes an evocative, immersive novel brimming with atmosphere and heart-stopping suspense – her most ingenious novel to date.



order the long way home barnes and noble amazon.com amazon.ca amazon.co.uk ibooks Books A Million barnes and noble amazon.com amazon.ca amazon.co.uk ibooks Books A Million



Booklist (starred review)
'As always, Penny dexterously combines suspense with psychological drama, overlaying the whole with an all-powerful sense of landscape as a conduit to meaning…. Another gem from the endlessly astonishing Penny….
Penny appears to have reserved a lifetime seat atop best-seller lists
everywhere, and, with the appearance of her latest, she will take her place once again.'




The Long Way Home
Canada / US Edition

26th August


The Long Way Home
UK Edition
26th August


Publishers Weekly
Perceptive… perfectly paced…The prose is remarkably fresh, filled with illuminating and delightful turns of phrase.


Library Journal (starred review)
'Penny wraps her mystery around the history and personality of the people involved. By this point in the series, each inhabitant of Three Pines is a distinct individual, and the humor that lights the dark places of the investigation is firmly rooted in their long friendships, or, in some cases, frenemyships. The heartbreaking conclusion will leave series readers blinking back tears.'


Charlotte Observer
' ....This series dominates best-seller lists and award lists for a reason. Penny tells powerful stories of damage and healing in the human heart, leavened with affection, humor and – thank goodness – redemption.'



The audio, featuring Ralph Cosham, is an Editor's Pick in AudioFile Magazine

As well, the book has been chosen as an IndieNext Pick by the Independent Booksellers Association.

Barnes and Noble has chosen to highlight it as a top book for the season.

Amazon in the US has named THE LONG WAY HOME one of the Best Book of the Month, for August 2014.

The audio, featuring Ralph Cosham, is an Editor's Pick in AudioFile Magazine







“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” - Leonard Cohen

Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna's reluctance to reveal her friend's name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?







Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel.

Nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award for Best Novel


Nominated by Left Coast Crime organizers for Best Novel Set Outside the US

HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has been named by the Washington Post one of the top 5 Fiction Books of the Year and has been chosen an IndieNext pick by the Independent Booksellers Association in the US.


Named by The Globe Books 100: Best Crime by the Globe & Mail

Amazon.com has named HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN to their BEST OF 2013 list


Named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year list

Barnes and Noble has put HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN on its Best Fiction of 2013 list

Named to Goodreads Best Mystery-Thriller Books 2013 list

 


How The Light Gets In
Canada / US Edition



How The Light Gets In
UK
Edition


Library Journal
has named HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN one of the best audiobooks of 2013


HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
has been named BEST FICTION BOOK OF 2013 by Book Browse in the US.

The American Library Association made it a top ten pick for best book published in the entire nation in September.

AudioFile Magazine has named HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN one of the year's Best Crime Novels, and has also named the remarkable Ralph Cosham one of the year's top narrators.







HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list!!

Kirkus Review
'….luminous insights into trust and friendship, that will hook readers and keep them hooked..'


Booklist
"Penny has always used setting to support theme brilliantly, but here she outdoes herself, contrasting light and dark, innocence and experience, goodness and evil both in the emotional lives of her characters and in the way those characters leave their footprints on the landscape. Another bravura performance from an author who has reinvented the village mystery as profoundly as Dashiell Hammett transformed the detective novel."


Publishers Weekly
"Complex characterizations…subtle plotting…masterful…unfolds with subtlety and intelligence. Once again, Penny impressively balances personal courage and faith with heartbreaking choices and monstrous evil"


Library Journal
"Penny's mysteries are really character studies. There is police procedure being followed, but the forensics take second place to Gamache's absolutely fascinating probe into the characters of every single person involved in the investigation: the police, the witnesses, and especially the suspects. He cares passionately about each person and makes the reader care. Highly recommended
"

The Washington Post
" ....extraordinary. In How the Light Gets In, Penny has written a magnificent mystery novel that appeals not only to the head, but also to the heart and soul."

USA Today
"A New and Noteworthy Book - Four out of Four Stars:  ....sophisticated and complex...Penny immerses the reader in a high-suspense cyber-hacking drama emanating from the off-the-grid Three Pines that proves not only pivotal but memorable....At the center of everything is Gamache — a modest, smart, kind-hearted man whose empathy and warmth may be his fatal flaw and certainly defy that of stereotypic crime-thriller detectives....You buy into it…because, if it were true, this would somehow be a better world. And you want it to be true, even if only in fiction. Sometimes that's how the light gets in."

People Magazine in the US (four out of four stars)
"Once again, Penny delivers a masterful, nuanced suspense novel in which tone and setting are just as riveting as the murderer's who and why."

Daily Express (UK)
"Louise Penny twists and turns the plot, expertly tripping the reader up just at the moment you think you might have solved the mystery. She excels with the characterisation of Armand Gamache. Creating through him a story of human perseverance in the face of personal turmoil. He is a deeply complex character....Unrelentingly fast-paced, it powers through its narrative with the force of a high-speed train."

Richmond Times Dispatch
"With the grace of a master prose stylist and the generosity born of a kind heart, Penny again explores the mysteries of humanity in a novel that builds to a nerve-burning climax, engages the mind in an examination of sin and redemption....Suffused with brilliance on all levels, "How the Light Gets In" displays Penny at her beautiful and bountiful best."

Huffington Post
....How the Light Gets In is a story about crime (against nature and against the rules of society), corruption (personal and political), and murder (both actual and metaphysical). Hope and fear, good and evil, friendship and betrayal, love and hate, innocence and corruption: Penny explores the battling dualities that exist in all of us, and the necessity of battle (and even failure) to create resilience. Her novel about death and decay becomes a book about how to live: everything broken has a crack, but that is how the light gets in.



For those of you in the UK, Australia and New Zealand interested in buying HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, click here for more information .




Listen to How the Light Gets in audiobook, read by Ralph Cosham. Macmillian Audio has produced an excerpt Click here to hear it.



ibooks Books-A-Million ibooks






No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.






New York Times #2 (on Sept 16th list)
NPR #2
The Globe and Mail #6
Independent Booksellers #2 (US)
Independent Booksellers #1 (Canada)
USA Today
(includes all books, fiction/non-fiction/paperback and hardcover)
#12
Vancouver Sun #1
Macleans Magazine #3
Publishers Weekly #3



 


The Beautiful Mystery
Canada / US Edition




The Beautiful Mystery
UK
Edition


THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY has won the Agatha Award for Best Mystery in the US!

THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY won the Anthony Award for Best Crime Novel

THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY has won the Macavity Award for Best Crime Novel of the year in the US - as voted on by members of Mystery Readers International.

Publishers Weekly named Best Summer Book of 2012 (long before pub date)

Booklist - name THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY in top 10 crime fiction titles of the year

Ralph Cosham has won the Audie Award for Best Audio Crime Novel in the US for narrating THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY






New York Times

"Penny writes with grace and intelligence about complex people struggling with complex emotions. But her great gift is her uncanny ability to describe what might seem indescribable - the play of light, the sound of celestial music, a quiet sense of peace."

People Magazine (Editor's Pick, 4 out of 4 stars)
With enormous empathy for the troubled human soul—and an ending that makes your blood race and your heart break—Penny continues to raise the bar of her splendid series.

The Globe and Mail

....It’s a stirring, thought- provoking read, less a matter of whodunit than a relentless questioning of why any of us do anything. The Beautiful Mystery...stands as a powerful literary novel in its own right...

Booklist
"An entire mystery novel centering on Gregorian chants (whose curiously hypnotic allure is called the “beautiful mystery”)? Yes, indeed, and in the hands of the masterful Penny, the topic proves every bit as able to transfix readers as the chants do their listeners.... P. D. James, of course, has made a career out of taking her sleuth, Adam Dalgliesh, into closed worlds to investigate murders, and while Penny follows that formula, she layers her plots more intricately than does James, this time adding an entire contrapuntal plot concerning Gamache, Beauvoir, their relationship, the secrets each conceals, and the demons each continues to fight....Of course, there is always something mammoth roiling away beneath the surface of Penny’s novels—but this time the roiling is set against the serenity of the chanting, producing a melody of uncommon complexity and beauty."

Publishers Weekly
"Excellent....a captivating whodunit plot, a clever fair-play clue concealed in plain view, and the deft use of humor to lighten the story's dark patches. On a deeper level, the crime provides a means for Penny's unusually empathic, all-too-fallible lead to unearth truths about human passions and weaknesses while avoiding simple answers."

Kirkus Review
"....remarkably penetrating and humane. The most illuminating analogies are not to other contemporary detective fiction but to The Name of the Rose and Murder in the Cathedral."

Library Journal
"...This heart-rending tale is a marvelous addition to Penny’s acclaimed series."

Adelaide Advertiser
"Hallelujah. Amid the formulaic dross that makes up so much current crime fiction, gems can be found ****"


The Winnipeg Free Press
"With The Beautiful Mystery, there's no longer any doubt: Penny is Canada's best contemporary crime writer, among the best in the world, and one of our best writers, period."

The Seattle Times

"Could a book by Louise Penny have a better title than "The Beautiful Mystery". The title, like Penny's fiction, has multiple layers. First is the crime: the murder of the choir director of a monastery in the deep woods of Quebec. Then there's the joyous but inexplicable emotions the monks' glorious liturgical singing invokes. And there's the disconnect between the monks' vows of silence and their renowned singing. And then, of course, there's the mystery of religion itself....For the reader, meanwhile, there's a final beautiful mystery to contemplate: How does Penny consistently write such luminous and compassionate books?."

The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer (Salem Macknee)

"Penny shows us the joy of the cloistered life as surely as she has shown us the joy of village life…for fans of the series, the resulting bombshell in the characters' lives is as much like murder as anything ever delivered by a blunt instrument."

Richmond Times Dispatch
"Penny - who melds prose at once expressive and restrained with a keen understanding of human emotions - creates a novel that earns its title, a book that shines with the grace and compassion that stamp her work."

Herald Sun
"Certain writers remain utterly reliable, utterly enchanting"

Illawarra Mercury
"A tense plot with a finite group of suspects will keep the reader involved until the last clue"

Country News
"The Beautiful Mystery is an ingenious, sinister new novel"

Ballarat Courier
"Here is a good old-fashioned detective yarn with a believable plot, charming characters, a fascinating location and enough red herrings to keep the reader alert"

Herald Sun
"One of the joys of detective fiction"


On the audio book front, Ralph Cosham is again reading THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY and the publishers, Macmillian Audio has produced an excerpt. Click here to hear it.

More great news - THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY has won an Earphones Award from AudioFile.



For those of you in the UK, Australia and New Zealand interested in buying THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, click here for more information.




ibooks Books-A-Million
ibooks



“Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.






Bestseller Lists - USA
The New York Times (2 weeks) 4
People Magazine 5
Publishers Weekly 5
Entertainment Weekly 5
The Chicago Tribune 5
The Washington Post 6
Pacific Northwest Indie 2
NEIBA 7
ABA National Indie 9
National Public Radio 14

Bestseller Lists - Canada

Globe and Mail (2 weeks) 7
Leader-Post 2
Book Manager (2 weeks) 2
Canadian Booksellers Association (3 weeks) 2
The Vancouver Sun (2 weeks) 2
Maclean's Magazine 10
Edmonton Journal 10



Winner of the Anthony Award for Best Crime Novel 2012
Finalist for the Macavity Award for Best Crime Novel in the US 2012

Finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Mystery of 2011
Finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel in Canada in 2011
Finalist for the Dilys Award from the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association for the book they most enjoyed selling in 2011
Finalist GoodReads Choice Awards for 2011
Publishers Weekly top 10 Mysteries of 2011
Amazon.com top 10 Thrillers and Mysteries of 2011
Aunt Agatha's Bookstore: Favorites of 2011
The Toronto Star: Favorite Read of 2011
New York Times Book Review: Favorite Crime Novel of 2011
BookPage, Readers' Choice: Best Books of 2011 (#6 all genres)
Women Magazine: Editor's Pick #1 Book of 2011
The Globe and Mail: Top 10 Mystery of 2011
The Seattle Times: Top 10 Mystery of 2011
Quill and Quire: Top 10 Mystery of 2011
I-Tunes: Top 10 AudioBook of 2011
Richmond Times-Dispatch: top 5 Fiction Books of 2011


A Trick of the Light
Canada / US Edition



A Trick of the Light
UK
Edition





Kirkus Review
'Penny, elevating herself to the pantheon that houses P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters, demonstrates an exquisite touch with characterization, plotting and artistic sensitivity.'

Publishers Weekly
'Outstanding....Penny effectively employs...the interplay of light and dark...which resonates symbolically in the souls of the characters.'

Booklist
“Like P. D. James, Penny shows how the tight structure of the classical mystery story can accommodate a wealth of deeply felt emotions and interpersonal drama….Top of the genre.”

People Magazine (4 out of 4 stars)
“Stellar….With her smart plot and fascinating, nuanced characters, Penny proves again that she is one of our finest writers.”

The New York Times Book Review

“A deceptively charming whodunit… delivering acute insights into the complicated motives of complex characters….Behind each volatile outburst of marital discord and professional envy lies some deeper truth involving the betrayal of trust and the need for atonement and forgiveness”

Parade Magazine (A Book of the Week Pick)
“Louise Penny elevates the small-town murder mystery to new heights in this seventh installment of her psychologically piercing series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.”

Library Journal
'Excellent'.

Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A commanding and artful performance…. For connoisseurs of mysteries, success is judged by the genre's holy trinity: plot, people and prose. When all three attain excellence, a fourth quality shines through: power….. what lifts her work to the highest plane is the deep sense of humanity with which she invests her novels, and ‘A Trick of the Light’ satisfies and surpasses that standard.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Superb…masterful….Penny continues to amaze with each novel. Wrapped in exciting plots and domestic details, her characters are people we want to follow through their very real joys and sorrows.”

Romantic Times, has made A TRICK OF THE LIGHT a "Top Pick"
"Penny’s characters are sharply drawn, realistically complicated and heartbreakingly real. Wonderful, complex characters and sophisticated plotting makes this a perfect book. Do not miss it."

The Associate Press
“...a gripping mystery.”

Kaye Barley, at Meanderings and Muses and Dorothy L.
I keep using the word "stunning" for Ms. Penny's work time and time again. And I keep saying "this one is the best one yet." Big sigh.

A Trick of the Light is STUNNING and yes, it is the best one yet. HOW does she keep doing this? And continually top her own work?.... As far as what happens in Three Pines - suffice to say, A LOT! Some things many of us have been waiting for, a few things that will make you laugh out loud, some things that will break your heart and move you to tears along with a few surprise twists. You know - all those things that Louise Penny just keeps doing with such apparent ease.


ibooks Books-A-Million ibooks




As Quebec City shivers in the grip of winter, its ancient stone walls cracking in the cold, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache plunges into the most unusual case of his celebrated career. A man has been brutally murdered in one of the city's oldest buildings - a library where the English citizens of Quebec safeguard their history. And the death opens a door into the past, exposing a mystery that has lain dormant for centuries...a mystery Gamache must solve if he's to apprehend a present-day killer.





New York Times Bestseller 2010
London Times Bestseller 2011
London Times Book of the Week
Winner of The Nero Award for Literary Excellence in the Mystery Genre for 2011
Winner of The Anthony Award for Best Crime Novel of 2010 (Second year in a row)
Winner the Agatha Award for Best Novel in 2010 (Fourth year in a row)
Winner, American Library Association best Mystery, 2010
Winner, The Dilys Award, from the Independent Mystery Bookstores Association (IMBA) for the book they most enjoyed selling in 2010
Winner, The Macavity Award for Best Novel of 2010
Winner, the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Novel of 2010
USA Today Bestseller
American Booksellers Association Bestseller
Canadian Booksellers Association, booksellers top hand sell for 2010
Kirkus Review Top Mystery of 2010
Publisher's Weekly Top Mystery of 2010
Booklist Top Mystery of 2010
Amazon.com top 100 books of 2010
Amazon.com top Audio Book of 2010
AudioFile Best Recorded Mystery of 2010
Toronto Globe and Mail Top Mystery of 2010
Chicago Tribune, Top Mystery of 2010
Finalist, Best Book of 2010 in any category, BookBrowse
Finalist, Good Reads, Best Mystery and Thriller, 2010
Finalist The Barry Award for Best Novel of 2010
Finalist for the David Award of Deadly Ink for Best Novel of 2010
People Magazine Editor's Pick with 4 of 4 Stars, October 11, 2010
Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Top Mystery of 2010
The Halifax Chronicle Herald, top Mystery of 2010
Indie Next "Great Reads from Booksellers You Trust" for October, 2010
BookPage Mystery of the Month, October, 2010
Kirkus Review, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist Reviews
Quill and Quire: Top 10 Mystery of 2011 (UK Edition)
Globe and Mail Best (Canadian) Book of 2011


Bury your Dead
US Edition




Bury your Dead
Canada / UK / Commonwealth



Exciting news - GAMACHE / BURY YOUR DEAD guided tour of Quebec City is now available. We've been working with a top walking tour company in the venerable old city, Tours Voir Quebec, and are very happy to endorse this. The good people of the Literary and Historical Society (Morrin Centre) are also onboard. It's available in either English or French. Here's the link. Bon voyage et Vive Gamache!





Publishers Weekly
At the start of Agatha-winner Penny's moving and powerful sixth Chief Insp. Armand Gamache mystery (after 2009's The Brutal Telling), Gamache is recovering from a physical and emotional trauma, the exact nature of which isn't immediately disclosed, in Québec City. When the body of Augustin Renaud, an eccentric who'd spent his life searching for the burial site of Samuel de Champlain, Québec's founder, turns up in the basement of the Literary and Historical Society, Gamache reluctantly gets involved in the murder inquiry. Meanwhile, Gamache dispatches his longtime colleague, Insp. Jean Guy Beauvoir, to the quiet town of Three Pines to revisit the case supposedly resolved at the end of the previous book. Few writers in any genre can match Penny's ability to combine heartbreak and hope in the same scene. Increasingly ambitious in her plotting, she continues to create characters readers would want to meet in real life.

People Magazine (4 out of 4 stars) 'editor's pick'!
Her beautifully elegiac sixth book interweaves three story lines while plumbing the depths of Gamache's grief. The result is sophisticated and moving - her best yet.

Booklist
Penny’s first five crime novels in her Armand Gamache series have all been outstanding, but her latest is the best yet, a true tour de force of storytelling….Penny hits every note perfectly in what is one of the most elaborately constructed and remarkably moving mysteries in years.

Kirkus Review
Gamache's excruciating grief over a wrong decision, Beauvoir's softening toward the unconventional, a plot twist so unexpected it's chilling, and a description of Québec intriguing enough to make you book your next vacation there, all add up to a superior read. Bring on the awards.

Library Journal
Superb...brilliantly provocative and will appeal to fans of literary fiction, as well as to mystery lovers.

BookPage, in the US, had named BURY YOUR DEAD their Mystery of the Month for October
Bury Your Dead has received more pre-release praise than any suspense novel in recent memory; I was a little skeptical at first, but I am here to tell you that itis well deserving of every word. And then some!

Toronto Globe and Mail

. . . Louise Penny’s portrait of Quebec City is as lovingly detailed and evocative as anything she has written, and her control over this intricate blending of history and mystery is absolute. Furthermore, the deepening of Gamache’s character is profoundly satisfying. The book, obviously, is a must-read for her fans, and demonstrates once again that she is in the first rank of crime-fiction writers in Canada, or indeed, in the world.

ibooks BAM ibooks




Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.







Winner, The Agatha Award for Best Traditional Mystery, 2009 (for the unprecedented 3rd time)
Winner, The Anthony Award for Best Novel, 2009
Barnes and Noble Recommends Main Selection
NY Times bestseller for three weeks
USA Today bestseller for 2009
Entertainment Weekly bestseller for 2009
Chosen by the prestigious Dorothy L as best novel for 2009
American Library Association (ALA) Selection for Best Mystery 2009
The Globe and Mail, top mystery of 2009
Booklist - top ten Mystery for 2009
Booklist - top ten Audiobook for 2009
Audiofile - Ear-Phones Award for 2009
Golden Archer Award for Best Mystery from the Journal Sentinel. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A Great Read by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) in their IndyNext pics
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) bestseller list for September
Mystery Salon Blog, Best Book of 2009
Strand Magazine, top Mystery of 2009
Finalist, Dilys Award of the Independent Mystery Booksellers of America (IMBA)
Finalist for The Macavity Award for Best Novel, 2009


The Brutal Telling
Canada / UK / Commonwealth




The Brutal Telling
US Edition





Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon

...Penny isn't Christie. For one thing she's a far more accomplished craftsman, relying more on depth of character than formula. She also likes a complex plot that owes more to human emotion and psychology than to clockwork timing. This puts her closer to PD James....The best Gamache novel so far.

Daily Mirror 4 stars out of five, Henry Sutton
The Canadian village of Three Pines is given a shocking awakening when a stranger is found dead in the local bistro. But soon Chief Inspector Gamache discovers the bistro owner had a shady past. Brilliant.


The Bookbag 4.5 stars out of five

It's Louise Penny's writing which adds a glow to this book. It's not just the skill of the plot, but the way that words are never wasted and that so few of them can produce a vivid picture. Dialogue is perfect and there's a real talent for capturing the one-liners which make you laugh out loud.

Shots Mag, Mike Stotter
I have always been dismissive of the expression "I couldn't put it down", but after reading Louise Penny's latest story of the idyllic French Canadian village of Three Pines I acknowledge that there is some truth in it. I read this book in one session, anxious to reach the unravelling of a complex plot dealing with mystery, artistic integrity, murder, of course, and relationships.

Book Blog The Editor's Notebook

I’ve got to that stage in The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny, where I want to finish so that I know the outcome but I’m enjoying it so much that I don’t want it to end.

People Magazine 3 1/2 out of 4 stars

With an intricate, almost mythic plot, superb characters and rich, dark humor Penny - a former journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who has garnered multiple awards for the series' four previous novels - continues to deepen and modernize the traditional "village mystery". Her courtly, poetry-loving Inspector Gamache, who peers into suspects' souls over meals so mouthwatering you'll want to book a flight, contributes a humane and sophisticated perspective on human foibles.

Kirkus Review

Penny (A Rule Against Murder, 2009, etc.) is a world-class storyteller. If you don’t want to move to Montreal with Gamache as your neighbor—or better yet, relocate to Three Pines and be welcomed into its community of eccentrics - you have sawdust in your veins, which must be very uncomfortable.

