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Bury Your Dead
by Louise Penny
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Still Life, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder, The Cruelest Month, The Brutal Telling, The Hangman, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, The Long Way Home, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning.
Sixth in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series and revolving around Armand Gamache and his team. The focus is on three separate events: a hostage event that turns disastrous, the murder of a passionate historian hunting for the truth of Samuel de Champlain, and the hunt for the real Hermit murderer.
In 2011, Bury Your Dead won the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, the Anthony Award for Best Novel, Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel, the Nero Award, the Dilys Award, and was nominated for the Barry Award for Best Novel. In 2010, it won the Agatha Award for Best Novel and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery and Thriller.
Whoa. This was intense and so very, very emotional. I so liked the potential of that kid. The conversation he had with Gamache as they talked to save his life broke my heart. He was so real and earnest. He was in love and had plans. He appreciated his past and looked toward his and Suzanne’s future.
There is a quote Gamache told Morin that was read at Armand and Reine-Marie’s wedding, one that makes me cry at the promise and the hope within it:
“Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter for the other
Now you will feel no cold
For each of you will be warmth for the other
Now there is no loneliness for you
Now there is no more loneliness
Now there is no more loneliness”
It’s the aftermath we read of as Gamache tries to heal, to understand what happened. And it’s one of the aspects of his character that I adore about Gamache. It’s not only the suspects Gamache examines, he examines himself. He tries to understand his weaknesses even as he uses and shares his strengths