Library Journal
…Penny has only gotten better with each succeeding novel. Her fifth in the series is the finest of all….this literary mystery explores the ways in which sins of the past have a way of resurrecting themselves, wreaking havoc upon their perpetrators, and, unfortunately, the innocent…. Fortunately, sagacious Gamache possesses the acumen to peel away the layers of deceit and to expose the truth. This superb novel will appeal to readers who enjoy sophisticated literary mysteries…

Booklist
Penny has been compared to Agatha Christie, and while there is a surface resemblance there, it sells her short. Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and human psychology too firm for the formula-bound Christie. No, Penny belongs in the hands of those who read not only P. D. James but also Donna Leon, who, like Penny, mixes her hero’s family and professional lives fluidly and with a subtle grasp of telling detail.

Publishers Weekly
When the body of an unknown old man turns up in a bistro in Agatha-winner Penny’s excellent fifth mystery set in the Quebec village of Three Pines (after Jan. 2009’s A Rule Against Murder), Chief Insp. Armand Gamache investigates. At a cabin in the woods apparently belonging to the dead man, Gamache and his team are shocked to discover the remote building is full of priceless antiquities, from first edition books to European treasures thought to have disappeared during WWII. When suspicion falls on one of Three Pines’ most prominent citizens, it’s up to Gamache to sift through the lies and uncover the truth. Though Gamache is undeniably the focus, Penny continues to develop her growing cast of supporting characters, including newcomers Marc and Dominique Gilbert, who are converting an old house-the site of two murders—into a spa. Readers keen for another glimpse into the life of Three Pines will be well rewarded.

Joseph Beth bookstores, Cincinnati, Ohio, Micheal Fraser

I was prepared to be vastly entertained by a witty, sometimes funny and intricately plotted mystery whose solution always lies in the hearts of men and the ability of Gamache to suss out what lies within….I was not prepared for this compelling and unflinching look into the heart of darkness that resides within us all. It is a universal truth that we can never fully know another human being and many times, not even ourselves. But Penny shows us a unique insight into the very "black box" of her characters…This is a terrific read if you like mysteries but it is also a stunning look at our universal condition. In a brutal telling itself, Penny connects us with our own humanity as well as others. She shows us the fragility of our existence and that even living within the pale doesn't exempt us and we can have everything taken away in a very short time.

Nick News, Linda Ellerbee, Journalist, Author
Louise Penny's mysteries have evolved into world-class novels. "The Brutal Telling" is rich in atmosphere, hip-deep in character, beautifully written and superbly imagined. Plus an astonishing ending! Who could ask for anything more?

Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Robin Agnew

These books are an assurance in the face of a sometimes harsh world that goodness does, indeed, exist, and that may partly explain the passion Penny seems to inspire in her readers. With almost every word, she gives you something to hope for....this book may be her best yet, and that is saying a lot.

Meanderings and Muses blog, Kaye Barley

I was one of the lucky winners of an Advance Reading Copy of THE BRUTAL TELLING, and have to tell you - it is stunning. I'm shouting about it all over the place, and I'm already quite sure it will be in my Top Five Favorite Books of 2009. Add this to your "Gotta Read" list.


ibooks BAM ibooks




Wealthy, cultured and respectable, the Finney family is the epitome of gentility. When Irene Finney and her four grown-up children arrive at the Manoir Bellechasse in the heat of summer, the hotel's staff spring into action. For the children have come to this idyllic lakeside retreat for a special occasion - a memorial has been organised to pay tribute to their late father. But as the heat wave gathers strength, it is not just the statue of an old man that is unveiled. Old secrets and bitter rivalries begin to surface, and the morning after the ceremony, a body is found. The family has another member to mourn.

A guest at the hotel, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache suddenly finds himself in the middle of a murder enquiry. The hotel is full of possible suspects - even the Manoir's staff have something to hide, and it's clear that the victim had many enemies. With its remote location, the lodge is a place where visitors come to escape their pasts. Until the past catches up with them...






New York Times Bestseller
The Globe and Mail's 2008 Mystery of the Year
Booklist - Top Ten Mystery of the Year
Finalist Arthur Ellis Award (Canada)
An IndieNext pick (formerly BookSense) for February 09






New York Times, Marilyn Stasio
Louise Penny applies her magic touch to A RULE AGAINST MURDER (Minotaur, $24.95), giving the village mystery an elegance and depth not often seen in this traditional genre. Although Penny is no slouch at constructing a whodunit puzzle, her great skill is her ability to create a charming mise-en-scène and inhabit it with complex characters.
There’s something other­worldly and altogether enchanting about the Manoir Bellechasse, the magnificent lodge in the Canadian wilderness where Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, has taken his wife for their 35th wedding anniversary. Not only does the auberge offer grand views and the order and calm of old-world service, but it also observes a no-kill policy, with the proprietors feeding wild animals in winter and forbidding guests to hunt or fish. Someone obviously failed to explain that rule to the cultured but quarrelsome family holding a reunion to unveil a statue of their late patriarch, who makes his feelings felt by toppling down on one of his own. As Gamache observes, things were not as they seemed, not even in a paradise like Bellechasse. And never in a Louise Penny mystery.


A Rule Against Murder
US Edition




The Murder Stone
Canada / UK / Commonwealth

Publishers Weekly
A Rule Against Murder Louise Penny, read by Ralph Cosham. Blackstone, unabridged, nine CDs, 11 hrs.
Celebrated British narrator and actor Ralph Cosham brings this wonderful murder mystery to life and draws in listeners with his charisma. Penny's taut, darkly comedic tale features the Finney family, which has gathered for the installation of a statue of their long-dead patriarch. When the statue falls and kills one of his daughters, Insp. Armand Gamache (Cosham at his very best) must unravel the plot before it's too late. Cosham's characters are refreshingly original and never overplayed, and the Old World quality of his voice invokes radio murder mysteries from decades past, creating an endlessly entertaining listening experience.

Australian Women's Weekly

Beautiful imagery, deft characterisation and deliciously dense plots

Weekend Australian
Louise Penny's village whodunits make perfect beach reading for this summer

Notebook Magazine
To say this book has an old-fashioned feel is not to denigrate it.There is nothing hard-boiled about Armand: he's a man who loves his family, is loyal and decent... once the narrative is underway, its smooth patient flow carries the reader with it to the last

Cleveland Plain Dealer
MURDER is a fine read, as Penny illuminates her characters in subtle strokes.

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Once again, Penny concocts an intricate and intriguing plot and peoples it with credible characters and the continually fascinating Gamache... and her writing is lovely, powerful and uniquely imaginative, prose that approaches the poetic... No murder would be complete, of course, without death. But in Penny's caring hands, the focus in A RULE AGAINST MURDER - as it is in all of this profoundly humane series - is on life, and on life made richer by the author's deep sense of decency.

Denver Post
An ingenious, impossible crime puzzle for the reader . . .

An IndieNext pick (formerly BookSense) for February 09

Mystery Reader (five out of five stars)
Louise Penny has created in her Inspector Gamache series a clever combination of a police procedural and cozy mystery novel…. The setting itself is reminiscent of the golden age of mysteries….Indeed this novel is a classic locked room mystery….Ms. Penny has a superb command of the English language….As a mystery author, Ms. Penny plays fair with her readers….A Rule Against Murder should go on everyone’s reading list.
 
The Charlotte Observer (4 out of 4 stars)
At least two people are waiting very impatiently for this review to be done so I can pass the new Louise Penny along to them. With just her fourth book, she already has that kind of (well-deserved) following...

Starred Library Journal
Canadian author Penny has garnered numerous awards for her elegant literary mysteries featuring the urbane Armand Gamache, chief police inspector from Quebec. Gamache is intelligent, observant, and implacable, indispensible attributes for the sophisticated detection that characterizes this series....Penny’s engaging, well-crafted mystery probes the dynamics of a severely dysfunctional family and the festering wounds that lead to its ultimate destruction. Her psychological acumen, excellent prose, and ingenious plotting make this essential reading for mystery lovers and admirers of superb literary fiction. Fans of Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Elizabeth George will also be delighted.

Starred Booklist
Readers who haven’t discovered Louise Penny and her Armand Gamache series yet are in for a treat….Not only are we treated to Penny’s usual rich characterizations, but the atmospheric and beautiful language will make you want to take your next vacation at the manoir….One of the best traditional mystery series currently being published.

Kirkus Review
This latest treat in the series (The Cruelest Month, 2008, etc.) will keep fans salivating in anticipation, savoring each delectable morsel and yearning for more.
 
Publishers Weekly
Murder interrupts Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his wife’s annual summer holiday at Quebec’s isolated, lake-front Manoir Bellechasse in Agatha-winner Penny’s intriguing, well-crafted fourth mystery....Seamless, often lyrical prose artfully reveals the characters’ flaws, dreams and blessings.
 
Hamilton Spectator, Don Graves
The Murder Stone is one of the best works of fiction I've read this year. It's a serious novel that bridges the gap between the mystery genre and mainstream fiction....Louise Penny's fourth novel is an enduring mystery that begins and ends with the qualities that make great fiction writing -- compelling storytelling, evocative descriptions that are the heart of the story -- and characters (the novel's soul) who are rich in qualities and foibles that make them unforgettable -- and capable of murder.

Time Out London
. . . it's not all shudders and suspense: a terrific scene of a child teaching an adult to throw sticky biscuits at the manoir's ceiling offers giggle-inducing comic relief

Montreal Review of Books
The plotting is flawless and when the murderer is finally revealed in a thrilling climactic scene...we realize that there were plenty of clever clues along the way.

Toronto Globe and Mail
Four stories and four seasons on, Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series gets better with each book. Penny has found her perfect formula with the carefully constructed puzzle plot in the perfect village with the classic cast of characters. The fact that it's modern Quebec is the icing on the petit four....Once the puzzle is set up, it's impossible to put this book down until it's solved. Devotees of Christie will be delighted by Penny's clever plots and deft characters.

The Irish News

....In a traditional who-dunnit crime thriller that rivals Agatha Christie's Poirot, Gamache is a refreshing alternative to the hard-nosed stereotypical detective.
Penny builds the lives and imperfections of the characters effectively, exposing the complexity of human nature, challenging the reader's opinion and creating a constant sense of suspicion.This is a classic tale that proves that revenge is a dish best served ice cold. Rating 8/10

Sleuth of Baker Street, Marian Misters
THE MURDER STONE...is excellent.  You have to read it....Just how she manages to make every word of every book so perfect, I just don't know
 
The Guardian, Laura Wilson
The red herrings are expertly deployed, and the solution is ingenious and unexpected

Marie Claire Magazine - UK, Eithne Farry
When the privileged offspring of the Finney family get together at the luxurious Manoir Bellechasse to commemorate their dead father, family tensions are let loose. When one of their number is killed in unusual circumstances, it’s up to the charming Inspector Armand Gamache to delve beneath the sibling rivalries, bitter jealousies and outsider envy to solve the devious crime in this super-smart, hauntingly subtle murder mystery. Rating **** (out of 4)

Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind Pick of the Week, Sarah Weinman
Decades from now, I suspect we'll look upon the works of Louise Penny and find all sorts of marvels that show how well and why the books hold up....The temptation is to scarf Penny's books like potato chips but it's ever wise to savor each bite and let the flavors fill your tongue.


ibooks Books-A-Million ibooks




Easter in Three Pines is a time of church services, egg hunts and seances to raise the dead. 
 
A group of friends trudges up to the Old Hadley House, the horror on the hill, to finally rid it of the evil spirits that have so obviously plagued it, and the village, for decades.  But instead of freeing a spirit, they create a new one.  One of their numbers dies of fright.  Or was it murder?  Enter Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team from the Surete du Quebec.  As they peel back the layers of flilth and artiface that have covered the haunted old home, they discover the evil isn't confined there.  Some evil is guiding the actions of one of the seemingly kindly villagers.
 
But Gamache has a horror all his own to confront.  A very personal demon is about to strike.
 
Easter in Three Pines.  A time of rebirth, when nature comes alive.  But something very unpleasant has also come alive.  And it become clear - for there to be a rebirth, there first must be a death.  





Agatha Award for Best Traditional Mystery, 2008 (USA)
Finalist Anthony Award for Best Mystery, 2008 (USA)
Finalist Macavity Award for Best Mystery, 2008 (USA)
Finalist Barry Award for Best Mystery, 2008 (USA)
Finalist Arthur Ellis Award for Best Mystery, 2008 (Canada)
Debuted as #1 on the IMBA Bestsellers list in the USA






Charlotte Observor, Salem Macknee
If I thought for one minute this place really existed, I would be packing the car. As it was, on finishing "The Cruelest Month," I grabbed the first two books, "Still Life" and "A Fatal Grace," and spent a lovely weekend in the village. The mouthwatering food, the beautiful gardens, the quirky and literate villagers -- Three Pines is a charming oasis for the spirit....it's more about the journey than the destination in these wonderful books full of poetry, and weather, and a brooding manor house, and people who read and think and laugh and eat a lot of really excellent food.
Move over, Mitford.


The Cruelest Month
US Edition



The Cruellest Month
Canada / UK / Commonwealth

People Magazine (3 1/2 out of 4 stars)
Impossible to put down!

The Scotsman
There's real pleasure here.

Kirkus Review
Perhaps the deftest talent to arrive since Minette Walters, Penny produces what many have tried but few have mastered: a psychologically acute cozy. If you don't give your heart to Gamache, you may have no heart to give.

Publishers Weekly
Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his team investigate another bizarre crime in the tiny Québec village of Three Pines in Penny's expertly plotted third cozy…Arthur Ellis Award-winner Penny paints a vivid picture of the French-Canadian village, its inhabitants and a determined detective who will strike many Agatha Christie fans as a 21st-century version of Hercule Poirot.


Library Journal
Gamache is an engaging, modern-day Poirot who gently teases out information from his suspects while enjoying marvelous bistro meals and cozy walks on the village common…Penny is an award-winning writer whose cozies go beyond traditional boundaries, providing entertaining characters, a picturesque locale, and thought-provoking plots. Highly recommended.

Quill and Quire, Sarah Weinman
Penny shines most in revealing Gamache's frailties....As Penny demonstrates with laser-like precision, the book's title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache's personal and professional challenges - making this the series standout so far.

Good Reading, Australia  - four stars
Penny's real skill is creating a dense, possibilities rich atmosphere....Impressive writing

Mystery News, 5 of 5 quills
, Lynn Kaczmarek
Influenced by Simenon, Christie and Sayers before her, Penny is doing them all one better. ... These books are so much more than traditional mysteries—the writing is sublime and the characters unique yet much more developed than their individual quirks. ...And this place, this wonderous, fantastical place.  You’re just incredibly thankful that it exists, if only in the brilliant mind of Louise Penny....behold the ushering in of a new era of traditional mysteries—21st century-style.

Booklist USA
For such a small, pleasant place, the Quebec village of Three Pines has a surprising amount of big-time crime. In the third Armand Gamache novel, the Surete Chief Inspector is once again confronted with a baffling mystery, this one coming after an Easter séance results in murder. The thing about the Gamache novels is that while the crimes are intriguing, the people are downright fascinating not just Gamache himself, who manages to be completely original despite his similarities to Columbo and Poirot, but also the entire cast of supporting characters, who are so strongly written that every single one of them could probably carry an entire novel all by themselves. Readers familiar with the preceding two novels in the series Still Life (2006) and A Fatal Grace (2007) will be champing at the bit to get their hands on this one, and those who haven’t yet met Armand Gamache will wonder what took them so long.

The Calgary Herald, Joanne Sasvari
Penny...has created a world that is clever, complex and gorgeously written.

The London Times, Marcel Berlins

A neat mystery!
 
The Sunday Telegraph, Susanna Yager
Just the thing for a gloomy Autumn day...the enjoyment of a stirring tale of jealousy and long-awaited revenge.
 
The Sherbrooke Record, James Napier
With the publication of The Cruellest Month, Louise Penny has come of age as a novelist.  The writing is sensual, full of sights and smells and tastes that will resonate with her readers.  And although Penny paints an almost Grandma Moses idealized view of village life, it is a view tinged with ominous foreboding, reminiscent of the brooding images of Breughel and Bosch....It's a gem.

Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - Pick of the Week
Readers on the lookout for a good crime writer are in for a treat...Penny's writing is rich in imagery and atmosphere and characterised by a very quick and highly verbal intelligence.


ibooks BAM ibooks





Winter in Three Pines and the sleepy village is carpeted in snow. It's a time of peace and goodwill - until a scream pierces the biting air. There's been a murder.

Local police are baffled. A spectator at the annual Boxing Day curling match has been fatally electrocuted. Despite the large crowd, there are no witnesses and - apparently - no clues.

Called in to head the investigation, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache unravels the dead woman's past and discovers a history of secrets and enemies. But Gamache has enemies of his own. Frozen out of decision-making at the highest level of the Surete du Quebec, Gamache finds there are few he can trust. As a bitter wind blows into Three Pines, something even more chilling is sneaking up behind him...

DEAD COLD launched May 2007 in the US, under the title A FATAL GRACE.





Agatha Award for Best Traditional Mystery, 2007 (USA)
The Sunday Times, Culture Magazine, Audio Book of the Week, May 6, 2007
Named one of the best books 2007, Deadly Pleasures Magazine, USA
American Booksellers Association Book Sense, Notable Book, June 2007
Book List, Rising Star, June 2007
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) a 'Killer Book' for May 2007
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) bestseller, September 2007
Finalist for the 2007 American Library Association book of the year
Finalist for an AUDIE AWARD for BEST MYSTERY BOOK ON TAPE
Bestseller lists in the US, Australia and Canada






Kirkus Review
Remarkably, Penny manages to top her outstanding debut. Gamache is a prodigiously complicated and engaging hero, destined to become one of the classic detectives.

Library Journal
A highly intelliegent mystery.  Penny's new title is sure to creat great reader demand for more stories featuring civilized and articulate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.


A Fatal Grace /Dead Cold
US Edition




A Fatal Grace /Dead Cold
Canada / UK / Commonwealth

Booklist
Gamache, a smart and likable investigator - think Columbo with an accent, or perhaps a modern-day Poirot....This is a fine mystery in the classic Agatha Christie style and it is sure to leave mainstream fans wanting more.

Houston Chronicle  P.G. Koch
For all the perplexing mechanics of the murder, and the snowed-in village setting, this is not the usual "cosy" or even a traditional puzzle mystery. It's a finely written, intelligent and observant book. Imbued with a constant awareness of the astonishing cold, this perfect blend of police procedural and closed-room mystery finds its solution, as in the best of those traditions, in the slow unlayering of a sorrowful past.

Manly Daily, Australia

Quebec's answer to Poirot and Morse.
 
Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin, Australia
Compelling
 
South Coast Register, Australia
A poetic and gifted writer. 

The Ottawa Citizen, Mike Gillespie
Penny writes like a modern-day Agatha Christie, with a little Dylan Thomas thrown in for good measure. Her characters leap from the page, her plotting is sublime, the atmosphere she builds in a bitter Quebec winter in Dead Cold, completely chilling.

Tangled Web, UK, Bernard Knight
Surete Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is in danger of turning into a latter-day Hercule Poirot....The writing is superb.  A magnificent read. 

The Calgary Herald
, Joanne Sasvari
A wonderfully quirky, beautifully written story set amid the eccentric residents of charming Three Pines, Quebec. With DEAD COLD Penny has firmly established herself among the best in Canadian crime fiction....Like all the best Canadian fiction, DEAD COLD is a brilliant evocation of place. And like Gamache, you too will be drawn to Three Pines and to this work of magical realism masquerading as a cosy English mystery.

The Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon
A beautifully crafted Christmas cracker of a novel. We're back in the charming Quebec village of Three Pines....The setting is wonderfully done, as are the characters. The solution is perfectly in tune with their psychology and there's plenty of evidence that Gamache will make a third appearance.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald, Paul Fiander
Louise Penny stunned the crime fiction world last year with STILL LIFE....Sooner or later the whole world will discover Penny. With a unique sense of timing, patience and subtle wit, Penny is able to create a whodunit that recalls those of Agatha Christie....Magically bringing the postcard village of Three Pines to life, she gives it innocence, allows a touch of evil to intrude and then brings in the outsider, the intriguing Gamache, to solve the crime.

CrimeSquad.com, UK
The plots against Gamache made me feel like a pantomime audience shouting 'look behind you', while the unsympathetic characters are so vividly drawn that they, in turn, provoked sotto voce boos...  (A five star review)

The Sherbrooke Record, Jim Napier
DEAD COLD is a richer, darker book, with humour and a sub-plot that builds on relationships only hinted at in her debut novel. The result is an engrossing read that will only add to the ranks of her readers.

Quill and Quire Literary Magazine, Canada
Louise Penny received a great deal of praise from some very impressive sources for her first novel, STILL LIFE. After reading DEAD COLD, her second effort, I can safely say that much more praise is on its way….no mystery reader will regret the time they spend in the snowy village of Three Pines.

Shotsmag, UK
This is a wonderful novel, full of mystery. It is as deeply layered as snow drifting down upon snow. The cold will seep into your bones so wrap up warm and have a good hot drink at your elbow.

ibooks Books-A-Million ibooks




As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life - all except one…

To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found lying dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident - a hunter's arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead?

In a long and distinguished career with the Sûreté du Quebec, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has learned to look for snakes in Eden. Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will begin to give up its secrets…





The New Blood (Creasey) Dagger (2006) of the Crimewriters Association (UK)
The Arthur Ellis Award (2006) of the Crime Writers of Canada (Canada)
The Dilys Award (2007) of the Independent Mystery Bookstore Association (USA)
The Anthony Award (2007) (USA)
The Barry Award (2007) (USA)
Kirkus Review: a Top Ten Mystery of 2007
DorothyL Best Mystery Novel of 2007
Bestseller lists in Canada and the IMBA
Finalist for The Barry Award for Best Mystery Book of the Decade
I-Tunes (Canada): Top AudioBook of 2011





New York Times Sunday Book Review
, Marilyn Stasio
The beauty of Louise Penny's auspicious debut novel, STILL LIFE, is that it's composed entirely of grace notes, all related to the central mystery of who shot an arrow into the heart of Miss Jane Neal… But, like her neighbors in the picturesque Canadian village of Three Pines, the dear old thing had hidden depths, courtesy of an author whose deceptively simple style masks the complex patterns of a well-devised plot…Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, who is as bemused as we are by life in Three Pines, has the wit and insight to look well beyond its idyllic surface.


Still Life
US Edition




Still Life
Canada / UK / Commonwealth

Chicago Tribune, Crime watch, Dick Adler
It's hard to decide what provides the most pleasure in this enjoyable book: Gamache, a shrewd and kindly man constantly surprised by homicide; the village, which sounds at first like an ideal place to escape from civilization; or the clever and carefully constructed plot.

Kirkus Review
Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut.

Publishers Weekly

Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight. Filled with unexpected insights, this winning traditional mystery sets a solid foundation for future entries in the series.

Booklist, Emily Melton
This is a real gem of a book that slowly draws the reader into a beautifully told, lyrically written story of love, life, friendship and tragedy.

The Library Journal, USA
Debut novelist Penny writes poignantly about life in a small hamlet…A first-rate creator of memorable characters, Penny introduces a truly engaging sleuth in Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, who is sent to investigate and in the process falls in love with Three Pines and its inhabitants.

The London Times, Marcel Berlins
An impressive debut novel…Penny writes with intelligence and subtlety….the result is a first novel promising much enjoyment to come.

DearReader.com, Suzanne Beecher
A wonderful murder mystery.

Shelf Awareness, Marilyn Dahl
Louise Penny has written an extremely satisfying mystery, one that will please on many levels…this book touches the heart while engaging the mind. Miss Jane Neal kept a well-read book on her nightstand, C.S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy. That title is a fitting phrase for Still Life.

Aunt Agatha's Bookstore, Ann Arbour
, Robin Agnew
This is an elegantly written, compelling, and masterful first novel. If I were a betting woman I'd advise anyone interested in such things to lay aside a first edition; I plan to myself…If there is a more perfect novel written this year, I would be very much surprised.

The Toronto Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon
Ever since Agatha Christie, we long for that perfect village that is touched by death. Three Pines delivers.

Toronto Star, Jack Batten
A delightful and clever collection of false leads, red herrings, meditations on human nature, strange behavior and other diverting stuff.

The Calgary Herald, Joanne Sasvari,
This is a much darker, cleverer, funnier and, finally, more hopeful novel than even the great Dame Agatha could have penned. It's light, witty and poignant, a thrilling debut from a new Canadian crime writer.

ibooks Books-A-Million ibooks






THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY (Chapter 1)

As the last note of the chant escaped the Blessed Chapel a great silence fell, and with it came an even greater disquiet.

The silence stretched on. And on.

These were men used to silence, but this seemed extreme, even to them.

And still they stood in their long black robes and white tops, motionless.

Waiting.

These were men also used to waiting. But this too seemed extreme.

The less disciplined among them stole glances at the tall, slim, elderly man who had been the last to file in and would be the first to leave.

Dom Philippe kept his eyes closed. Where once this was a moment of profound peace, a private moment with his private God, when Vigils had ended and before he signaled for the Angelus, now it was simply escape.

He closed his eyes because he didn’t want to see.

Besides, he knew what was there. What was always there. What had been there for hundreds of years before he arrived and would, God willing, be there for centuries after he was buried in the cemetery. Two rows of men across from him, in black robes with white hoods, a simple rope tied at their waists.

And beside him to his right, two more rows of men.

They were facing each other across the stone floor of the chapel, like ancient battle lines.

No, he told his weary mind. No. I mustn’t think of this as a battle, or a war. Just opposing points of view. Expressed in a healthy community.

Then why was he so reluctant to open his eyes? To get the day going?

To signal the great bells that would ring the Angelus to the forests and birds and lakes and fish. And the monks. To the angels and all the saints. And God.

A throat cleared.

In the great silence it sounded like a bomb. And to the abbot’s ears it sounded like what it was.

A challenge.

With an effort he continued to keep his eyes closed. He remained still, and quiet. But there was no peace anymore. Now there was only turmoil, inside and out. He could feel it, vibrating from and between the two rows of waiting men.

He could feel it vibrating within him.

Dom Philippe counted to one hundred. Slowly. Then opening his blue eyes, he stared directly across the chapel, to the short, round man who stood with his eyes open, his hands folded on his stomach, a small smile on his endlessly patient face.

The abbot’s eyes narrowed slightly, in a glare, then he recovered and raising his slim right hand, he signaled. And the bells began.

The perfect, round, rich toll left the bell tower and took off into the early morning darkness. It skimmed over the clear lake, the forests, the rolling hills. To be heard by all sorts of creatures.

And twenty-four men, in a remote monastery in Québec.

A clarion call. Their day had begun.

* * *

“You’re not serious,” laughed Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

“I am,” nodded Annie. “I swear to God it’s the truth.”

“Are you telling me,” he picked up another piece of maple-cured bacon from the platter, “that your father gave your mother a bathmat as a gift when they first started dating?”

“No, no. That would be ridiculous.”

“Sure would,” he agreed and ate the bacon in two big bites. In the background an old Beau Dommage album was playing. “La complainte du phoque en Alaska.” About a lonely seal whose love had disappeared. Beauvoir hummed quietly to the familiar tune.

“He gave it to my grandmother the first time they met, as a hostess gift, thanking her for inviting him to dinner.”

Beauvoir laughed. “He never told me that,” he finally managed.

“Well, Dad doesn’t exactly mention it in polite conversation. Poor Mom. Felt she had to marry him. After all, who else would have him?”

Beauvoir laughed again. “So I guess the bar is set pretty low. I could hardly give you a worse gift.”

He reached down beside the table in the sunny kitchen. They’d made breakfast together that Saturday morning. A platter of bacon and scrambled eggs with melted Brie sat on the small pine table. He’d thrown on a sweater this early autumn day and gone around the corner from Annie’s apartment to the bakery on rue St-Denis for croissants and pain au chocolat. Then Jean-Guy had wandered in and out of the local shops, picking up a couple of cafés, the Montréal weekend papers, and something else.

“What’ve you got there?” Annie Gamache asked, leaning across the table. The cat leapt to the ground and found a spot on the floor where the sun hit.

“Nothing,” he grinned. “Just a little je ne sais quoi I saw, and thought of you.”

Beauvoir lifted it into plain sight.

“You asshole,” Annie said, and laughed. “It’s a toilet plunger.”

“With a bow on it,” said Beauvoir. “Just for you, ma chère. We’ve been together for three months. Happy anniversary.”

“Of course, the toilet plunger anniversary. And I got you nothing.”

“I forgive you,” he said.

Annie took the plunger. “I’ll think of you every time I use it. Though I think you’ll be the one using it most of the time. You are full of it, after all.”

“Too kind,” said Beauvoir, ducking his head in a small bow.

She thrust the plunger forward, gently prodding him with the red rubber suction cup as though it was a rapier and she the swordsman.

Beauvoir smiled and took a sip of his rich, aromatic café. So like Annie. Where other women might have pretended the ridiculous plunger was a wand, she pretended it was a sword.

Of course, Jean-Guy realized, he would never have given a toilet plunger to any other woman. Only Annie.

“You lied to me,” she said, sitting back down. “Dad obviously told you about the bathmat.”

“He did,” admitted Beauvoir. “We were in Gaspé, in a poacher’s cabin, searching for evidence when your father opened a closet and found not one but two brand-new bathmats, still in their wrapping.”

As he spoke he looked at Annie. Her eyes never left him, barely blinked. She took in every word, every gesture, every inflection. Enid, his ex-wife, had also listened. But there was always an edge of desperation about it, a demand. As though he owed her. As though she was dying and he was the medicine.

Enid left him drained, and yet still feeling inadequate.

But Annie was gentler. More generous.

Like her father, she listened carefully and quietly.

With Enid he never talked about his work, and she never asked. With Annie he told her everything.

Now, while putting strawberry confiture on the warm croissant, he told her about the poacher’s cabin, about the case, the savage murder of a family. He told her what they found, how they felt, and who they arrested.

“The bathmats turned out to be the key pieces of evidence,” said Beauvoir, lifting the croissant to his mouth. “Though it took us a long time to figure it out.”

“Is that when Dad told you about his own sad history with bathmats?”

Beauvoir nodded and chewed and saw the Chief Inspector in the dim cabin. Whispering the story. They weren’t sure when the poacher would return, and they didn’t want to be caught there. They had a search warrant, but they didn’t want him to know that. So as the two homicide investigators deftly searched, Chief Inspector Gamache had told Beauvoir about the bathmat. Of showing up for one of the most important meals of his life, desperate to impress the parents of the woman he’d fallen hopelessly in love with. And somehow deciding a bathmat was the perfect hostess gift.

“How could you have thought that, sir?” Beauvoir had whispered, glancing out the cracked and cobwebbed window, hoping not to see the shabby poacher returning with his kill.

“Well, now,” Gamache had paused, obviously trying to recall his own thinking. “Madame Gamache often asks the same question. Her mother never tired of asking either. Her father, on the other hand, decided I was an imbecile and never mentioned it again. That was worse. When they died we found the bathmat in their linen closet, still in its plastic wrapping, with the card attached.”

Beauvoir stopped talking and looked across at Annie. Her hair was still damp from the shower they’d shared. She smelled fresh and clean. Like a citron grove in the warm sunshine. No makeup. She wore warm slippers and loose, comfortable clothing. Annie was aware of fashion, and happy to be fashionable. But happier to be comfortable.

She was not slim. She was not a stunning beauty. Annie Gamache was none of the things he’d always found attractive in a woman. But Annie knew something most people never learn. She knew how great it was to be alive.

It had taken him almost forty years, but Jean-Guy Beauvoir finally understood it too. And knew now there was no greater beauty.

Annie was approaching thirty now. She’d been a gawky teenager when they’d first met. When the Chief Inspector had brought Beauvoir into his homicide division at the Sûreté du Québec. Of the hundreds of agents and inspectors under the Chief’s command, he’d chosen this young, brash agent no one else had wanted as his second in command.

Had made him part of the team, and eventually, over the years, part of the family.

Though even the Chief Inspector had no idea how much a part of the family Beauvoir had become.

“Well,” said Annie with a wry smile, “now we have our own bathroom story to baffle our children with. When we die they’ll find this, and wonder.”

She held up the plunger, with its cheery red bow.

Beauvoir didn’t dare say anything. Did Annie have any idea what she’d just said? The ease with which she assumed they’d have children. Grandchildren. Would die together. In a home that smelled of fresh citron and coffee. And had a cat curled around the sunshine.

They’d been together for three months and had never talked about the future. But hearing it now, it just seemed natural. As though this was always the plan. To have children. To grow old together.

Beauvoir did the math. He was ten years older than her, and would almost certainly die first. He was relieved.

But there was something troubling him.

“We need to tell your parents,” he said.

Annie grew quiet, and picked at her croissant. “I know. And it’s not like I don’t want to. But,” she hesitated and looked around the kitchen, and out into her book-lined living room, “this is nice too. Just us.”

“Are you worried?”

“About how they’ll take it?”

Annie paused and Jean-Guy’s heart suddenly pounded. He’d expected her to deny it. To assure him she wasn’t the least bit worried whether her parents would approve.

But instead, she’d hesitated.

“Maybe a little,” Annie admitted. “I’m sure they’ll be thrilled, but it changes things. You know?”

He did know, but hadn’t dared admit it to himself. Suppose the Chief didn’t approve? He could never stop them, but it would be a disaster.

No, Jean-Guy told himself for the hundredth time, it’ll be all right. The Chief and Madame Gamache will be happy. Very happy.

But he wanted to be sure. To know. It was in his nature. He collected facts for a living, and this uncertainty was taking its toll. It was the only shadow in a life suddenly, unexpectedly luminous.

He couldn’t keep lying to the Chief. He’d persuaded himself this wasn’t a lie, just keeping his private life private. But in his heart it felt like a betrayal.

“Do you really think they’ll be happy?” he asked Annie, and hated the neediness that had crept into his voice. But Annie either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

She leaned toward him, her elbows and forearms resting on the croissant flakes on the pine table, and took his hand. She held it warm in hers.

“To know we’re together? My father would be so happy. It’s my mother who hates you.…”

Seeing the look on his face she laughed and squeezed his hand. “I’m kidding. She adores you. Always has. They think of you as family, you know. As another son.”

He felt his cheeks burn, to hear those words, and felt ashamed, but noticed that once again Annie didn’t care, or comment. She just held his hand and looked into his eyes.

“Sort of incestuous, then,” he finally managed.

“Yes,” she agreed, letting go of his hand to take a sip of café au lait. “My parents’ dream come true.” She laughed, sipped, then set the cup down again. “You do know he’ll be thrilled.”

“Surprised too?”

Annie paused, thinking. “I think he’ll be stunned. Funny, isn’t it? Dad spends his life looking for clues, piecing things together. Gathering evidence. But when something’s right under his nose, he misses it. Too close, I guess.”

“Matthew 10:36,” murmured Beauvoir.

“Pardon?”

“It’s something your father tells us, in homicide. One of the first lessons he teaches new recruits.”

“A biblical quote?” asked Annie. “But Mom and Dad never go to church.”

“He apparently learned it from his mentor when he first joined the Sûreté.”

The phone rang. Not the robust peal of the landline, but the cheerful, invasive trill of a cell. It was Beauvoir’s. He ran to the bedroom and grabbed it off the nightstand.

No number was displayed, just a word.

“Chief.”

He almost hit the small green phone icon, then hesitated. Instead he strode out of the bedroom and into Annie’s light-filled, book-filled living room. He couldn’t speak to the Chief standing in front of the bed where he’d just that morning made love to the Chief’s daughter.

“Oui, allô,” he said, trying to sound casual.

“Sorry to bother you,” came the familiar voice. It managed to be both relaxed and authoritative.

“Not at all, sir. What’s up?” Beauvoir glanced at the clock on the mantle. It was 10:23 on a Saturday morning.

“There’s been a murder.”

It wasn’t, then, a casual call. An invitation to dinner. A query about staffing or a case going to trial. This was a call to arms. A call to action. A call that marked something dreadful had happened. And yet, for more than a decade now every time he heard those words, Beauvoir’s heart leapt. And raced. And even danced a little. Not with joy at the knowledge of a terrible and premature death. But knowing he and the Chief and others would be on the trail again.

Jean-Guy Beauvoir loved his job. But now, for the first time, he looked into the kitchen, and saw Annie standing in the doorway. Watching him.

And he realized, with surprise, that he now loved something more.

Grabbing his notebook he sat on Annie’s sofa and took down the details. When he finished he looked at what he’d written.

“Holy shit,” he whispered.

“At the very least,” agreed Chief Inspector Gamache. “Can you make arrangements, please? And just the two of us for now. We’ll pick up a local Sûreté agent when we arrive.”

“Inspector Lacoste? Should she come? Just to organize the Scene of Crime team and leave?”

Chief Inspector Gamache didn’t hesitate. “No.” He gave a small laugh. “We’re the Scene of Crime team, I’m afraid. Hope you remember how to do it.”

“I’ll bring the Hoover.”

“Bon. I’ve already packed my magnifying glass.” There was a pause and a more somber voice came down the line. “We need to get there quickly, Jean-Guy.”

“D’accord. I’ll make a few calls and pick you up in fifteen minutes.”

“Fifteen? All the way from downtown?”

Beauvoir felt the world stop for a moment. His small apartment was in downtown Montréal, but Annie’s was in the Plateau Mont Royal quartier, a few blocks from her parents’ home in Outremont. “It’s a Saturday. Not much traffic.”

Gamache laughed. “Since when did you become an optimist? I’ll be waiting, whenever you arrive.”

“I’ll hurry.”

And he did, placing calls, issuing orders, organizing. Then he threw a few clothes into an overnight bag.

“That’s a lot of underwear,” said Annie, sitting on the bed. “Are you planning to be gone long?” Her voice was light, but her manner wasn’t.

“Well, you know me,” he said, turning from her to slip his gun into its holder. She knew he had it, but didn’t like to actually see it. Even for a woman who cherished reality, this was far too real. “Without benefit of plunger I might need more tighty whities.”

She laughed, and he was glad.

At the door he stopped and lowered his case to the ground.

“Je t’aime,” he whispered into her ear, as he held her.

“Je t’aime,” she whispered into his ear. “Look after yourself,” she said, as they parted. And then, as he was halfway down the steps she called, “And please, look after my father.”

“I will. I promise.”

Once he was gone and she could no longer see the back of his car, Annie Gamache closed the door and held her hand to her chest.

She wondered if this was how her mother had felt, for all those years.

How her mother felt at that very moment. Was she too leaning against the door, having watched her heart leave? Having let it go.

Then Annie walked over to the bookcases lining her living room. After a few minutes she found what she was looking for. The bible her parents had given her, when she’d been baptized. For people who didn’t attend church, they still followed the rituals.

And she knew when she had children she’d want them baptized too. She and Jean-Guy would present them with their own white bibles, with their names and baptism dates inscribed.

She looked at the thick first page. Sure enough, there was her name. Anne Daphné Gamache. And a date. In her mother’s hand. But instead of a cross underneath her name her parents had drawn two little hearts.

Then Annie sat on the sofa and sipping the now cool café she flipped through the unfamiliar book until she found it.

Matthew 10:36.

“And a man’s foes,” she read out loud, “shall be they of his own household.”

THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. Copyright 2012 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.





A TRICK OF THE LIGHT (Chapter 1)

Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow as she walked toward the closed doors.

She could see shadows, shapes, like wraiths moving back and forth, back and forth across the frosted glass. Appearing and disappearing. Distorted, but still human.

Still the dead one lay moaning.

The words had been going through her head all day, appearing and disappearing. A poem, half remembered. Words floating to the surface, then going under. The body of the poem beyond her grasp.

What was the rest of it?

It seemed important.

Oh, no no no.

The blurred figures at the far end of the long corridor seemed almost liquid, or smoke. There, but insubstantial. Fleeting. Fleeing.

As she wished she could.

This was it. The end of the journey. Not just that day’s journey as she and her husband, Peter, had driven from their little Québec village into the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montréal, a place they knew well. Intimately. How often had they come to the MAC to marvel at some new exhibition? To support a friend, a fellow artist? Or to just sit quietly in the middle of the sleek gallery, in the middle of a weekday, when the rest of the city was at work?

Art was their work. But it was more than that. It had to be. Otherwise, why put up with all those years of solitude? Of failure? Of silence from a baffled and even bemused art world?

She and Peter had worked away, every day, in their small studios in their small village, leading their tiny lives. Happy. But still yearning for more.

Clara took a few more steps down the long, long, white marble hallway.

This was the “more.” Through those doors. Finally. The end point of everything she’d worked toward, walked toward, all her life.

Her first dream as a child, her last dream that morning, almost fifty years later, was at the far end of the hard white hallway.

They’d both expected Peter would be the first through those doors. He was by far the more successful artist, with his exquisite studies of life in close-up. So detailed, and so close that a piece of the natural world appeared distorted and abstract. Unrecognizable. Peter took what was natural and made it appear unnatural.

People ate it up. Thank God. It kept food on the table and the wolves, while constantly circling their little home in Three Pines, were kept from the door. Thanks to Peter and his art.

Clara glanced at him walking slightly ahead of her, a smile on his handsome face. She knew most people, on first meeting them, never took her for his wife. Instead they assumed some slim executive with a white wine in her elegant hand was his mate. An example of natural selection. Of like moving to like.

The distinguished artist with the head of graying hair and noble features could not possibly have chosen the woman with the beer in her boxing glove hands. And the pâté in her frizzy hair. And the studio full of sculptures made out of old tractor parts and paintings of cabbages with wings.

No. Peter Morrow could not have chosen her. That would have been unnatural.

And yet he had.

And she had chosen him.

Clara would have smiled had she not been fairly certain she was about to throw up.

Oh, no no no, she thought again as she watched Peter march purposefully toward the closed door and the art wraiths waiting to pass judgment. On her.

Clara’s hands grew cold and numb as she moved slowly forward, propelled by an undeniable force, a rude mix of excitement and terror. She wanted to rush toward the doors, yank them open and yell, “Here I am!”

But mostly she wanted to turn and flee, to hide.

To stumble back down the long, long, light-filled, art-filled, marble-filled hallway. To admit she’d made a mistake. Given the wrong answer when asked if she’d like a solo show. At the Musée. When asked if she’d like all her dreams to come true.

She’d given the wrong answer. She’d said yes. And this is where it led.

Someone had lied. Or hadn’t told the whole truth. In her dream, her only dream, played over and over since childhood, she had a solo show at the Musée d’Art Contemporain. She walked down this corridor. Composed and collected. Beautiful and slim. Witty and popular.

Into the waiting arms of an adoring world.

There was no terror. No nausea. No creatures glimpsed through the frosted glass, waiting to devour her. Dissect her. Diminish her, and her creations.

Someone had lied. Had not told her something else might be waiting.

Failure.

Oh, no no no, thought Clara. Still the dead one lay moaning.

What was the rest of the poem? Why did it elude her?

Now, within feet of the end of her journey all she wanted to do was run away home to Three Pines. To open the wooden gate. To race up the path lined with apple trees in spring bloom. To slam their front door shut behind her. To lean against it. To lock it. To press her body against it, and keep the world out.

Now, too late, she knew who’d lied to her.

She had.

Clara’s heart threw itself against her ribs, like something caged and terrified and desperate to escape. She realized she was holding her breath and wondered for how long. To make up for it she started breathing rapidly.

Peter was talking but his voice was muffled, far away. Drowned out by the shrieking in her head, and the pounding in her chest.

And the noise building behind the doors. As they got closer.

“This’s going to be fun,” said Peter, with a reassuring smile.

Clara opened her hand and dropped her purse. It fell with a plop to the floor, since it was all but empty, containing simply a breath mint and the tiny paint brush from the first paint-by-number set her grandmother had given her.

Clara dropped to her knees, pretending to gather up invisible items and stuff them into her clutch. She lowered her head, trying to catch her breath, and wondered if she was about to pass out.

“Deep breath in,” she heard. “Deep breath out.”

Clara stared from the purse on the gleaming marble floor to the man crouched across from her.

It wasn’t Peter.

Instead, she saw her friend and neighbor from Three Pines, Olivier Brulé. He was kneeling beside her, watching, his kind eyes life preservers thrown to a drowning woman. She held them.

“Deep breath in,” he whispered. His voice was calm. This was their own private crisis. Their own private rescue.

She took a deep breath in.

“I don’t think I can do it.” Clara leaned forward, feeling faint. She could feel the walls closing in, and see Peter’s polished black leather shoes on the floor ahead. Where he’d finally stopped. Not missing her right away. Not noticing his wife was kneeling on the floor.

“I know,” whispered Olivier. “But I also know you. Whether it’s on your knees or on your feet, you’re going through that door.” He nodded toward the end of the hall, his eyes never leaving hers. “It might as well be on your feet.”

“But it’s not too late.” Clara searched his face. Seeing his silky blond hair, and the lines only visible very close up. More lines than a thirty-eight-year-old man should have. “I could leave. Go back home.”

Olivier’s kindly face disappeared and she saw again her garden, as she’d seen it that morning, the mist not yet burned off. The dew heavy under her rubber boots. The early roses and late peonies damp and fragrant. She’d sat on the wooden bench in their backyard, with her morning coffee, and she’d thought about the day ahead.

Not once had she imagined herself collapsed on the floor. In terror. Longing to leave. To go back to the garden.

But Olivier was right. She wouldn’t return. Not yet.

Oh, no no no. She’d have to go through those doors. They were the only way home now.

“Deep breath out,” Olivier whispered, with a smile.

Clara laughed, and exhaled. “You’d make a good midwife.”

“What’re you two doing down there?” Gabri asked as he watched Clara and his partner. “I know what Olivier usually does in that position and I hope that isn’t it.” He turned to Peter. “Though that might explain the laughter.”

“Ready?” Olivier handed Clara her purse and they got to their feet.

Gabri, never far from Olivier’s side, gave Clara a bear hug. “You OK?” He examined her closely. He was big, though Gabri preferred to call himself “burly,” his face unscored by the worry lines of his partner.

“I’m fine,” said Clara.

“Fucked up, insecure, neurotic and egotistical?” asked Gabri.

“Exactly.”

“Great. So’m I. And so’s everyone through there.” Gabri gestured toward the door. “What they aren’t is the fabulous artist with the solo show. So you’re both fine and famous.”

“Coming?” asked Peter, waving toward Clara and smiling.

She hesitated, then taking Peter’s hand, they walked together down the corridor, the sharp echoes of their feet not quite masking the merriment on the other side.

They’re laughing, thought Clara. They’re laughing at my art.

And in that instant the body of the poem surfaced. The rest of it was revealed.

Oh, no no no, thought Clara. Still the dead one lay moaning.

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

* * *

From far off Armand Gamache could hear the sound of children playing. He knew where it was coming from. The park across the way, though he couldn’t see the children through the maple trees in late spring leaf. He sometimes liked to sit there and pretend the shouts and laughter came from his young grandchildren, Florence and Zora. He imagined his son Daniel and Roslyn were in the park, watching their children. And that soon they’d walk hand in hand across the quiet street in the very center of the great city, for dinner. Or he and Reine-Marie would join them. And play catch, or conkers.

He liked to pretend they weren’t thousands of kilometers away in Paris.

But mostly he just listened to the shouts and shrieks and laughter of neighborhood children. And smiled. And relaxed.

Gamache reached for his beer and lowered the L’Observateur magazine to his knee. His wife, Reine-Marie, sat across from him on their balcony. She too had a cold beer on this unexpectedly warm day in mid-June. But her copy of La Presse was folded on the table and she stared into the distance.

“What’re you thinking about?” he asked.

“My mind was just wandering.”

He was silent for a moment, watching her. Her hair was quite gray now, but then, so was his. She’d dyed it auburn for many years but just recently had stopped doing that. He was glad. Like him, she was in her mid-fifties. And this was what a couple of that age looked like. If they were lucky.

Not like models. No one would mistake them for that. Armand Gamache wasn’t heavy, but solidly built. If a stranger visited this home he might think Monsieur Gamache a quiet academic, a professor of history or literature perhaps at the Université de Montréal.

But that too would be a mistake.

Books were everywhere in their large apartment. Histories, biographies, novels, studies on Québec antiques, poetry. Placed in orderly bookcases. Just about every table had at least one book on it, and often several magazines. And the weekend newspapers were scattered on the coffee table in the living room, in front of the fireplace. If a visitor was the observant type, and made it further into the apartment to Gamache’s study, he might see the story the books in there told.

And he’d soon realize this was not the home of some retiring professor of French literature. The shelves were packed with case histories, with books on medicine and forensics, with tomes on Napoleonic and common law, fingerprinting, genetic coding, wounds and weapons.

Murder. Armand Gamache’s study was filled with it.

But still, even among the death, space was made for books on philosophy and poetry.

Watching Reine-Marie as they sat on the balcony, Gamache was once again struck by the certainty he’d married above himself. Not socially. Not academically. But he could never shake the suspicion he had gotten very, very lucky.

Armand Gamache knew he’d had a great deal of luck in his life, but none more than having loved the same woman for thirty-five years. Unless it was the extraordinary stroke of luck that she should also love him.

Now she turned her blue eyes on him. “Actually, I was thinking about Clara’s vernissage.”

“Oh?”

“We should be going soon.”

“True.” He looked at his watch. It was five past five. The party to launch Clara Morrow’s solo show started at the Musée at five and would end at seven. “As soon as David arrives.”

Their son-in-law was half an hour late and Gamache glanced inside their apartment. He could just barely make out his daughter Annie sitting in the living room reading, and across from her was his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir. Kneading Henri’s remarkable ears. The Gamaches’ German shepherd could stay like that all day, a goofy grin on his young face.

Jean Guy and Annie were ignoring each other. Gamache smiled slightly. At least they weren’t hurling insults, or worse, across the room.

“Would you like to leave?” Armand offered. “We could call David on his cell and ask him to just meet us there.”

“Why don’t we give him another couple of minutes.”

Gamache nodded and picked up the magazine, then he lowered it slowly.

“Is there something else?”

Reine-Marie hesitated then smiled. “I was just wondering how you’re feeling about going to the vernissage. And wondering if you’re stalling.”

Armand raised his brow in surprise.

* * *

Jean Guy Beauvoir rubbed Henri’s ears and stared at the young woman across from him. He’d known her for fifteen years, since he was a rookie on homicide and she was a teenager. Awkward, gawky, bossy.

He didn’t like kids. Certainly didn’t like smart-ass teenagers. But he’d tried to like Annie Gamache, if only because she was the boss’s daughter.

He’d tried and he’d tried and he’d tried. And finally—

He’d succeeded.

And now he was nearing forty and she was nearing thirty. A lawyer. Married. Still awkward and gawky and bossy. But he’d tried so hard to like her he’d finally seen beyond that. He’d seen her laugh with real gaiety, seen her listen to very boring people as though they were riveting. She looked as though she was genuinely glad to see them. As though they were important. He’d seen her dance, arms flailing and head tilted back. Eyes shining.

And he’d felt her hand in his. Only once.

In the hospital. He’d come back up from very far away. Fought through the pain and the dark to that foreign but gentle touch. He knew it didn’t belong to his wife, Enid. That bird-like grip he would not have come back for.

But this hand was large, and certain, and warm. And it invited him back.

He’d opened his eyes to see Annie Gamache staring at him with such concern. Why would she be there, he’d wondered. And then he knew why.

Because she had nowhere else to be. No other hospital bed to sit beside.

Because her father was dead. Killed by a gunman in the abandoned factory. Beauvoir had seen it happen. Seen Gamache hit. Seen him lifted off his feet and fall to the concrete floor.

And lie still.

And now Annie Gamache was holding his hand in the hospital, because the hand she really wanted to be holding was gone.

Jean Guy Beauvoir had pried his eyes open and seen Annie Gamache looking so sad. And his heart broke. Then he saw something else.

Joy.

No one had ever looked at him that way. With unconcealed and unbound joy.

Annie had looked at him like that, when he’d opened his eyes.

He’d tried to speak but couldn’t. But she’d rightly guessed what he was trying to say.

She’d leaned in and whispered into his ear, and he could smell her fragrance. It was slightly citrony. Clean and fresh. Not Enid’s clinging, full-bodied perfume. Annie smelled like a lemon grove in summer.

“Dad’s alive.”

He’d embarrassed himself then. There were many humiliations waiting for him in the hospital. From bedpans and diapers to sponge baths. But none was more personal, more intimate, more of a betrayal than what his broken body did then.

He cried.

And Annie saw. And Annie never mentioned it from that day to this.

To Henri’s bafflement, Jean Guy stopped rubbing the dog’s ears and placed one hand on the other, in a gesture that had become habitual now.

That was how it had felt. Annie’s hand on his.

This was all he’d ever have of her. His boss’s married daughter.

“Your husband’s late,” said Jean Guy, and could hear the accusation. The shove.

Very, very slowly Annie lowered her newspaper. And glared at him.

“What’s your point?”

What was his point?

“We’re going to be late because of him.”

“Then go. I don’t care.”

He’d loaded the gun, pointed it at his head, and begged Annie to pull the trigger. And now he felt the words strike. Cut. Travel deep and explode.

I don’t care.

It was almost comforting, he realized. The pain. Perhaps if he forced her to hurt him enough he’d stop feeling anything.

“Listen,” she said, leaning forward, her voice softening a bit. “I’m sorry about you and Enid. Your separation.”

“Yeah, well, it happens. As a lawyer you should know that.”

She looked at him with searching eyes, like her father’s. Then she nodded.

“It happens.” She grew quiet, still. “Especially after what you’ve been through, I guess. It makes you think about your life. Would you like to talk about it?”

Talk about Enid with Annie? All the petty sordid squabbles, the tiny slights, the scarring and scabbing. The thought revolted him and he must have shown it. Annie pulled back and reddened as though he’d slapped her.

“Forget I said anything,” she snapped and lifted the paper to her face.

He searched for something to say, some small bridge, a jetty back to her. The minutes stretched by, elongating.

“The vernissage,” Beauvoir finally blurted out. It was the first thing that popped into his hollow head, like the Magic Eight Ball, that when it stopped being shaken produced a single word. “Vernissage,” in this case.

The newspaper lowered and Annie’s stone face appeared.

“The people from Three Pines will be there, you know.”

Still her face was expressionless.

“That village, in the Eastern Townships,” he waved vaguely out the window. “South of Montréal.”

“I know where the townships are,” she said.

“The show’s for Clara Morrow, but they’ll all be there I’m sure.”

She raised the newspaper again. The Canadian dollar was strong, he read from across the room. Winter potholes still unfixed, he read. An investigation into government corruption, he read.

Nothing new.

“One of them hates your father.”

The newspaper slowly dropped. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” he realized by her expression he might have gone too far, “not enough to harm him or anything.”

“Dad’s talked about Three Pines and the people, but he never mentioned this.”

Now she was upset and he wished he hadn’t said anything, but it at least did the trick. She was talking to him again. Her father was the bridge.

Annie dropped her paper onto the table and glanced beyond Beauvoir to her parents talking quietly on the balcony.

She suddenly looked like that teenager he’d first met. She was never going to be the most beautiful woman in the room. That much was obvious even then. Annie was not fine-boned or delicate. She was more athletic than graceful. She cared about clothes, but she also cared about comfort.

Opinionated, strong-willed, strong physically. He could beat her at arm-wrestling, he knew because they’d done it several times, but he actually had to try.

With Enid he would never consider trying. And she would never offer.

Annie Gamache had not only offered, but had fully expected to win.

Then had laughed when she hadn’t.

Where other women, including Enid, were lovely, Annie Gamache was alive.

Late, too late, Jean Guy Beauvoir had come to appreciate how very important it was, how very attractive it was, how very rare it was, to be fully alive.

Annie looked back at Beauvoir. “Why would one of them hate Dad?”

Beauvoir lowered his voice. “OK, look. This’s what happened.”

Annie leaned forward. They were a couple of feet apart and Beauvoir could just smell her scent. It was all he could do not to take her hands in his.

“There was a murder in Clara’s village, Three Pines—”

“Yes, Dad has mentioned that. Seems like a cottage industry there.”

Despite himself, Beauvoir laughed. “There is strong shadow where there is much light.”

Annie’s look of astonishment made Beauvoir laugh again.

“Let me guess,” she said. “You didn’t make that up.”

Beauvoir smiled and nodded. “Some German guy said it. And then your father said it.”

“A few times?”

“Often enough that I wake up screaming it in the middle of the night.”

Annie smiled. “I know. I was the only kid in school who quoted Leigh Hunt.” Her voice changed slightly as she remembered, “But most he loved a happy human face.”

* * *

Gamache smiled as he heard the laughter from the living room.

He cocked his head in their direction. “Are they finally making peace, do you think?”

“Either that or it’s a sign of the apocalypse,” said Reine-Marie. “If four horsemen gallop out of the park you’re on your own, monsieur.”

“It’s good to hear him laugh,” said Gamache.

Since his separation from Enid, Jean Guy had seemed distant. Aloof. He’d never been exactly exuberant but Beauvoir was quieter than ever these days, as though his walls had grown and thickened. And his narrow drawbridge had been raised.

Armand Gamache knew no good ever came from putting up walls. What people mistook for safety was in fact captivity. And few things thrived in captivity.

“It’ll take time,” said Reine-Marie.

“Avec le temps,” agreed Armand. But privately he wondered. He knew time could heal. But it could also do more damage. A forest fire, spread over time, would consume everything.

Gamache, with one last look at the two younger people, continued his conversation with Reine-Marie.

“Do you really think I don’t want to go to the vernissage?” he asked.

She considered for a moment. “I’m not sure. Let’s just say you don’t seem in a hurry to get there.”

Gamache nodded and thought for a moment. “I know everyone will be there. I suppose it might be awkward.”

“You arrested one of them for a murder he didn’t commit,” said Reine-Marie. It wasn’t an accusation. In fact, it was said quietly and gently. Trying to tease the truth of her husband’s feelings from him. Feelings he himself might not even be aware he had.

“And you consider that a social faux pas?” he asked with a smile.

“More than just a social faux pas, I’d say,” she laughed, relieved to see the genuine humor in his face. A face now clean-shaven. No more moustache. No more graying beard. Just Armand. He looked at her with his deep brown eyes. And as she held them she could almost forget the scar above his left temple.

After a moment his smile faded and he nodded again, taking a deep breath.

“It was a terrible thing to do to someone,” he said.

“You didn’t do it on purpose, Armand.”

“True, but his time in prison wasn’t more pleasant because of that.” Gamache thought for a moment, looking from the gentle face of his wife out into the trees of the park. A natural setting. He so yearned for that, since his days were filled with hunting the unnatural. Killers. People who took the lives of others. Often in gruesome and dreadful ways. Armand Gamache was the head of homicide for the famed Sûreté du Québec. He was very good at his job.

But he wasn’t perfect.

He’d arrested Olivier Brulé for a murder he didn’t commit.

* * *

“So what happened?” Annie asked.

“Well, you know most of it, don’t you? It was in all the papers.”

“Of course I read the reports, and talked to Dad about it. But he never mentioned that someone involved might still hate him.”

“Well, as you know, it was almost a year ago,” said Jean Guy. “A man was found dead in the bistro in Three Pines. We investigated and the evidence seemed overwhelming. We found fingerprints, the murder weapon, stuff stolen from the dead man’s cabin in the woods. All of it hidden in the bistro. We arrested Olivier. He was tried and convicted.”

“Did you think he’d done it?”

Beauvoir nodded. “I was sure of it. It wasn’t just your father.”

“So how come you changed your mind? Did someone else confess?”

“No. You remember a few months ago, after that raid on the factory? When your father was recovering in Quebec City?”

Annie nodded.

“Well, he began to have his doubts, so he asked me to go back to Three Pines to investigate.”

“And you did.”

Jean Guy nodded. Of course he’d gone back. He’d do anything the Chief Inspector asked of him. Though he himself had no such doubts. He believed the right man was in prison. But he’d investigated, and discovered something that had truly shocked him.

The real murderer. And the real reason for the killing.

* * *

“But you’ve been back to Three Pines since you arrested Olivier,” said Reine-Marie. “This won’t be the first time you’ll have seen them.”

She too had visited Three Pines and become friends with Clara and Peter and the others, though she hadn’t seen them in quite a while. Not since all this had happened.

“That’s true,” said Armand. “Jean Guy and I took Olivier back after his release.”

“I can’t even imagine how that felt for him.”

Gamache was quiet. Seeing the sun gleaming off snowbanks. Through the frosted panes of glass he could see the villagers gathered in the bistro. Warm and safe. The cheery fires lit. The mugs of beer and bowls of café au lait. The laughter.

And Olivier, stalled. Two feet from the closed door. Staring at it.

Jean Guy had gone to open it, but Gamache had lain a gloved hand on his arm. And together in the bitter cold they’d waited. Waited. For Olivier to make the move.

After what seemed an age, but was probably only a few heartbeats, Olivier reached out, paused for one more moment, then opened the door.

“I wish I could’ve seen Gabri’s face,” said Reine-Marie, imagining the large, expressive man seeing his partner returned.

Gamache had described it all to Reine-Marie, when he’d returned home. But he knew that no matter how much ecstasy Reine-Marie imagined, the reality was even greater. At least on Gabri’s part. The rest of the villagers were elated to see Olivier too. But—

“What is it?” Reine-Marie asked.

“Well, Olivier didn’t kill the man, but as you know a lot of unpleasant things about him came out in the trial. Olivier had certainly stolen from the Hermit, taken advantage of their friendship and the man’s frail state of mind. And it turned out that Olivier had used the stolen money to secretly buy up a lot of property in Three Pines. Gabri didn’t even know about that.”

Reine-Marie was quiet, considering what she’d just heard.

“I wonder how his friends feel about that,” said Reine-Marie at last.

So did Gamache.

* * *

“Olivier is the one who hates my father?” asked Annie. “But how could that be? Dad got him out of prison. He took him back to Three Pines.”

“Yes, but the way Olivier sees it, I got him out of prison. Your father put him in.”

Annie stared at Beauvoir, then shook her head.

Beauvoir went on. “Your father apologized, you know. In front of everyone in the bistro. He told Olivier he was sorry for what he did.”

“And what did Olivier say?”

“That he couldn’t forgive him. Not yet.”

Annie thought about that. “How did Dad react?”

“He didn’t seem surprised, or upset. In fact, I think he’d have been surprised had Olivier suddenly decided all was forgiven. He wouldn’t have really meant it.”

Beauvoir knew the only thing worse than no apology was an insincere one.

Jean Guy had to give Olivier that. Instead of appearing to accept the apology, Olivier had finally told the truth. The hurt went too deep. He wasn’t ready to forgive.

“And now?” asked Annie.

“I guess we’ll see.”

A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. Copyright 2011 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.





BURY YOUR DEAD (Chapter 1)

Up the stairs they raced, taking them two at a time, trying to be as quiet as possible. Gamache struggled to keep his breathing steady, as though he was sitting at home, as though he had not a care in the world.

Sir? came the young voice over Gamaches headphones.

You must believe me, son. Nothing bad will happen to you.

He hoped the young agent couldnt hear the strain in his voice, the flattening as the Chief Inspector fought to keep his voice authoritative, certain.

I believe you.

They reached the landing. Inspector Beauvoir stopped, staring at his Chief. Gamache looked at his watch.

47 seconds.

Still time.

In his headphones the agent was telling him about the sunshine and how good it felt on his face.

The rest of the team made the landing, tactical vests in place, automatic weapons drawn, eyes sharp. Trained on the Chief. Beside him Inspector Beauvoir was also waiting for a decision. Which way? They were close. Within feet of their quarry.

Gamache stared down one dark, dingy corridor in the abandoned factory then down the other.

They looked identical. Light scraped through the broken, grubby windows lining the halls and with it came the December day.

43 seconds.

He pointed decisively to the left and they ran, silently, toward the door at the end. As he ran Gamache gripped his rifle and spoke calmly into the headset.

Theres no need to worry.

Theres forty seconds left, sir. Each word was exhaled as though the man on the other end was having difficulty breathing.

Just listen to me, said Gamache, thrusting his hand toward a door. The team surged ahead.

36 seconds.

I wont let anything happen to you, said Gamache, his voice convincing, commanding, daring the young agent to contradict. Youll be having dinner with your family tonight.

Yes sir.

The tactical team surrounded the closed door with its frosted, filthy window. Darkened.

Gamache paused, staring at it, his hand hanging in the air ready to give the signal to break it down. To rescue his agent.

29 seconds.

Beside him Beauvoir strained, waiting to be loosed.

Too late, Chief Inspector Gamache realized hed made a mistake.

Give it time, Armand.

Avec le temps? Gamache returned the older mans smile and made a fist of his right hand. To stop the trembling. A tremble so slight he was certain the waitress in the Quebec City caf hadnt noticed. The two students across the way tapping on their laptops wouldnt notice. No one would notice.

Except someone very close to him.

He looked at mile Comeau, crumbling a flaky croissant with sure hands. He was nearing eighty now, Gamaches mentor and former chief. His hair was white and groomed, his eyes through his glasses a sharp blue. He was slender and energetic, even now. Though with each visit Armand Gamache noticed a slight softening about the face, a slight slowing of the movements.

Avec le temps.

Widowed five years, mile Comeau knew the power, and length, of time.

Gamaches own wife, Reine-Marie, had left at dawn that morning after spending a week with them at miles stone home within the old walled city of Qubec. Theyd had quiet dinners together in front of the fire, theyd walked the narrow snow-covered streets. Talked. Were silent. Read the papers, discussed events. The three of them. Four, if you counted their German shepherd, Henri.

And most days Gamache had gone off on his own to a local library, to read.

mile and Reine-Marie had given him that, recognizing that right now he needed society but he also needed solitude.

And then it was time for her to leave. After saying good-bye to mile she turned to her husband. Tall, solid, a man who preferred good books and long walks to any other activity, he looked more like a distinguished professor in his mid-fifties than the head of the most prestigious homicide unit in Canada. The Sret du Qubec. He walked her to her car, scraping the morning ice from the windshield.

You dont have to go, you know, he said, smiling down at her as they stood in the brittle, new day. Henri sat in a snow bank nearby and watched.

I know. But you and mile need time together. I could see how you were looking at each other.

The longing? laughed the Chief Inspector. Id hoped wed been more discreet.

A wife always knows. She smiled, looking into his deep brown eyes. He wore a hat, but still she could see his graying hair, and the slight curl where it came out from under the fabric. And his beard. Shed slowly become used to the beard. For years hed had a moustache, but just lately, since it happened, hed grown the trim beard.

She paused. Should she say it? It was never far from her mind now, from her mouth. The words she knew were useless, if any words could be described as that. Certainly she knew they could not make the thing happen. If they could she would surround him with them, encase him with her words.

Come home when you can, she said instead, her voice light.

He kissed her. I will. In a few days, a week at the most. Call me when you get there.

Daccord. She got into the car.

Je taime, he said, putting his gloved hand into the window to touch her shoulder.

Watch out, her mind screamed. Be safe. Come home with me. Be careful, be careful, be careful.

She put her own gloved hand over his. Je taime.

And then she was gone, back to Montreal, glancing in the rear-view mirror to see him standing on the deserted early morning street, Henri naturally at his side. Both watching her, until she disappeared.

The Chief Inspector continued to stare even after shed turned the corner. Then he picked up a shovel and slowly cleared the nights fluffy snowfall from the front steps. Resting for a moment, his arms crossed over the handle of the shovel, he marveled at the beauty as the first light hit the new snow. It looked more pale blue than white, and here and there it sparkled like tiny prisms where the flakes had drifted and collected, then caught, remade, and returned the light. Like something alive and giddy.

Life in the old walled city was like that. Both gentle and dynamic, ancient and vibrant.

Picking up a handful of snow, the Chief Inspector mashed it into a ball in his fist. Henri immediately stood, his tail going so hard his entire rear swayed. His eyes burning into the ball.

Gamache tossed it into the air and the dog leapt, his mouth closing over the snowball, and chomping down. Landing on all fours Henri was once again surprised that the thing that had been so solid had suddenly disappeared.

Gone, so quickly.

But next time would be different.

Gamache chuckled. He might be right.

Just then mile stepped out from his doorway, bundled in an immense winter coat against the biting February cold.

Ready? The elderly man clamped a toque onto his head, pulling it down so that it covered his ears and forehead, and put on thick mitts, like boxing gloves.

For what? A siege?

For breakfast, mon vieux. Come along, before someone gets the last croissant.

He knew how to motivate his former subordinate. Hardly pausing for Gamache to replace the shovel, mile headed off up the snowy street. Around them the other residents of Quebec City were waking up. Coming out into the tender morning light to shovel, to scrape the snow from their cars, to walk to the boulangerie for their morning baguette and caf.

The two men and Henri set out along rue St-Jean, past the restaurants and tourist shops, to a tiny side street called rue Couillard, and there they found Chez Temporel.

Theyd been coming to this caf for fifteen years, ever since Superintendent mile Comeau had retired to old Quebec City, and Gamache had come to visit, to spend time with his mentor, and to help with the little chores that piled up. Shoveling, stacking wood for the fireplace, sealing windows against drafts. But this visit was different. Like no other in all the winters Chief Inspector Gamache had been coming to Quebec City.

This time it was Gamache who needed help.

So, mile leaned back, cupping his bowl of caf au lait in slender hands. Hows the research going?

I cant yet find any references to Captain Cook actually meeting Bougainville before the Battle of Qubec, but it was 250 years ago. Records are scattered and werent well kept. But I know theyre in there, said Gamache. Its an amazing library, mile. The volumes go back centuries.

Comeau watched his companion talk about sifting through arcane books in a local library and the tidbits he was unearthing about a battle long ago fought, and lost. At least, from his point of view lost. Was there a spark in those beloved eyes at last? Those eyes hed stared into so often at the scenes of dreadful crimes as theyd hunted murderers. As theyd raced through woods and villages and fields, through clues and evidence and suspicions. Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, mile remembered the quote as he remembered those days. Yes, he thought, that described it. Chasmed fears. Both their own, and the murderers. Across tables across the province he and Gamache had sat. Just like this.

But now it was time to rest from murder. No more killing, no more deaths. Armand had seen too much of that lately. No, better to bury himself in history, in lives long past. An intellectual pursuit, nothing more.

Beside them Henri stirred and Gamache instinctively lowered his hand to stroke the shepherds head and reassure him. And once again mile noted the slight tremble. Barely there now. Stronger at times. Sometimes it disappeared completely. It was a tell-tale tremble, and mile knew the terrible tale it had to tell.

He wished he could take that hand and hold it steady and tell him it would be all right. Because it would, he knew.

With time.

Watching Armand Gamache he noticed again the jagged scar on his left temple and the trim beard hed grown. So that people would stop staring. So that people would not recognize the most recognizable police officer in Qubec.

But, of course, it didnt matter. It wasnt them Armand Gamache was hiding from.

The waitress at Chez Temporel arrived with more coffee.

Merci, Danielle, the two men said at once and she left, smiling at the two men who looked so different but seemed so similar.

They drank their coffees and ate pain au chocolat and croissants aux amandes and talked about the Carnaval de Qubec, starting that night. Occasionally theyd lapse into silence, watching the men and women hurrying along the icy cold street outside to their jobs. Someone had scratched a three-leaf clover into a slight indent in the center of their wooden table. mile rubbed it with his finger.

And wondered when Armand would want to talk about what happened.

It was ten thirty and the monthly board meeting of the Literary and Historical Society was about to start. For many years the meetings had been held in the evening, when the library was closed, but then it was noticed that fewer and fewer members were showing up.

So the Chairman, Porter Wilson, had changed the time. At least, he thought hed changed the time. At least, it had been reported in the board minutes that it had been his motion, though he privately seemed to remember arguing against it.

And yet, here they were meeting in the morning, and had been for some years. Still, the other members had adjusted, as had Porter. He had to, since it had apparently been his idea.

The fact the board had adjusted at all was a miracle. The last time theyd been asked to change anything it had been the worn leather on the Lit and His chairs, and that had been sixty-three years ago. Members still remembered fathers and mothers, grandparents, ranged on either side of the upholstered Mason-Dixon Line. Remembered vitriolic comments made behind closed doors, behind backs, but before children. Who didnt forget, sixty-three years later, that devious alteration from old black leather to new black leather.

Pulling out his chair at the head of the table Porter noticed it was looking worn. He sat quickly so that no one, least of all himself, could see it.

Small stacks of paper were neatly arranged in front of his and every other place, marching down the wooden table. Elizabeth MacWhirters doing. He examined Elizabeth. Plain, tall and slim. At least, she had been that when the world was young. Now she just looked freeze-dried. Like those ancient cadavers pulled from glaciers. Still obviously human, but withered and gray. Her dress was blue and practical and a very good cut and material, he suspected. After all, she was one of those MacWhirters. A venerable and moneyed family. One not given to displays of wealth, or brains. Her brother had sold the shipping empire about a decade too late. But there was still money there. She was a little dull, he thought, but responsible. Not a leader, not a visionary. Not the sort to hold a community in peril together. Like him. And his father before him. And his grandfather.

For the tiny English community within the walls of old Quebec City had been in peril for many generations. It was a kind of perpetual peril that sometimes got better and sometimes got worse, but never disappeared completely. Just like the English.

Porter Wilson had never fought a war, being just that much too young, and then too old. Not, anyway, an official war. But he and the other members of his board knew themselves to be in a battle nevertheless. And one, he secretly suspected, they were losing.

At the door Elizabeth MacWhirter greeted the other board members as they arrived and looked over at Porter Wilson already seated at the head of the table, reading over his notes.

Hed accomplished many things in his life, Elizabeth knew. The choir hed organized, the amateur theater, the wing for the nursing home. All built by force of will and personality. And all less than they might have been had he sought and accepted advice.

The very force of his personality both created and crippled. How much more could he have accomplished had he been kinder? But then, dynamism and kindness often didnt go together, though when they did they were unstoppable.

Porter was stoppable. Indeed, he stopped himself. And now the only board that could stand him was the Lit and His. Elizabeth had known Porter for seventy years, since shed seen him eating lunch alone, every day, at school and gone to keep him company. Porter decided she was sucking up to one of the great Wilson clan, and treated her with disdain.

Still, she kept him company. Not because she liked him but because she knew even then something it would take Porter Wilson decades to realize. The English of Quebec City were no longer the juggernauts, no longer the steamships, no longer the gracious passenger liners of the society and economy.

They were a life raft. Adrift. And you dont make war on others in the raft.

Elizabeth MacWhirter had figured that out. And when Porter rocked the boat, she righted it.

She looked at Porter Wilson and saw a small, energetic, touped man. His hair, where not imported, was dyed a shade of black the chairs would envy. His eyes were brown and darted about nervously.

Mr. Blake arrived first. The oldest board member, he practically lived at the Lit and His. He took off his coat, revealing his uniform of gray flannel suit, laundered white shirt, blue silk tie. He was always perfectly turned out. A gentleman, who managed to make Elizabeth feel young and beautiful. Shed had a crush on him when shed been an awkward teen and he in his dashing twenties.

Hed been attractive then and sixty years later he was still attractive, though his hair was thin and white and his once fine body had rounded and softened. But his eyes were smart and lively, and his heart was large and strong.

Elizabeth, Mr. Blake smiled and took her hand, holding it for a moment. Never too long, never too familiar. Just enough, so that she knew shed been held.

He took his seat. A seat, Elizabeth thought, that should be replaced. But then, honestly, so should Mr. Blake. So should they all.

What would happen when they died out and all that was left of the board of the Literary and Historical Society were worn, empty chairs?

Right, we need to make this fast. We have a practice in an hour.

Tom Hancock arrived, followed by Ken Haslam. The two were never far apart these days, being unlikely team members in the ridiculous upcoming race.

Tom was Elizabeths triumph. Her hope. And not simply because he was the minister of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church next door.

He was young and new to the community, having moved to Quebec City three years earlier. At thirty-three he was about half the age of the next youngest board member. Not yet cynical, not yet burned out. He still believed his church would find new parishioners, the English community would suddenly produce babies with the desire to stay in Quebec City. He believed the Qubec government when it promised job equality for Anglophones. And health care in their own language. And education. And nursing homes so that when all hope was lost, they might die with their mother tongue on caregivers lips.

Hed managed to inspire the board to believe maybe all wasnt lost. And even, maybe, this wasnt really a war. Wasnt some dreadful extension of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, one which the English lost this time. Elizabeth glanced up at the oddly petite statue of General James Wolfe. The martyred hero of the battle 250 years ago hovered over the library of the Literary and Historical Society, like a wooden accusation. To witness their petty battles and to remind them, in perpetuity, of the great battle hed fought, for them. Where hed died, but not before triumphing on that blood-soaked farmers field. Ending the war, and securing Qubec for the English. On paper.

And now from his corner of the lovely old library General Wolfe looked down on them. In every way, Elizabeth suspected.

So, Ken, Tom said, taking his place beside the older man. You in shape? Ready for the race?

Elizabeth didnt hear Ken Haslams response. But then she didnt expect to. Kens thin lips moved, words were formed, but never actually heard.

They all paused, thinking perhaps this was the day he would produce a word above a whisper. But they were wrong. Still, Tom Hancock continued to talk to Ken, as though they were actually having a conversation.

Elizabeth loved Tom for that as well. For not giving in to the notion that because Ken was quiet he was stupid. Elizabeth knew him to be anything but. In his mid-sixties he was the most successful of all of them, building a business of his own. And now, having achieved that Ken Haslam had done something else remarkable.

Hed signed up for the treacherous ice canoe race. Signed on to Tom Hancocks team. He would be the oldest member of the team, the oldest member of any team. Perhaps the oldest racer ever.

Watching Ken, quiet and calm and Tom, young, vital, handsome, Elizabeth wondered if maybe they understood each other very well after all. Perhaps both had things they werent saying.

Not for the first time Elizabeth wondered about Tom Hancock. Why hed chosen to minister to them, and why he stayed within the walls of old Quebec City. It took a certain personality, Elizabeth knew, to choose to live in what amounted to a fortress.

Right, lets start, said Porter, sitting up even straighter.

Winnie isnt here yet, said Elizabeth.

We cant wait.

Why not? Tom asked, his voice relaxed. But still Porter heard a challenge.

Because its already past ten thirty and youre the one who wanted to make this quick, Porter said, pleased at having scored a point.

Once again, thought Elizabeth, Porter managed to look at a friend and see a foe.

Quite right. Still, Im happy to wait, smiled Tom, unwilling to take to the field.

Well, Im not. First order of business?

They discussed the purchase of new books for a while before Winnie arrived. Small and energetic, she was fierce in her loyalty. To the English community, to the Lit and His, but mostly to her friend.

She marched in, gave Porter a withering look, and sat next to Elizabeth.

I see you started without me, she said to him. I told you Id be late.

You did, but that doesnt mean we had to wait. Were discussing new books to buy.

And it didnt occur to you this might be an issue best discussed with the librarian?

Well, youre here now.

The rest of the board watched this as though at Wimbledon, though with considerably less interest. It was pretty clear who had the balls, and who would win.

Fifty minutes later theyd almost reached the end of the agenda. There was one oatmeal cookie left, the members staring but too polite to take it. Theyd discussed the heating bills, the membership drive, the ratty old volumes left to them in wills, instead of money. The books were generally sermons, or lurid Victorian poetry, or the dreary daily diary of a trip up the Amazon or into Africa to shoot and stuff some poor wild creature.

They discussed having another sale of books, but after the last debacle that was a short discussion.

Elizabeth took notes and had to force herself not to lip-synch to each board members comments. It was a liturgy. Familiar, soothing in a strange way. The same words repeated over and over every meeting. For ever and ever. Amen.

A sound suddenly interrupted that comforting liturgy, a sound so unique and startling Porter almost jumped out of his chair.

What was that? whispered Ken Haslam. For him it was almost a shout.

Its the doorbell, I think, said Winnie.

The doorbell? asked Porter. I didnt know we had one.

Put in in 1897 after the Lieutenant Governor visited and couldnt get in, said Mr. Blake, as though hed been there. Never heard it myself.

But he heard it again. A long, shrill bell. Elizabeth had locked the front door to the Literary and Historical Society as soon as everyone had arrived. A precaution against being interrupted. Though since hardly anyone ever visited it was more habit than necessity. Shed also hung a sign on the thick wooden door. Board Meeting in Progress. Library will reopen at noon. Thank you. Merci.

The bell sounded again. Someone was leaning on it, finger jammed into the button.

Still they stared at each other.

Ill go, said Elizabeth.

Porter looked down at his papers, the better part of valor.

No, Winnie stood. Ill go. You all stay here.

They watched Winnie disappear down the corridor and heard her feet on the wooden stairs. There was silence. Then a minute later her feet on the stairs again.

They listened to the footsteps clicking and clacking closer. She arrived but stopped at the door, her face pale and serious.

Theres someone there. Someone who wants to speak to the board.

Well, demanded Porter, remembering he was their leader, now that the elderly woman had gone to the door. Who is it?

Augustin Renaud, she said and saw the looks on their faces. Had she said Dracula they could not have been more startled. Though, for the English, startled meant raised eyebrows.

Every eyebrow in the room was raised, and if General Wolfe could have managed it, he would have.

I left him outside, she said into the silence.

As if to underscore that the doorbell shrieked again.

What should we do? Winnie asked, but instead of turning to Porter she looked at Elizabeth. They all did.

We need to take a vote, Elizabeth said at last. Should we see him?

Hes not on the agenda, Mr. Blake pointed out.

Thats right, said Porter, trying to wrestle back control. But even he looked at Elizabeth.

Whos in favor of letting Augustin Renaud speak to the board? Elizabeth asked.

Not a hand was raised.

Elizabeth lowered her pen, not taking note of the vote. Giving one curt nod she stood. Ill tell him.

Ill go with you, said Winnie.

No, dear, you stay here. Ill be right back. I mean, really? She paused at the door, taking in the board and General Wolfe above. How bad could it be?

But they all knew the answer to that. When Augustin Renaud came calling it was never good.

BURY YOUR DEAD. Copyright 2010 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.




THE BRUTAL TELLING (Chapter 1)

"All of them? Even the children?" The fireplace sputtered and crackled and swallowed his gasp. "Slaughtered?"

"Worse."

There was silence then. And in that hush lived all the things that could be worse than slaughter.

"Are they close?" His back tingled as he imagined something dreadful creeping through the woods. Toward them. He looked around, almost expecting to see red eyes staring through the dark windows. Or from the corners, or under the bed.

"All around. Have you seen the light in the night sky?"

"I thought those were the Northern Lights." The pink and green and white shifting, flowing against the stars. Like something alive, glowing, and growing. And approaching.

Olivier Brulé lowered his gaze, no longer able to look into the troubled, lunatic eyes across from him. He'd lived with this story for so long, and kept telling himself it wasn't real. It was a myth, a story told and repeated and embellished over and over and over. Around fires just like theirs.

It was a story, nothing more. No harm in it.

But in this simple log cabin, buried in the Quebec wilderness, it seemed like more than that. Even Olivier felt himself believing it. Perhaps because the Hermit so clearly did.

The old man sat in his easy chair on one side of the stone hearth with Olivier on the other. Olivier looked into a fire that had been alive for more than a decade. An old flame not allowed to die, it mumbled and popped in the grate, throwing soft light into the log cabin. He gave the embers a shove with the simple iron poker, sending sparks up the chimney. Candlelight twinkled off shiny objects like eyes in the darkness, found by the flame.

"It won't be long now."

The Hermit's eyes were gleaming like metal reaching its melting point. He was leaning forward as he often did when this tale was told.

Olivier scanned the single room. The dark was punctuated by flickering candles throwing fantastic, grotesque shadows. Night seemed to have seeped through the cracks in the logs and settled into the cabin, curled in corners and under the bed. Many native tribes believed evil lived in corners, which was why their traditional homes were rounded. Unlike the square homes the government had given them.

Olivier didn't believe evil lived in corners. Not really. Not in the daylight, anyway. But he did believe there were things waiting in the dark corners of this cabin that only the Hermit knew about. Things that set Olivier's heart pounding.

"Go on," he said, trying to keep his voice steady.

It was late and Olivier still had the twenty-minute walk through the forest back to Three Pines. It was a trip he made every fortnight and he knew it well, even in the dark.

Only in the dark. Theirs was a relationship that existed only after nightfall.

They sipped Orange Pekoe tea. A treat, Olivier knew, reserved for the Hermit's honored guest. His only guest.

But now it was story time. They leaned closer to the fire. It was early September and a chill had crept in with the night.

"Where was I? Oh, yes. I remember now."

Olivier's hands gripped the warm mug even tighter.

"The terrible force has destroyed everything in its way. The Old World and the New. All gone. Except . . ."

"Except?"

"One tiny village remains. Hidden in a valley, so the grim army hasn't seen it yet. But it will. And when it does their great leader will stand at the head of his army. He's immense, bigger than any tree, and clad in armor made from rocks and spiny shells and bone."

"Chaos."

The word was whispered and disappeared into the darkness, where it curled into a corner. And waited.

"Chaos. And the Furies. Disease, Famine, Despair. All are swarming. Searching. And they'll never stop. Not ever. Not until they find it."

"The thing that was stolen."

The Hermit nodded, his face grim. He seemed to see the slaughter, the destruction. See the men and women, the children, fleeing before the merciless, soulless force.

"But what was it? What could be so important they had to destroy everything to get it back?"

Olivier willed his eyes not to dart from the craggy face and into the darkness. To the corner, and the thing they both knew was sitting there in its mean little canvas sack. But the Hermit seemed to read his mind and Olivier saw a malevolent grin settle onto the old man's face. And then it was gone.

"It's not the army that wants it back."

They both saw then the thing looming behind the terrible army. The thing even Chaos feared. That drove Despair, Disease, Famine before it. With one goal. To find what was taken from their Master.

"It's worse than slaughter."

Their voices were low, barely scraping the ground. Like conspirators in a cause already lost.

"When the army finally finds what it's searching for it will stop. And step aside. And then the worst thing imaginable will arrive."

There was silence again. And in that silence lived the worst thing imaginable.

Outside a pack of coyotes set up a howl. They had something cornered.

Myth, that's all this is, Olivier reassured himself. Just a story. Once more he looked into the embers, so he wouldn't see the terror in the Hermit's face. Then he checked his watch, tilting the crystal toward the fireplace until its face glowed orange and told him the time. Two thirty in the morning.

"Chaos is coming, old son, and there's no stopping it. It's taken a long time, but it's finally here."

The Hermit nodded, his eyes rheumy and runny, perhaps from the wood smoke, perhaps from something else. Olivier leaned back, surprised to feel his thirty-eight-year-old body suddenly aching, and realized he'd sat tense through the whole awful telling.

"I'm sorry. It's getting late and Gabri will be worried. I have to go."

"Already?"

Olivier got up and pumping cold, fresh water into the enamel sink he cleaned his cup. Then he turned back to the room.

"I'll be back soon," he smiled.

"Let me give you something," said the Hermit, looking around the log cabin. Olivier's gaze darted to the corner where the small canvas sack sat. Unopened. A bit of twine keeping it closed.

A chuckle came from the Hermit. "One day, perhaps, Olivier. But not today."

He went over to the hand-hewn mantelpiece, picked up a tiny item and held it out to the attractive blond man.

"For the groceries." He pointed to the tins and cheese and milk, tea and coffee and bread on the counter.

"No, I couldn't. It's my pleasure," said Olivier, but they both knew the pantomime and knew he'd take the small offering. "Merci," Olivier said at the door.

In the woods there was a furious scrambling, as a doomed creature raced to escape its fate, and coyotes raced to seal it.

"Be careful," said the old man, quickly scanning the night sky. Then, before closing the door, he whispered the single word that was quickly devoured by the woods. Olivier wondered if the Hermit crossed himself and mumbled prayers, leaning against the door, which was thick but perhaps not quite thick enough.

And he wondered if the old man believed the stories of the great and grim army with Chaos looming and leading the Furies. Inexorable, unstoppable. Close.

And behind them something else. Something unspeakable.

And he wondered if the Hermit believed the prayers.

Olivier flicked on his flashlight, scanning the darkness. Gray tree trunks crowded round. He shone the light here and there, trying to find the narrow path through the late summer forest. Once on the trail he hurried. And the more he hurried the more frightened he became, and the more fearful he grew the faster he ran until he was stumbling, chased by dark words through the dark woods.

He finally broke through the trees and staggered to a stop, hands on his bent knees, heaving for breath. Then, slowly straightening, he looked down on the village in the valley.

Three Pines was asleep, as it always seemed to be. At peace with itself and the world. Oblivious of what happened around it. Or perhaps aware of everything, but choosing peace anyway. Soft light glowed at some of the windows. Curtains were drawn in bashful old homes. The sweet scent of the first autumn fires wafted to him.

And in the very center of the little Quebec village there stood three great pines, like watchmen.

Olivier was safe. Then he felt his pocket.

The gift. The tiny payment. He'd left it behind.

Cursing, Olivier turned to look into the forest that had closed behind him. And he thought again of the small canvas bag in the corner of the cabin. The thing the Hermit had teased him with, promised him, dangled before him. The thing a hiding man hid.

Olivier was tired, and fed up and angry at himself for forgetting the trinket. And angry at the Hermit for not giving him the other thing. The thing he'd earned by now.

He hesitated, then turning he plunged back into the forest, feeling his fear growing and feeding the rage. And as he walked, then ran, a voice followed, beating behind him. Driving him on.

"Chaos is here, old son."

THE BRUTAL TELLING. Copyright 2009 by Louise Penny.


A RULE AGAINST MURDER / THE MURDER STONE (Chapter 1)

In the height of summer the guests descended on the isolated lodge by the lake, summoned to the Manoir Belle-chasse by identical vellum invitations, addressed in the familiar spider scrawl as though written in cobwebs. Thrust through mail slots, the heavy paper had thudded to the floor of impressive homes in Vancouver and Toronto, and a small brick cottage in Three Pines.

The mailman had carried it in his bag through the tiny Quebec village, taking his time. Best not to exert yourself in this heat, he told himself, pausing to remove his hat and wipe his dripping head. Union rules. But the actual reason for his lethargy wasn’t the beating and brilliant sun, but something more private. He always lingered in Three Pines. He wandered slowly by the perennial beds of roses and lilies and thrusting bold foxglove. He helped kids spot frogs at the pond on the green. He sat on warm fieldstone walls and watched the old village go about its business. It added hours to his day and made him the last courier back to the terminal. He was mocked and kidded by his fellows for being so slow and he suspected that was the reason he’d never been promoted. For two decades or more he’d taken his time. Instead of hurrying, he strolled through Three Pines talking to people as they walked their dogs, often joining them for lemonade or thé glacé outside the bistro. Or café au lait in front of the roaring fire in winter.

Sometimes the villagers, knowing he was having lunch at the bistro, would come by and pick up their own mail. And chat for a moment. He brought news from other villages on his route, like a travelling minstrel in medieval times, with news of plague or war or flood, someplace else. But never here in this lovely and peaceful village. It always amused him to imagine that Three Pines, nestled among the mountains and surrounded by Canadian forest, was disconnected from the outside world. It certainly felt that way. It was a relief.

And so he took his time. This day he held a bundle of envelopes in his sweaty hand, hoping he wasn’t marring the perfect, quite lovely thick paper of the top letter. Then the handwriting caught his eye and his pace slowed still further. After decades as a mail carrier he knew he delivered more than just letters. In his years, he knew, he’d dropped bombs along his route. Great good news: children born, lotteries won, distant, wealthy aunts dead. But he was a good and sensitive man, and he knew he was also the bearer of bad news. It broke his heart to think of the pain he sometimes caused, especially in this village.

He knew what he held in his hand now was that, and more. It wasn’t, perhaps, total telepathy that informed his certainty, but also an unconscious ability to read handwriting. Not simply the words, but the thrust behind them. The simple, mundane three- line address on the envelope told him more than where to deliver the letter. The hand was old, he could tell, and infirm. Crippled not just by age, but by rage. No good would come from this thing he held. And he suddenly wanted to be rid of it.

His intention had been to wander over to the bistro and have a cold beer and a sandwich, chat with the owner Olivier and see if anyone came for their mail, for he was also just a little bit lazy. But suddenly he was energized. Astonished villagers saw a sight unique to them, the postman hurrying. He stopped and turned and walked briskly away from the bistro, toward a rusty mailbox in front of a brick cottage overlooking the village green. As he opened the mouth of the box it screamed. He couldn’t blame it. He thrust the letter in and quickly closed the shrieking door. It surprised him that the battered metal box didn’t gag a little and spew the wretched thing back. He’d come to see his letters as living things, and the boxes as kinds of pets. And he’d done something terrible to this particular box. And these people.

Had Armand Gamache been blindfolded he’d have known exactly where he was. It was the scent. That combination of woodsmoke, old books and honeysuckle.

"Monsieur et Madame Gamache, quel plaisir." Clementine Dubois waddled around the reception desk at the Manoir Bellechasse, skin like wings hanging from her outstretched arms and quivering so that she looked like a bird or a withered angel as she approached, her intentions clear. Reine-Marie Gamache met her, her own arms without hope of meeting about the substantial woman. They embraced and kissed on each cheek. When Gamache had exchanged hugs and kisses with Madame Dubois she stepped back and surveyed the couple. Before her she saw Reine-Marie, short, not plump but not trim either, hair graying and face settling into the middle years of a life fully lived. She was lovely without being actually pretty. What the French called soignée. She wore a tailored deep blue skirt to mid- calf and a crisp white shirt. Simple, elegant, classic.

The man was tall and powerfully built. In his mid- fifties and not yet going to fat, but showing evidence of a life lived with good books, wonderful food and leisurely walks. He looked like a professor, though Clementine Dubois knew he was not that. His hair was receding and where once it had been wavy and dark, now it was thinning on top and graying over the ears and down the sides where it curled a little over the collar. He was clean- shaven except for a trim moustache. He wore a navy jacket, khaki slacks and a soft blue shirt, with tie. Always immaculate, even in the gathering heat of this late June day. But what was most striking were his eyes. Deep, warm brown. He carried calm with him as other men wore cologne.

"But you look tired."

Most innkeepers would have exclaimed, "But you look lovely." "Mais, voyons, you never change, you two." Or even, "You look younger than ever," knowing how old ears never tire of hearing that.

But while the Gamaches’ ears couldn’t yet be considered old, they were tired. It had been a long year and their ears had heard more than they cared to. And, as always, the Gamaches had come to the Manoir Bellechasse to leave all that behind. While the rest of the world celebrated the New Year in January, the Gamaches celebrated at the height of summer, when they visited this blessed place, retreated from the world, and began anew.

"We are a little weary," admitted Reine-Marie, subsiding gratefully into the comfortable wing chair at the reception desk.

"Bon, well we’ll soon take care of that." Now, Madame Dubois gracefully swivelled back behind the desk in a practiced move and sat at her own comfortable chair. Pulling the ledger toward her she put on her glasses. "Where have we put you?"

Armand Gamache took the chair beside his wife and they exchanged glances. They knew if they looked in that same ledger they’d find their signatures, once a year, stretching back to a June day more than thirty years ago when young Armand had saved his money and brought Reine-Marie here. For one night. In the tiniest of rooms at the very back of the splendid old Manoir. Without a view of the mountains or the lake or the perennial gardens lush with fresh peonies and first-bloom roses. He’d saved for months, wanting that visit to be special. Wanting Reine-Marie to know how much he loved her, how precious she was to him.

And so they’d lain together for the first time, the sweet scent of the forest and kitchen thyme and lilac drifting almost visible through the screened window. But the loveliest scent of all was her, fresh and warm in his strong arms. He’d written a love note to her that night. He’d covered her softly with their simple white sheet, then, sitting in the cramped rocking chair, not daring to actually rock in case he whacked the wall behind or barked his shins on the bed in front, disturbing Reine-Marie, he’d watched her breathe. Then on Manoir Bellechasse notepaper he’d written, My love knows no—

How can a man contain such—

My heart and soul have come alive—

My love for you—

All night he wrote and next morning, taped to the bathroom mirror, Reine-Marie found the note.

I love you.

Clementine Dubois had been there even then, massive and wobbly and smiling. She’d been old then and each year Gamache worried he’d call for a reservation to hear an unfamiliar crisp voice say. "Bonjour, Manoir Belle-chasse. Puis-je vous aider?" Instead he’d heard, "Monsieur Gamache, what a plea sure. Are you coming to visit us again, I hope?" Like going to Grandma’s. Albeit a grander grandma’s than he’d ever known.

And while Gamache and Reine-Marie had certainly changed, marrying, having two children and now a granddaughter and another grandchild on the way, Clementine Dubois never seemed to age or diminish. And neither did her love, the Manoir. It was as though the two were one, both kind and loving, comforting and welcoming. And mysteriously and delightfully unchanging in a world that seemed to change so fast. And not always for the better.

"What’s wrong?" Reine-Marie asked, noticing the look on Madame Dubois’s face.

"I must be getting old," she said and looked up, her violet eyes upset. .Gamache smiled reassuringly. By his calculations she must be at least a hundred and twenty.

"If you have no room, don’t worry. We can come back another week," he said. It was only a two- hour drive into the Eastern Townships of Quebec from their home in Montreal.

"Oh, I have a room, but I’d hoped to have something better. When you called for reservations I should have saved the Lake Room for you, the one you had last year. But the Manoir’s full up. One family, the Finneys, has taken the other five rooms. They’re here—"

She stopped suddenly and dropped her eyes to the ledger in an act so wary and uncharacteristic the Gamaches exchanged glances.

"They’re here . . . ?" Gamache prompted after the silence stretched on.

"Well, it doesn’t matter, plenty of time for that," she said, looking up and smiling reassuringly. "I’m sorry about not saving the best room for you two, though."

"Had we wanted the Lake Room, we’d have asked," said Reine-Marie. "You know Armand, this is his one flutter with uncertainty. Wild man."

Clementine Dubois laughed, knowing that not to be true. She knew the man in front of her lived with great uncertainty every day of his life. Which was why she deeply wanted their annual visits to the Manoir to be filled with luxury and comfort. And peace.

"We never specify the room, madame," said Gamache, his voice deep and warm. "Do you know why?"

Madame Dubois shook her head. She’d long been curious, but never wanted to cross- examine her guests, especially this one. "Everyone else does," she said. "In fact, this whole family asked for free upgrades. Arrived in Mercedes and BMWs and asked for upgrades." She smiled. Not meanly, but with some bafflement that people who had so much wanted more.

"We like to leave it up to the fates," he said. She examined his face to see if he was joking, but thought he probably wasn’t. "We’re perfectly happy with what we’re given."

see another day, and always surprised to be here, in this old lodge, by the sparkling shores of this freshwater lake, surrounded by forests and streams, gardens and guests. It was her home, and guests were like family. Though Madame Dubois knew, from bitter experience, you can’t always choose, or like, your family.

"Here it is." She dangled an old brass key from a long keychain. "The Forest Room. It’s at the back, I’m afraid."

Reine-Marie smiled. "We know where it is, merci."

One day rolled gently into the next as the Gamaches swam in Lac Massawippi and went for leisurely walks through the fragrant woods. They read and chatted amicably with the other guests and slowly got to know them.

Up until a few days ago they’d never met the Finneys, but now they were cordial companions at the isolated lodge. Like experienced travellers on a cruise, the guests were neither too remote nor too familiar. They didn’t even know what the others did for a living, which was fine with Armand Gamache.

It was mid- afternoon and Gamache was watching a bee scramble around a particularly blowsy pink rose when a movement caught his attention. He turned in his chaise longue and watched as the son, Thomas, and his wife Sandra walked from the lodge into the startling sunshine. Sandra brought a slim hand up and placed huge black sunglasses on her face, so that she looked a little like a fly. She seemed an alien in this place, certainly not someone in her natural habitat. Gamache supposed her to be in her late fifties, early sixties, though she was clearly trying to pass for considerably less. Funny, he thought, how dyed hair, heavy make- up and young clothes actually made a person look older.

They walked on to the lawn, Sandra’s heels aerating the grass, and paused, as though expecting applause. But the only sound Gamache could hear came from the bee, whose wings were making a muffled raspberry sound in the rose.

Thomas stood on the brow of the slight hill rolling

down to the lake, an admiral on the bridge. His piercing

blue eyes surveyed the water, like Nelson at Trafalgar.

Gamache realized that every time he saw Thomas he

thought of a man preparing for battle. Thomas Finney was

in his early sixties and certainly handsome. Tall and dis

tinguished with gray hair and noble features. But in the

few days they’d shared the lodge Gamache had also noted

a hint of irony in the man, a quiet sense of humor. He was

arrogant and entitled, but he seemed to know it and be

able to laugh at himself. It was very becoming and

Gamache found himself warming to him. Though on this

hot day he was warming to everything, especially the old

Life magazine whose ink was coming off on his sweaty

hands. Looking down he saw, tattooed to his palm, .

Life Backward.

Thomas and Sandra had walked straight past his elderly parents who were lounging on the shaded porch. Gamache marvelled yet again at the ability of this family to make each other invisible. As Gamache watched over his half- moon glasses, Thomas and Sandra surveyed the people dotted around the garden and along the shore of the lake. Julia Martin, the older sister and a few years younger than Thomas, was sitting alone on the dock in an Adirondack chair, reading. She wore a simple white one-piece bathing suit. In her late fifties she was slim and gleamed like a trophy as though she’d slathered herself in cooking oil. She seemed to sizzle in the sun, and with a wince Gamache could imagine her skin beginning to crackle. Every now and then Julia would lower her book and gaze across the calm lake. Thinking. Gamache knew enough about Julia Martin to know she had a great deal to think about.

On the lawn leading down to the lake were the rest of the family, the younger sister Marianna and her child, Bean. Where Thomas and Julia were slim and attractive, Marianna was short and plump and unmistakably ugly. It was as though she was the negative to their positive. Her

clothes seemed to have a grudge against her and either slipped off or scrunched around awkwardly so that she was constantly rearranging herself, pulling and tugging and wriggling.

And yet the child, Bean, was extremely attractive, with long blond hair, bleached almost white in the sun, thick dark lashes and brilliant blue eyes. At that moment Mari-anna appeared to be doing t’ai chi, though with movements of her own making.

"Look, darling, a crane. Mommy’s a crane."

The plump woman stood on one leg, arms reaching for the sky and neck stretched to its limits.

Ten- year- old Bean ignored Mommy and continued to read. Gamache wondered how bored the child must be.

"It’s the most difficult position," Marianna said more loudly than necessary, almost throttling herself with one of her scarves. Gamache had noticed that Marianna’s t’ai chi and yoga and meditations and military calisthenics only happened when Thomas appeared.

Was she trying to impress her older brother, Gamache wondered, or embarrass him? Thomas took a quick glance at the pudgy, collapsing crane and steered Sandra in the other direction. They found two chairs in the shade, alone.

"You’re not spying on them, are you?" Reine-Marie asked, lowering her book to look at her husband.

"Spying is far too harsh. I’m observing."

"Aren’t you supposed to stop that?" Then after a moment she added, "Anything interesting?"

He laughed and shook his head. "Nothing."

"Still," said Reine-Marie, looking around at the scattered Finneys. "Odd family that comes all this way for a reunion then ignores each other."

"Could be worse," he said. "They could be killing each other."

Reine-Marie laughed. "They’d never get close enough to manage it."

Gamache grunted his agreement and realized happily

that he didn’t care. It was their problem, not his. Besides, after a few days together he’d become fond of the Finneys in a funny sort of way.

"Votre thé glacé, madame." The young man spoke French with a delightful English Canadian accent.

"Merci, Elliot." Reine-Marie shaded her eyes from the afternoon sun and smiled at the waiter.

"Un plaisir." He beamed and handed a tall glass of iced tea to Reine-Marie and a perspiring glass of misty lemonade to Gamache, then went off to deliver the rest of his drinks.

"I remember when I was that young," said Gamache wistfully.

"You might have been that young but you were never that—" She nodded toward Elliot as he walked athletically across the manicured lawn in his tailored black slacks and small white jacket snugly fitting his body.

"Oh, God, am I going to have to beat up another suitor?"

"Maybe."

"You know I would." He took her hand.

"I know you wouldn’t. You’d listen him to death."

"Well, it’s a strategy. Crush him with my massive intellect."

"I can imagine his terror."

Gamache sipped his lemonade and suddenly puckered, tears springing to his eyes.

"Ah, and what woman could resist that?" She looked at his fluttering, watering eyes and face screwed into a wince.

"Sugar. Needs sugar," he gasped.

"Here, I’ll ask the waiter."

"Never mind. I’ll do it." He coughed, gave her a mockingly stern gaze and rocked out of the deep and comfortable seat.

Taking his lemonade he wandered up the path from the fragrant gardens and onto the wide veranda, already cooler and shaded from the brunt of the afternoon sun. Bert Finney lowered his book and gazed at Gamache, then smiled and nodded politely.


Excerpted from A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny.
Copyright © 2008 by Louise Penny.
Published in September 2009 by St. Martin’s Press.




THE CRUELLEST MONTH (Chapter 1)

Kneeling in the fragrant moist grass of the village green Clara Morrow carefully hid the Easter egg and thought about raisingthe dead, which she planned to do right after supper. Wiping a strand of hair from her face, she smeared bits of grass, mudand some other brown stuff that might not be mud into her tangled hair. All around, villagers wandered with their basketsof brightly colored eggs, looking for the perfect hiding places. Ruth Zardo sat on the bench in the middle of the green tossingthe eggs at random, though occasionally she'd haul off and peg someone in the back of the head or on the bottom. She had disconcertinglygood aim for someone so old and so nuts, thought Clara.

'You going tonight?' Clara asked, trying to distract the old poet from taking aim at Monsieur Béliveau.

'Are you kidding? Live people are bad enough; why would I want to bring one back from the dead?'

With that Ruth whacked Monsieur Béliveau in the back of his head. Fortunately the village grocer was wearing a cloth cap.It was also fortunate he had great affection for the white-haired ramrod on the bench. Ruth chose her victims well. They werealmost always people who cared for her.

Normally being pelted by a chocolate Easter egg wouldn't be a big deal, but these weren't chocolate. They'd made that mistakeonly once.

A few years earlier, when the village of Three Pines first decided to have an egg hunt on Easter Sunday, there'd been greatexcitement. The villagers met at Olivier's Bistro and over drinks and Brie they divvied up bags of chocolate eggs to be hidden the next day. 'Ooohs' and 'Aaaaahs' tinged with envy filled the air. Would that theywere children again. But their pleasure would surely come from seeing the faces of the village children. Besides, the kidsmight not find them all, especially those hidden behind Olivier's bar.

'They're gorgeous.' Gabri picked up a tiny marzipan goose, delicately sculpted, then bit its head off.

'Gabri.' His partner Olivier yanked what was left of the goose from Gabri's massive hand. 'They're for the kids.'

'You just want it for yourself.' Gabri turned to Myrna and muttered so that everyone could hear, 'Great idea. Gay men offeringchocolates to children. Let's alert the Moral Majority.'

Blond and bashful, Olivier blushed furiously.

Myrna smiled. She looked like a massive Easter egg herself, black and oval and wrapped in a brilliant purple and red caftan.

Most of the tiny village was at the bistro, crowded around the long bar of polished wood, though some had flopped down inthe comfortable old armchairs scattered about. All for sale. Olivier's was also an antique shop. Discreet tags dangled fromeverything, including Gabri when he felt under-appreciated and under-applauded.

It was early April and fires crackled cheerily in the open grates, throwing warm light on the wide-plank pine floors, stainedamber by time and sunlight. Waiters moved effortlessly through the beamed room, offering drinks and soft, runny Brie fromMonsieur Pagé's farm. The bistro was at the heart of the old Quebec village, sitting as it did on the edge of the green. Oneither side of it and attached by connecting doors were the rest of the shops, hugging the village in an aged brick embrace.Monsieur Béliveau's general store, Sarah's Boulangerie, then the bistro and finally, just off that, Myrna's Livres, Neufset Usagés. Three craggy pine trees had stood at the far end of the green for as long as anyone remembered, like wise men who'dfound what they were looking for. Outward from the village, dirt roads radiated and meandered into the mountains and forests.

But Three Pines itself was a village forgotten. Time eddied and swirled and sometimes bumped into it, but never stayed longand never left much of an impression. For hundreds of years the village had nestled in the palm of the rugged Canadian mountains,protected and hidden and rarely found except by accident. Sometimes, a weary traveler crested the hill and looking down saw,like Shangri-La, the welcoming circle of old homes. Some were weathered fieldstone built by settlers clearing the land ofdeeply rooted trees and back-breaking stones. Others were red brick and built by United Empire Loyalists desperate for sanctuary.And some had the swooping metal roofs of the Québécois home with their intimate gables and broad verandas. And at the farend was Olivier's Bistro, offering café au lait and fresh-baked croissants, conversation and company and kindness. Once found, Three Pines was never forgotten. But it wasonly ever found by people lost.

Myrna looked over at her friend Clara Morrow, who was sticking out her tongue. Myrna stuck hers out too. Clara rolled hereyes. Myrna rolled hers, taking a seat beside Clara on the soft sofa facing the fireplace.

'You weren't smoking garden mulch again while I was in Montreal, were you?'

'Not this time,' Clara laughed. 'You have something on your nose.'

Myrna felt around, found something and examined it. 'Mmm, it's either chocolate, or skin. Only one way to find out.'

She popped it in her mouth.

'God.' Clara winced. 'And you wonder why you're single.'

'I don't wonder.' Myrna smiled. 'I don't need a man to complete me.'

'Oh really? What about Raoul?'

'Ah, Raoul,' said Myrna dreamily. 'He was a sweet.'

'He was a gummy bear,' agreed Clara.

'He completed me,' said Myrna. 'And then some.' She patted her middle, large and generous, like the woman herself.

'Look at this.' A razor voice cut through conversation.

Ruth Zardo stood in the center of the bistro holding aloft a chocolate rabbit as though it were a grenade. It was made ofrich dark chocolate, its long ears perky and alert, its face so real Clara half expected it to twitch its delicate candy whiskers.In its paws it held a basket woven from white and milk chocolate, and in that basket sat a dozen candy eggs, beautifully decorated.It was lovely and Clara prayed Ruth wasn't about to toss it at someone.

'It's a bunny rabbit,' snarled the elderly poet.

'I eat them too,' said Gabri to Myrna. 'It's a habit. A rabbit habit.'

Myrna laughed and immediately wished she hadn't. Ruth turned her glare on her.

'Ruth.' Clara stood up and approached cautiously, holding her husband Peter's Scotch as enticement. 'Let the bunny go.'

It was a sentence she'd never said before.

'It's a rabbit,' Ruth repeated as though to slow children. 'So what's it doing with these?'

She pointed to the eggs.

'Since when do rabbits have eggs?' Ruth persisted, looking at the bewildered villagers. 'Never thought of that, eh? Where did it get them? Presumably from chocolate chickens. The bunny musthave stolen the eggs from candy chickens who're searching for their babies. Frantic.'

The funny thing was, as the old poet spoke Clara could actually imagine chocolate chickens running around desperate to findtheir eggs. Eggs stolen by the Easter bunny.

With that Ruth dropped the chocolate bunny to the floor, shattering it.

'Oh, God,' said Gabri, running to pick it up. 'That was for Olivier.'

'Really?' said Olivier, forgetting he himself had bought it.

'This is a strange holiday,' said Ruth ominously. 'I've never liked it.'

'And now it's mutual,' said Gabri, holding the fractured rabbit as though an adored and wounded child. He's so tender, thoughtClara not for the first time. Gabri was so big, so overwhelming, it was easy to forget how sensitive he was. Until momentslike these when he gently held a dying chocolate bunny.

'How do we celebrate Easter?' the old poet demanded, yanking Peter's Scotch from Clara and downing it. 'We hunt eggs and eathot cross buns.'

'Mais, we go to St Thomas's too,' said Monsieur Béliveau.

'More people go to Sarah's Boulangerie than ever show up at church,' snapped Ruth. 'They buy pastry with an instrument oftorture on it. I know you think I'm crazy, but maybe I'm the only sane one here.'

And on that disconcerting note she limped to the door, then turned back.

'Don't put those chocolate eggs out for the children. Something bad will happen.'

And like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, she was right. Something bad did happen.

Next morning the eggs had vanished. All that could be found were wrappers. At first the villagers suspected older children,or perhaps even Ruth, had sabotaged the event.

'Look at this,' said Peter, holding up the shredded remains of a chocolate bunny box. 'Teeth marks. And claws.'

'So it was Ruth,' said Gabri, taking the box and examining it.

'See here.' Clara raced after a candy wrapper blowing across the village green. 'Look, it's all ripped apart as well.'

After spending the morning hunting Easter egg wrappers and cleaning up the mess, most villagers trudged back to Olivier'sto warm themselves by the fire.

'Now, really,' said Ruth to Clara and Peter over lunch at the bistro. 'Couldn't you see that coming?'

'I admit it seems obvious,' Peter laughed, cutting into his golden croque-monsieur, the melted Camembert barely holding the maple-smoked ham and flaky croissant together. Around him anxious parents buzzed,trying to bribe crying children.

'Every wild animal within miles must have been in the village last night,' said Ruth, slowly swirling the ice cubes in herScotch. 'Eating Easter eggs. Foxes, raccoons, squirrels.'

'Bears,' said Myrna, joining their table. 'Jesus, that's pretty scary. All those starving bears, rising from their dens, ravenousafter hibernating all winter.'

'Imagine their surprise to find chocolate eggs and bunnies,' said Clara, between mouthfuls of creamy seafood chowder withchunks of salmon and scallops and shrimp. She took a crusty baguette and twisted off a piece, spreading it with Olivier'sspecial sweet butter. 'The bears must have wondered what miracle had happened while they slept.'

'Not everything that rises up is a miracle,' said Ruth, lifting her eyes from the amber liquid, her lunch, and looking outthe mullioned windows. 'Not everything that comes back to life is meant to. This is a strange time of year. Rain one day,snow the next. Nothing's certain. It's unpredictable.'

'Every season's unpredictable,' said Peter. 'Hurricanes in fall, snowstorms in winter.'

'But you've just proved my point,' said Ruth. 'You can name the threat. We all know what to expect in other seasons. But notspring. The worst flooding happens in spring. Forest fires, killing frosts, snowstorms and mud slides. Nature's in turmoil.Anything can happen.'

'The most achingly beautiful days happen in spring too,' said Clara.

'True, the miracle of rebirth. I hear whole religions are based on the concept. But some things are better off buried.' Theold poet got up and downed her Scotch. 'It's not over yet. The bears will be back.'

'I would be too,' said Myrna, 'if I'd suddenly found a village made of chocolate.'

Clara smiled, but her eyes were on Ruth, who for once didn't radiate anger or annoyance. Instead Clara caught something farmore disconcerting.

Fear.

THE CRUELLEST MONTH Copyright 2007 Louise Penny


A FATAL GRACE / DEAD COLD (Chapter 1)

Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift. She might even have gone to her daughter's end of term pageant at Miss Edward's School for Girls, or 'girths' as CC liked to tease her expansive daughter. Had CC de Poitiers known the end was near she might have been at work instead of in the cheapest room the Ritz in Montreal had to offer. But the only end she knew was near belonged to a man named Saul. 'So, what do you think? Do you like it?' She balanced her book on her pallid stomach.

Saul looked at it, not for the first time. She'd dragged it out of her huge purse every five minutes for the past few days. In busi¬ness meetings, dinners, taxi rides through the snowy streets of Montreal, CC'd suddenly bend down and emerge triumphant, holding her creation as though another virgin birth.

'I like the picture,' he said, knowing the insult. He'd taken the picture. He knew she was asking, pleading, for more and he knew he no longer cared to give it. And he wondered how much longer he could be around CC de Poitiers before he became her. Not physically, of course. At forty-eight she was a few years younger than him. She was slim and ropy and toned, her teeth impossibly white and her hair impossibly blonde. Touching her was like caressing a veneer of ice. There was a beauty to it, and a frailty he found attractive. But there was also danger. If she ever broke, if she shattered, she'd tear him to pieces.

But her exterior wasn't the issue. Watching her caress her book with more tenderness than she'd ever shown when caressing him, he wondered whether her ice water insides had somehow seeped into him, perhaps during sex, and were slowly freezing him. Already he couldn't feel his core.

At fifty-two Saul Petrov was just beginning to notice his friends weren't quite as brilliant, not quite as clever, not quite as slim as they once were. In fact, most had begun to bore him. And he'd noticed a telltale yawn or two from them as well. They were growing thick and bald and dull, and he suspected he was too. It wasn't so bad that women rarely looked at him any more or that he'd begun to consider trading his downhill skis for cross country, or that his GP had scheduled his first prostate test. He could accept all that. What woke Saul Petrov at two in the morning, and whispered in his ears in the voice that had warned him as a child that lions lived under his bed, was the certainty that people now found him boring. He'd take deep dark breaths of the night air, trying to reassure himself that the stifled yawn of his dinner companion was because of the wine or the magret de canard or the warmth in the Montreal restaurant, wrapped as they were in their sensible winter sweaters. But still the night voice growled and warned of dangers ahead. Of impending disaster. Of telling tales too long, of an attention span too short, of seeing the whites of too many eyes. Of glances, fast and discreet, at watches. When can they reasonably leave him? Of eyes scanning the room, desperate for more stimulating company.

And so he'd allowed himself to be seduced by CC. Seduced and devoured so that the lion under the bed had become the lion in the bed. He'd begun to suspect this self-absorbed woman had finally finished absorbing herself, her husband and even that disaster of a daughter and was now busy absorbing him.

He'd already become cruel in her company. And he'd begun despising himself. But not quite as much as he despised her.

'It's a brilliant book,' she said, ignoring him. 'I mean, really. Who wouldn't want this?' She waved it in his face. 'People'll eat it up. There're so many troubled people out there.' She turned now and actually looked out their hotel room window at the building opposite, as though surveying her 'people'. 'I did this for them.' Now she turned back to him, her eyes wide and sincere.

Does she believe it? he wondered.

He'd read the book, of course. Be Calm she'd called it, after the company she'd founded a few years ago, which was a laugh given the bundle of nerves she actually was. The anxious, nervous hands, constantly smoothing and straightening. The snippy responses, the impatience that spilled over into anger.

Calm was not a word anyone would apply to CC de Poitiers, despite her placid, frozen exterior.

She'd shopped the book around to all the publishers, beginning with the top publishing houses in New York and ending with Publications Réjean et Maison des cartes in St Polycarpe, a onevache village along the highway between Montreal and Toronto. They'd all said no, immediately recognizing the manuscript as a flaccid mishmash of ridiculous self-help philosophies, wrapped in half-baked Buddhist and Hindu teachings, spewed forth by a woman whose cover photo looked as though she'd eat her young. 'No goddamned enlightenment,' she'd said to Saul in her Montreal office the day a batch of rejection letters arrived, ripping them into pieces and dropping them on the floor for the hired help to clean up. 'This world is messed up, I tell you. People are cruel and insensitive, they're out to screw each other. There's no love or compassion. This', she sliced her book violently in the air like an ancient mythical hammer, heading for an unforgiving anvil, 'will teach people how to find happiness.' Her voice was low, the words staggering under the weight of venom. She'd gone on to self-publish her book, making sure it was out in time for Christmas. And while the book talked a lot about light Saul found it interesting and ironic that it had actually been released on the winter solstice. The darkest day of the year.

'Who published it again?' He couldn't seem to help himself. She was silent. 'Oh, I remember now,' he said. 'No one wanted it. That must have been horrible.' He paused for a moment, wondering whether to twist the knife. Oh, what the hell. Might as well. 'How'd that make you feel?' Did he imagine the wince?

But her silence remained, eloquent, her face impassive. Anything CC didn't like didn't exist. That included her husband and her daughter. It included any unpleasantness, any criticism, any harsh words not her own, any emotions. CC lived, Saul knew, in her own world, where she was perfect, where she could hide her feelings and hide her failings.

He wondered how long before that world would explode. He hoped he'd be around to see it. But not too close.

People are cruel and insensitive, she'd said. Cruel and insensitive. It wasn't all that long ago, before he'd taken the contract to freelance as CC's photographer and lover, that he'd actually thought the world a beautiful place. Each morning he'd wake early and go into the young day, when the world was new and anything was possible, and he'd see how lovely Montreal was. He'd see people smiling at each other as they got their cappuccinos at the café, or their fresh flowers or their baguettes. He'd see the children in autumn gathering the fallen chestnuts to play conkers. He'd see the elderly women walking arm in arm down the Main.

He wasn't foolish or blind enough not to also see the homeless men and women, or the bruised and battered faces that spoke of a long and empty night and a longer day ahead.

But at his core he believed the world a lovely place. And his photographs reflected that, catching the light, the brilliance, the hope. And the shadows that naturally challenged the light.

Ironically it was this very quality that had caught CC's eye and led her to offer him the contract. An article in a Montreal style magazine had described him as a 'hot' photographer, and CC always went for the best. Which was why they always took a room at the Ritz. A cramped, dreary room on a low floor without view or charm, but the Ritz. CC would collect the shampoos and stationery to prove her worth, just as she'd collected him. And she'd use them to make some obscure point to people who didn't care, just as she'd use him. And then, eventually, everything would be discarded. As her husband had been tossed aside, as her daughter was ignored and ridiculed.

The world was a cruel and insensitive place.

And he now believed it.

He hated CC de Poitiers.

He got out of bed, leaving CC to stare at her book, her real lover. He looked at her and she seemed to go in and out of focus.

He cocked his head to one side and wondered whether he'd had too much to drink again. But still she seemed to grow fuzzy, then sharp, as though he was looking through a prism at two different women, one beautiful, glamorous, vivacious, and the other a pathetic, dyed-blonde rope, all corded and wound and knotted and rough. And dangerous.

'What's this?' He reached into the garbage and withdrew a portfolio. He recognized it immediately as an artist's dossier of work. It was beautifully and painstakingly bound and printed on archival Arche paper. He flipped it open and caught his breath. A series of works, luminous and light, seemed to glow off the fine paper. He felt a stirring in his chest. They showed a world both lovely and hurt. But mostly, it was a world where hope and comfort still existed. It was clearly the world the artist saw each day, the world the artist lived in. As he himself once lived in a world of light and hope.

The works appeared simple but were in reality very complex. Images and colors were layered one on top of the other. Hours and hours, days and days must have been spent on each one to get the desired effect.

He stared down at the one before him now. A majestic tree soared into the sky, as though keening for the sun. The artist had photographed it and had somehow captured a sense of movement without making it disorienting. Instead it was graceful and calming and, above all, powerful. The tips of the branches seemed to melt or become fuzzy as though even in its confidence and yearning there was a tiny doubt. It was brilliant.

All thoughts of CC were forgotten. He'd climbed into the tree, almost feeling tickled by its rough bark, as if he had been sitting on his grandfather's lap and snuggling into his unshaven face. How had the artist managed that?

He couldn't make out the signature. He flipped through the other pages and slowly felt a smile come to his frozen face and move to his hardened heart.

Maybe, one day, if he ever got clear of CC he could go back to his work and do pieces like this.

He exhaled all the darkness he'd stored up.

'So, do you like it?' CC held her book up and waved it at him.

Copyright Louise Penny


STILL LIFE (Chapter 1)


Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round. Miss Neal's was not a natural death, unless you're of the belief everything happens as it's supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She'd fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec knelt down; his knees cracking like the report of a hunter's rifle, his large, expressive hands hovering over the tiny circle of blood marring her fluffy cardigan, as though like a magician he could remove the wound and restore the woman. But he could not. That wasn't his gift. Fortunately for Gamache he had others. The scent of mothballs, his grandmother's perfume, met him halfway. Jane's gentle and kindly eyes stared as though surprised to see him.
He was surprised to see her. That was his little secret.Not that he'd ever seen her before. No. His little secret was that in his mid-fifties, at the height of a long and now apparently stalled career, violent death still surprised him. Which was odd, for the head of homicide, and perhaps one of the reasons he hadn't progressed further in the cynical world of the Sûreté. Gamache always hoped maybe someone had gotten it wrong, and there was no dead body. But there was no mistaking the increasingly rigid Miss Neal. Straightening up with the help of Inspector Beauvoir, he buttoned his lined Burberry against the October chill and wondered.

Jane Neal had also been late, but in a whole other sense, a few days earlier. She'd arranged to meet her dear friend and next-door neighbor Clara Morrow for coffee in the village bistro. Clara sat at the table by the window and waited. Patience was not her long suit. The mixture of café au lait and impatience was producing an exquisite vibration. Throbbing slightly, Clara stared out the mullioned window at the village green and the old homes and maple trees that circled the Commons. The trees, turning breathtaking shades of red and amber, were just about the only things that did change in this venerable village.
Framed by the mullions, she saw a pick-up truck drift down rue du Moulin into the village, a beautiful dappled doe draped languidly over its hood. Slowly the truck circled the Commons, halting villagers in mid-step. This was hunting season and hunting territory. But hunters like these were mostly from Montreal or other cities. They'd rent pickups and stalk the dirt roads at dawn and dusk like behemoths at feeding time, looking for deer. And when they spotted one they'd slither to a stop, step out of the truck and fire. Not all hunters were like that, Clara knew, but enough of them were. Those same hunters would strap the deer on to the hood of their truck and drive around thecountryside believing the dead animal on the vehicle somehow announced that great men had done this.
Every year the hunters shot cows and horses and family pets and each other. And, unbelievably, they sometimes shot themselves, perhaps in a psychotic episode where they mistook themselves for dinner. It was a wise person who knew that some hunters - not all, but some - found it challenging to distinguish a pine from a partridge from a person.
Clara wondered what had become of Jane. She was rarely late, so she could easily be forgiven. Clara found it easy to forgive most things in most people. Too easy, her husband Peter often warned. But Clara had her own little secret. She didn't really let go of everything. Most things, yes. But some she secretly held and hugged and would visit in moments when she needed to be comforted by the unkindness of others.
Croissant crumbs had tumbled on top of the Montreal Gazette left at her table. Between flakes Clara scanned the headlines: 'Parti Quebecois Vows to Hold Sovereignty Referendum', 'Drug Bust in Townships', 'Hikers Lost in Tremblant Park'.
Clara lifted her eyes from the morose headlines. She and Peter had long since stopped subscribing to the Montreal papers. Ignorance really was bliss. They preferred the local Williamsburg County News where they could read about Wayne's cow, or Guylaine's visiting grandchildren, or a quilt being auctioned for the seniors' home. Every now and then Clara wondered if they were copping out, running away from reality and responsibility. Then she realised she didn't care. Besides, she learned everything she really needed to survive right here at Olivier's Bistro, in the heart of Three Pines.
'You're a million miles away,' came the familiar and well-loved voice. There was Jane, out of breath and smiling, her laugh-lined face pink from the autumn chill and the brisk trot from her cottage across the village green.
'Sorry I'm late,' she whispered into Clara's ear as the two hugged, one tiny, plump and breathless, the other thirty years younger, slim, and still vibrating from the caffeine high. 'You're trembling,' said Jane, sitting down and ordering her own café au lait. 'I didn't know you cared so much.'
'Filthy old hag,' laughed Clara.
'I was this morning, that's for sure. Did you hear what happened?'
'No, what happened?' Clara leaned forward eager for the news. She and Peter had been in Montreal buying canvases and acrylics for their work. Both were artists. Peter, a success. Clara as yet was undiscovered and, most of her friends secretly felt, was likely to remain that way if she persisted in her unfathomable works. Clara had to admit her series of warrior uteruses were mostly lost on the buying public, though her household items with bouffant hair and huge feet had enjoyed a certain success. She'd sold one. The rest, roughly fifty of them, were in their basement, which looked a lot like Walt Disney's workshop.
'No,' whispered Clara a few minutes later, genuinely shocked. In the twenty-five years she'd lived in Three Pines she'd never, ever heard of a crime. The only reason doors were locked was to prevent neighbors from dropping off baskets of zucchini at harvest time. True, as the Gazette headline made clear, there was another crop that equaled zucchini in scope: marijuana. But those not involved tried to turn a blind eye.
Beyond that, there was no crime. No break-ins, no vandalism, no assaults. There weren't even any police in Three Pines. Every now and then Robert Lemieux with the local Sûreté would drive around the Commons, just to show the colors, but there was no need.
Until that morning.
'Could it have been a joke?' Clara struggled with the ugly image Jane had painted.
'No. It was no joke,' said Jane, remembering. 'One of the boys laughed. It was kind of familiar, now that I think of it. Not a funny laugh.' Jane turned her clear blue eyes on Clara. Eyes full of wonderment. 'It was a sound I'd heard as a teacher. Not often, thank God. It's the sound boys make when they're hurting something and enjoying it.' Jane shivered at the recollection, and pulled her cardigan around her. 'An ugly sound. I'm glad you weren't there.'
She said this just as Clara reached across the round dark wood table and held Jane's cold, tiny hand and wished with all her heart she had been there instead of Jane.
'They were just kids, you say?'
'They wore ski masks, so it was hard to tell, but I think I recognised them.'
'Who were they?'
'Philippe Croft, Gus Hennessey and Claude LaPierre,' Jane whispered the names, looking around to make sure no one could overhear.
'Are you sure?' Clara knew all three boys. They weren't exactly the Boy Scout types, but neither were they the sort to do this.
'No,' admitted Jane.
'Better not tell anyone else.'
'Too late.'
'What do you mean, "too late"?'
'I said their names this morning, while it was happening.'
'Said their names in a whisper?' Clara could feel the blood tumbling from her fingers and toes, rushing to her core, to her heart. Please, please, please, she silently begged.
'I yelled.'
Seeing Clara's expression, Jane hurried to justify herself. 'I wanted to stop them. It worked. They stopped.'
Jane could still see the boys running away, tripping up du Moulin, out of the village. The one in the brilliant-green mask had turned to look back at her. His hands were stilldripping duck manure. The manure put there as autumn mulch for the flower beds on the village green, and not yet spread. She wished she could have seen the boy's expression. Was he angry? Scared? Amused?
'So you were right. About their names, I mean.'
'Probably. I never thought I'd live to see the day this would happen here.'
'So that was why you were late? You had to clean up?'
'Yes. Well, no.'
'Could you be more vague?'
'Maybe. You're on the jury for the next Arts Williamsburg show, right?'
'Yes. We're meeting this afternoon. Peter's on it too. Why?' Clara was almost afraid to breathe. Could this be it? After all her cajoling and gentle ribbing, and sometimes not-so-gentle shoving, was Jane about to do it?
'I'm ready.' Jane gave the biggest exhale Clara had ever seen. The force of it sent a squall of croissant flakes from the front page of the Gazette on to Clara's lap.
'I was late,' said Jane slowly, her own hands beginning to tremble, 'because I had to decide. I have a painting I'd like to enter into the show.'
With that she started to cry.
Jane's art had been an open secret in Three Pines for ever. Every now and then someone walking in the woods or through a field would stumble upon her, concentrating on a canvas. But she'd made them swear that they wouldn't approach, wouldn't look, would avert their eyes as though witnessing an act almost obscene, and certainly would never speak of it. The only time Clara had seen Jane angry was when Gabri had come up behind her while she'd been painting. He thought she'd been joking when she'd warned them never to look.
He was wrong. She'd been deadly serious. It had actually taken a few months for Jane and Gabri to get back toa normal friendship; both had felt betrayed by the other. But their natural good nature and affection for each other had healed the rift. Still, it had served as a lesson.
No one was to see Jane's art.
Until now, apparently. But now the artist was overcome with an emotion so strong she sat in the Bistro and wept. Clara was both horrified and terrified. She looked furtively around, partly in hopes no one was watching, and partly desperately hoping someone was, and would know what to do. Then she asked herself the simple question that she carried with her and consulted like a rosary. What would Jane do? And she had her answer. Jane would let her cry, would let her wail. Would let her throw crockery, if she needed to. And Jane would not run away. When the maelstrom passed, Jane would be there. And then she would put her arms around Clara, and comfort her, and let her know she was not alone. Never alone. And so Clara sat and watched and waited. And knew the agony of doing nothing. Slowly the crying subsided.
Clara rose with exaggerated calm. She took Jane in her arms and felt the old body creak back into place. Then she said a little prayer of thanks to the gods that give grace. The grace to cry and the grace to watch.
'Jane, if I'd known it was this painful I'd never have kept at you to show your art. I'm so sorry.'
'Oh, no, dear,' Jane reached across the table where they were sitting once again, and took Clara's hands, 'you don't understand. Those weren't tears of pain. No. I was surprised by joy.' Jane gazed far off and nodded, as though carrying on a private conversation. 'Finally.'
'What's it called, your painting?'
'Fair Day. It's of the closing parade of the county fair.'

And so it was that on the Friday before Thanksgiving the painting was lifted on to an easel in the gallery of ArtsWilliamsburg. It was wrapped in butcher's paper and tied with string, like a child's bundle, against the cold, cruel elements. Slowly, meticulously, Peter Morrow picked at the knot, tugging the string until it came loose. Then he wound the old string around his palm as though winding yarn. Clara could have killed him. She was ready to shriek, to jump from her chair and shove him aside. To fling the pathetic bundle of string to the ground, and perhaps Peter with it, and tear the waxed paper from the canvas. Her face became even more placid, though her eyes had begun to bulge.
Peter neatly unfolded first one corner of the paper then the other, smoothing the creases with his hand. Clara had no idea a rectangle had so many corners. She could feel the edge of her chair cutting into her bottom. The rest of the jury, assembled to judge the submissions, looked bored. Clara had enough anxiety for them all.
Every last corner was finally smooth and the paper was ready to be removed. Peter turned around to face the other four jurors and make a little speech before revealing the work beneath. Something short and tasteful, he felt. A bit of context, a bit of - he caught his wife's bulging eyes in her purple face and knew that when Clara became abstract it was no time for speechifying.
He quickly turned back to the painting and whipped the brown paper off, revealing Fair Day.
Clara's jaw dropped. Her head jerked down as though suddenly insupportable. Her eyes widened and her breathing stopped. It was as though she'd died, for an instant. So this was Fair Day. It took her breath away. And clearly the other jurors felt the same way. There were varying degrees of disbelief on the semi-circle of faces. Even the chairperson, Elise Jacob, was silent. She actually looked like she was having a stroke.
Clara hated judging other people's work, and this wasthe worst so far. She'd kicked herself all the way there for convincing Jane to enter her first work ever for public viewing in an exhibition she herself was judging. Was it ego? Was it mere stupidity?
'This work is called Fair Day,' read Elise from her notes. 'It's being submitted by Jane Neal of Three Pines, a longtime supporter of Arts Williamsburg, but her first submission.' Elise looked around. 'Comments?'
'It's wonderful,' Clara lied. The others looked at her in astonishment. Facing them on the easel was an unframed canvas and the subject was obvious. The horses looked like horses, the cows were cows, and the people were all recognisable, not only as people but as specific people from the village. But they were all stick figures. Or at least perhaps one evolutionary notch up from stick figures. In a war between a stick figure army and these people in Fair Day, the Fair Day people would win, only because they had a little more muscle. And fingers. But it was clear that these people lived in only two dimensions. Clara, in trying to grasp what she was looking at, and trying not to make the obvious comparisons, felt that it was a little like a cave drawing put on canvas. If Neanderthals had county fairs, this was what they'd have looked like.
'Mon Dieu. My four-year-old can do better than that,' said Henri Lariviere, making the obvious comparison. Henri had been a laborer in a quarry before discovering that the stone spoke to him. And he listened. There was no going back after that, of course, though his family longed for the day when he made at least the minimum wage instead of huge stone sculptures. His face now, as ever, was broad and rough and inscrutable, but his hands spoke for him. They were turned up in a simple and eloquent gesture of appeal, of surrender. He was struggling to find the appropriate words, knowing that Jane was a friend of many of the jurors. 'It's awful.' He'd clearly given up the struggle and revertedto the truth. Either that or his description was actually kind compared to what he really thought.
In bold, bright colors Jane's work showed the parade just before the closing of the fair. Pigs were distinguishable from goats only because they were bright red. The children looked like little adults. In fact, thought Clara leaning tentatively forward as though the canvas might deal her another blow, those aren't children. They're small adults. She recognised Olivier and Gabri leading the blue rabbits. In the stands beyond the parade sat the crowd, many of them in profile, looking at each other, or looking away from each other. Some, not many, looked straight at Clara. All the cheeks had perfect round red circles, denoting, Clara supposed, a healthy glow. It was awful.
'Well, that's easy enough at least,' said Irenée Calfat. 'That's a reject.'
Clara could feel her extremities grow cold and numb.
Irenée Calfat was a potter. She took hunks of clay and turned them into exquisite works. She'd pioneered a new way to glaze her works and was now sought out by potters worldwide. Of course, after they'd made the pilgrimage to Irenée Calfat's studio in St Rémy and spent five minutes with the Goddess of Mud, they knew they'd made a mistake. She was one of the most self absorbed and petty people on the face of this earth.
Clara wondered how a person so devoid of normal human emotions could create works of such beauty. While you yourself struggle, said the nasty little voice that kept her company.
Over the rim of her mug she peeked at Peter. He had a piece of chocolate cupcake stuck to his face. Instinctively, Clara wiped her own face, inadvertently smearing a walnut into her hair. Even with that hunk of chocolate on his face Peter was riveting. Classically handsome. Tall, broad-shouldered like a lumberjack, not the delicate artist hewas. His wavy hair was gray now, and he wore glasses all the time, and lines scored the corners of his eyes and his clean-shaven face. In his early fifties, he looked like a businessman on an outward bound adventure. Most mornings Clara would wake up and watch while he slept, and want to crawl inside his skin and wrap herself around his heart and keep him safe.
Clara's head acted as a food magnet. She was the Carmen Miranda of baked goods. Peter, on the other hand, was always immaculate. It could be raining mud and he would return home cleaner than when he went out. But sometimes, some glorious times, his natural aura failed him and a piece of something stuck to his face. Clara knew she should tell him. But didn't.
'Do you know,' said Peter and even Irenée looked at him, 'I think it's great.'
Irenée snorted and shot a meaningful look at Henri who just ignored her. Peter sought out Clara and held her gaze for a moment, a kind of touchstone. When Peter walked into a room he always swept it until he found Clara. And then he relaxed. The outside world saw a tall, distinguished man with his disheveled wife, and wondered why. Some, principally Peter's mother, even seemed to consider it a violation of nature. Clara was his centre and all that was good and healthy and happy about him. When he looked at her he didn't see the wild, untamable hair, the billowing frocks, the Dollar-rama store horn-rimmed spectacles. No. He saw his safe harbor. Although, granted, at this moment he also saw a walnut in her hair, which was pretty much an identifying characteristic. Instinctively, he put his hand up to brush his own hair, knocking the piece of cupcake from his cheek.
'What do you see?' Elise asked Peter.
'Honestly, I don't know. But I know we need to accept it.'
This brief answer somehow gave his opinion even more credibility.
'It's a risk,' said Elise.
'I agree,' said Clara. 'But what's the worst that can happen? That people who see the show might think we've made a mistake? They always think that.'
Elise nodded in appreciation.
'I'll tell you what the risk is,' said Irenée, the 'you idiots' implied as she plowed on. 'This is a community group and we barely make ends meet. Our only value is our credibility. Once it's believed we accept works based not on their value as art but because we like the artist, as a clique of friends, we're ruined. That's the risk. No one will take us seriously. Artists won't want to show here for fear of being tainted. The public won't come because they know all they'll see is crap like - ' here words failed her and she merely pointed at the canvas.
Then Clara saw it. Just a flash, something niggling on the outer reaches of her consciousness. For the briefest moment Fair Day shimmered. The pieces came together, then the moment passed. Clara realised she'd stopped breathing again, but she also realised that she was looking at a work of great art. Like Peter, she didn't know why or how, but in that instant that world which had seemed upside down righted. She knew Fair Day was an extraordinary work.
'I think it's more than wonderful, I think it's brilliant,' she said.
'Oh, please. Can't you see she's just saying that to support her husband?'
'Irenée, we've heard your opinion. Go on, Clara,' said Elise. Henri leaned forward, his chair groaning.
Clara got up and walked slowly to the work on the easel. It touched her deep down in a place of such sadness and loss it was all she could do not to weep. How could thisbe? she asked herself. The images were so childish, so simple. Silly almost, with dancing geese and smiling people. But there was something else. Something just beyond her grasp.
'I'm sorry. This is embarrassing,' she smiled, feeling her cheeks burning, 'but I actually can't explain it.'
'Why don't we set Fair Day aside and look at the rest of the works. We'll come back to it at the end.'
The rest of the afternoon went fairly smoothly. The sun was getting low, making the room even colder by the time they looked at Fair Day again. Everyone was wiped out and just wanted this to be over. Peter flipped on the overhead spotlights and lifted Jane's work on to the easel.
'D'accord. Has anyone changed their mind about Fair Day?' Elise asked.
Silence.
'I make it two in favor of accepting and two against.'
Elise stared quietly at Fair Day. She knew Jane Neal in passing and liked what she saw. She'd always struck Elise as a sensible, kind and intelligent woman. A person you'd want to spend time with. How was it this woman had created this slapdash, childish work? But. And a new thought entered her head. Not, actually, an original thought or even new to Elise, but a new one for this day.
'Fair Day is accepted. It'll be shown with the other works of art.'
Clara leapt up with delight, toppling her chair.
'Oh, come on,' said Irenée.
'Exactly! Well done. You've both proven my point.' Elise smiled.
'What point?'
'For whatever reason, Fair Day challenges us. It moves us. To anger,' here Elise acknowledged Irenée, 'to confusion,' a brief but meaningful look at Henri who nodded his grizzled head slightly, 'to ...' a glance at Peter and Clara.
'Joy,' said Peter at the very moment Clara said, 'Sorrow.' They looked at each other and laughed.
'Now, I look at it and feel, like Henri, simply confused. The truth is I don't know whether Fair Day is a brilliant example of naive art, or the pathetic scrawling of a superbly untalented, and delusional, old woman. That's the tension. And that's why it must be part of the show. I can guarantee you it's the one work people will be talking about in the cafés after the vernissage.'

'Hideous,' said Ruth Zardo later that evening, leaning on her cane and swigging Scotch. Peter and Clara's friends were gathered in their living room, around the murmuring fireplace for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner.
It was the lull before the onslaught. Family and friends, invited or not, would arrive the next day and manage to stay through the Thanksgiving long weekend. The woods would be full of hikers and hunters, an unfortunate combination. The annual touch football game would be held on the village green on Saturday morning, followed by the harvest market in the afternoon, a last ditch effort to download tomatoes and zucchini. That evening the bonfire would be lit filling Three Pines with the delicious scent of burning leaves and wood, and the suspicious undercurrent of gazpacho.
Three Pines wasn't on any tourist map, being too far off any main or even secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually found their way back. And Thanksgiving, in early October, was the perfect time. The weather was usually crisp and clear, the summer scents of old garden roses and phlox were replaced by musky autumn leaves, woodsmoke and roast turkey.
Olivier and Gabri were recounting that morning's events. Their description was so vivid everyone in the snug living room could see the three masked boys picking up handfuls of duck manure from the edge of the village green: the boys lifted their hands, the manure sliding between their fingers, and then hurled the stuff at the old brick building. Soon the blue and white Campari awnings were dripping. Manure was sliding off the walls. The 'Bistro' sign was splattered. In moments, the pristine face of the café in the heart of Three Pines was filthy, and not just with duck poop. The village had become soiled by the words that filled the startled air: 'Fags! Queers! Dégueulasse!' the boys screamed.
As Jane listened to Olivier and Gabri, she recalled how she had emerged from her tiny stone cottage across the green and, hurrying over, had seen Olivier and Gabri come out of the Bistro. The boys had roared their delight and aimed at the two men, striking them with the manure.
Jane had picked up her pace, wishing her stout legs longer. Then she'd seen Olivier do the most extraordinary thing. As the boys screamed and hauled off handfuls of mulch, Olivier had slowly, deliberately, gently taken Gabri's hand and held it before gracefully lifting it to his lips. The boys had watched, momentarily stunned, as Olivier had kissed Gabri's manure-stained hand with his manure-stained lips. The boys had seemed petrified by this act of love and defiance. But just for a moment. Their hatred triumphed and soon their attack had re-doubled.
'Stop that!' Jane had called firmly.
Their arms had halted in mid-swing, instinctively reacting to a voice of authority. Turning as one they'd seen little Jane Neal, in her floral dress and yellow cardigan, bearing down on them. One of the boys, wearing an orange mask, had lifted his arm to toss at her.
'Don't you dare, young man.'
He hesitated just long enough for Jane to look them all in the eyes.
'Philippe Croft, Gus Hennessey, Claude LaPierre,' she'd said, slowly and distinctly. That had done it. The boys dropped their handfuls and ran, shooting past Jane and tripping up the hill, the one in the orange mask laughing. It was a sound so foul it even eclipsed the manure. One boy turned and looked back as the others careered into him and shoved him back up du Moulin.
It had happened only that morning. It already seemed like a dream.
'It was hideous,' said Gabri, agreeing with Ruth as he dropped into one of the old chairs, its faded fabric warmed by the fire. 'Of course they were right; I am gay.'
'And,' said Olivier, lounging on the arm of Gabri's chair, 'quite queer.'
'I have become one of the stately homos of Quebec,' Gabri paraphrased Quentin Crisp. 'My views are breathtaking.'
Olivier laughed and Ruth threw another log on the fire.
'You did look very stately this morning,' said Ben Hadley, Peter's best friend.
'Don't you mean estately?'
'More like the back forty, it's true.'

In the kitchen, Clara was greeting Myrna Landers.
'The table looks wonderful,' said Myrna, peeling off her coat and revealing a bright purple kaftan. Clara wondered how she squeezed through doorways. Myrna then dragged in her contribution to the evening, a flower arrangement. 'Where would you like it, child?'
Clara gawked. Like Myrna herself, her bouquets were huge, effusive and unexpected. This one contained oak and maple branches, bulrushes from the Rivière Bella Bella which ran behind Myrna's bookshop, apple branches with a couple of McIntoshes still on them, and great armfuls of herbs.
'What's this?'
'Where?'
'Here, in the middle of the arrangement.'
'A kielbassa.'
'A sausage?'
'Hummuh, and look in there,' Myrna pointed into the tangle.
'The Collected Works of W. H. Auden,' Clara read. 'You're kidding.'
'It's for the boys.'
'What else is in there?' Clara scanned the immense arrangement.
'Denzel Washington. But don't tell Gabri.'

In the living room, Jane continued the story: ' ... then Gabri said to me, "I have your mulch. This is just the way Vita Sackville West always wore it."'
Olivier whispered in Gabri's ear, 'You are queer.'
'Aren't you glad one of us is?' a well-worn and comfortable jest.
'How are you?' Myrna came in from the kitchen, followed by Clara, and hugged Gabri and Olivier while Peter poured her Scotch.
'I think we're all right,' Olivier kissed Myrna on both cheeks. 'It's probably surprising this didn't happen sooner. We've been here for what? Twelve years?' Gabri nodded, his mouth full of Camembert. 'And this is the first time we've been bashed. I was gay bashed in Montreal when I was a kid, by a group of grown men. That was terrifying.' They'd grown silent, and there was just the crackling and muttering of the fire in the background as Olivier spoke.
'They hit me with sticks. It's funny, but when I think back that's the most painful part. Not the scrapes and bruises, but before they hit me they kind of poked, you know?' Hejabbed with one arm to mimic their movements. 'It was as though I wasn't human.'
'That's the necessary first step,' said Myrna. 'They dehumanise their victim. You've put it well.'
She spoke from experience. Before coming to Three Pines she'd been a psychologist in Montreal. And, being black, she knew that singular expression when people saw her as furniture.
Ruth turned to Olivier, changing the subject. 'I was in the basement and came across a few things I thought you could sell for me.' Ruth's basement was her bank.
'Great. What?'
'There's some cranberry glass--'
'Oh, wonderful.' Olivier adored colored glass. 'Hand blown?'
'Do you take me for an idiot? Of course they're hand blown.'
'Are you sure you don't want them?' he always asked this of his friends.
'Stop asking me that. Do you think I'd mention them if there was a doubt?'
'Bitch.'
'Slut.'
'OK, tell me more,' said Olivier. The stuff Ruth hauled up from her basement was incredible. It was as though she had a porthole to the past. Some of it was junk, like the old broken-down coffee makers and burned-out toasters. But most made him tremble with pleasure. The greedy antique dealer in him, which composed a larger part of his make-up than he'd ever admit, was thrilled to have exclusive access to Ruth's treasures. He'd sometimes daydream about that basement.
If he was excited by Ruth's possessions, he was positively beside himself with lust after Jane's home. He'd kill to see beyond her kitchen door. Her kitchen alone was worth tensof thousands of dollars in antiques. When he'd first come to Three Pines, at the Drama Queen's insistence, he was reduced almost to incoherence when he saw the linoleum on Jane's mudroom floor. If the mudroom was a museum and the kitchen a shrine, what in the world lay beyond? Olivier shook off the thought, knowing he would probably be disappointed. IKEA. And shag carpet. He'd long since stopped thinking it strange that Jane had never invited anyone through the swinging door into her living room and beyond.
'About the mulch, Jane,' Gabri was saying, his bulk bending over one of Peter's jigsaw puzzles, 'I can get it to you tomorrow. Do you need help cutting back your garden?'
'No, almost done. But this might be the last year. It's getting beyond me.' Gabri was relieved he didn't have to help. Doing his own garden was work enough.
'I have a whole lot of hollyhock babies,' said Jane, fitting in a piece of the sky. 'How did those single yellows do for you? I didn't notice them.'
'I put them in last fall, but they never called me mother. Can I have some more? I'll trade you for some monarda.'
'God, don't do that.' Monarda was the zucchini of the flower world. It, too, figured prominently in the harvest market and, subsequently, the Thanksgiving bonfire, which would give off a hint of sweet bergamot so that it smelled as though every cottage in Three Pines was brewing Earl Grey tea.
'Did we tell you what happened this afternoon after you'd all left?' Gabri said in his stage voice, so that the words fell neatly into every ear in the room. 'We were just getting the peas ready for tonight' - Clara rolled her eyes and mumbled to Jane, 'Probably lost the can opener.' - 'when the doorbell rang and there were Matthew Croft and Philippe.'
'No! What happened?'
'Philippe mumbled, "I'm sorry about this morning."'
'What did you say?' Myrna asked.
'Prove it,' said Olivier.
'You didn't,' hooted Clara, amused and impressed.
'I most certainly did. There was a lack of sincerity about the apology. He was sorry he got caught and sorry there were consequences. But I didn't believe he was sorry about what he did.'
'Conscience and cowardice,' said Clara.
'What do you mean?' asked Ben.
'Oscar Wilde said that conscience and cowardice are the same thing. What stops us from doing horrible things isn't our conscience but the fear of getting caught.'
'I wonder if that's true,' said Jane.
'Would you?' Myrna asked Clara.
'Do terrible things if I could get away with it?'
'Cheat on Peter,' suggested Olivier. 'Steal from the bank. Or better still, steal another artist's work?'
'Ah, kids stuff,' snapped Ruth. 'Now, take murder, for instance. Would you mow someone down with your car? Or poison them, maybe, or throw them into the Bella Bella during spring run off? Or,' she looked around, warm firelight reflecting off slightly concerned faces, 'or we could set a fire and then not save them.'
'What do you mean, "we", white woman?' said Myrna. Myrna brought the conversation back from the edge.
'The truth? Sure. But not murder.' Clara looked over at Ruth who simply gave her a conspiratorial wink.
'Imagine a world where you could do anything. Anything. And get away with it,' said Myrna, warming to the topic again. 'What power. Who here wouldn't be corrupted?'
'Jane wouldn't,' said Ruth with certainty. 'But the rest of you?' she shrugged.
'And you?' Olivier asked Ruth, more than a little annoyed to be lumped in where he secretly knew he belonged.
'Me? But you know me well enough by now, Olivier. I'dbe the worst. I'd cheat, and steal, and make all your lives hell.'
'Worse than now?' asked Olivier, still peeved.
'Now you're on the list,' said Ruth. And Olivier remembered that the closest thing they had to a police force was the volunteer fire brigade, of which he was a member but of which Ruth was the chief. When Ruth Zardo ordered you into a conflagration, you went. She was scarier than a burning building.
'Gabri, what about you?' Clara asked.
'There've been times I've been mad enough to kill, and may have, had I known I would get away with it.'
'What made you that angry?' Clara was astonished.
'Betrayal, always and only betrayal.'
'What did you do about it?' asked Myrna.
'Therapy. That was where I met this guy.' Gabri reached out and patted Olivier's hand. 'I think we both went to that therapist for about a year longer than we had to just to see each other in the waiting room.'
'Is that sick?' said Olivier, smoothing a lock of his immaculate, thinning blond hair off his face. It was like silk, and kept falling into his eyes, no matter what products he used.
'Mock me if you will, but everything happens for a reason,' Gabri said. 'No betrayal, no rage. No rage, no therapy. No therapy, no Olivier. No Olivier no--'
'Enough.' Olivier held up his hands in surrender.
'I've always liked Matthew Croft,' said Jane.
'Did you teach him?' asked Clara.
'Long time ago. He was in the second to last class at the old schoolhouse here, before it closed.'
'I still think that was a shame they closed it,' said Ben.
'For God's sake, Ben, the school closed twenty years ago. Move on.' Only Ruth would say this.
When she first came to Three Pines, Myrna had wondered whether Ruth had had a stroke. Sometimes, Myrna knewfrom her practice, stroke victims had very little impulse control. When she asked about it, Clara said if Ruth had had a stroke it was in the womb. As far as she knew, Ruth had always been like this.
'Then why does everyone like her?' Myrna had asked.
Clara had laughed and shrugged, 'You know there are days I ask myself the same thing. What a piece of work that woman can be. But she's worth the effort, I think.'
'Anyway,' Gabri huffed now, having temporarily lost the spotlight. 'Philippe agreed to work for fifteen hours, volunteer, around the Bistro.'
'Bet he wasn't happy about that,' said Peter, getting to his feet.
'You got that right,' said Olivier with a grin.
'I want to propose a toast,' said Gabri. 'To our friends, who stood by us today. To our friends who spent all morning cleaning the Bistro.' It was a phenomenon Myrna had noticed before, some people's ability to turn a terrible event into a triumph. She'd thought about it that morning, manure under her fingernails, pausing for a moment to look at the people, young and old, pitching in. And she was one of them. And she blessed, again, the day she'd decided to quit the city and come here and sell books to these people. She was finally home. Then another image came back to her, one that had gotten lost in the activity of the morning. Of Ruth leaning on her cane, turning away from the others, so that only Myrna could see the wince of pain as the elderly woman lowered herself to her knees, and silently scrubbed. All morning.
'Dinner's ready,' Peter called.
'Formidable. Just like dear Mama. Le Sieur?' Jane asked a few minutes later, bringing a forkful of mushy peas and gravy to her mouth.
'Bien sûr. From Monsieur Beliveau.' Olivier nodded.
'Oh, for God's sake,' Clara called down the groaning pinetable. 'They're canned peas! From the general store. You call yourself a chef!'
'Le Sieur is the gold standard for canned peas. Keep this up, missy, and you'll get the no-name brand next year. No gratitude,' Olivier stage-whispered to Jane, 'and on Thanksgiving, too. Shameful.'
They ate by candlelight, the candles of all shapes and sizes flickering around the kitchen. Their plates were piled high with turkey and chestnut stuffing, candied yams and potatoes, peas and gravy. They'd all brought something to eat, except Ben, who didn't cook. But he'd brought bottles of wine, which was even better. It was a regular get-together, and pot-luck was the only way Peter and Clara could afford to hold a dinner party.
Olivier leaned over to Myrna, 'Another great flower arrangement.'
'Thank you. Actually, there's something hidden in there for you two.'
'Really!' Gabri was on his feet in an instant. His long legs propelled his bulk across the kitchen to the arrangement. Unlike Olivier, who was self-contained and even fastidious, like a cat, Gabri was more like a St Bernard, though mostly without the slobber. He carefully examined the complex forest and then shrieked. 'Just what I've always wanted.' He pulled out the kielbassa.
'Not that. That's for Clara.' Everyone looked at Clara with alarm, especially Peter. Olivier looked relieved. Gabri reached in again and gingerly extracted the thick book.
'The Collected Works of W. H. Auden.' Gabri tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. But not too hard. 'I don't know him.'
'Oh, Gabri, you're in for a treat,' said Jane.
'All right, I can't stand it any more,' Ruth said suddenly, leaning across the table to Jane. 'Did Arts Williamsburg accept your work?'
'Yes.'
It was as though the word triggered springs in their chairs. Everyone was catapulted to their feet, shooting toward Jane who stood and accepted their hugs with enthusiasm. She seemed to glow brighter than any of the candles in the room. Standing back for an instant and watching the scene, Clara felt her heart contract and her spirit lighten and felt fortunate indeed to be part of this moment.
'Great artists put a lot of themselves into their work,' said Clara when the chairs had been regained.
'What's Fair Day's special meaning?' Ben asked.
'Now, that would be cheating. You have to figure it out. It's there.' Jane turned to Ben, smiling. 'You'll figure it out, I'm sure.'
'Why's it called Fair Day?' he asked.
'It was painted at the county fair, the closing parade.' Jane gave Ben a meaningful look. His mother, her friend, Timmer, had died that afternoon. Was it only a month ago? The whole village had been at the parade, except Timmer, dying of cancer alone in bed, while her son Ben was away in Ottawa at an antiques auction. Clara and Peter had been the ones to break the news to him. Clara would never forget the look on his face when Peter told him his mother was dead. Not sadness, not even pain, yet. But utter disbelief. He wasn't the only one.
'Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table,' Jane said almost under her breath. 'Auden,' she explained, nodding to the book in Gabri's hand and flashing a smile that broke the unexpected, and unexplained, tension.
'I might just sneak down and take a look at Fair Day before the show,' said Ben.
Jane took a deep breath. 'I'd like to invite you all over for drinks after the opening of the exhibition. In the living room.' Had she said 'In the nude' they wouldn't have been more amazed. 'I have a bit of a surprise for you.'
'No kidding,' said Ruth.
Stomachs full of turkey and pumpkin pie, port and espresso, the tired guests walked home, their flashlights bobbing like huge fireflies. Jane kissed Peter and Clara goodnight. It had been a comfortable, unremarkable early Thanksgiving with friends. Clara watched Jane make her way along the winding path through the woods that joined their two homes. Long after Jane had disappeared from view her flashlight could be seen, a bright white light, like Diogenes. Only when Clara heard the eager barking of Jane's dog Lucy did she gently close her door. Jane was home. Safe.

STILL LIFE. Copyright © 2005 by Louise Penny. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.






web site design by HTMLyall Scotland
barnes and noble amazon.com amazon.ca amazon.co.uk ibooks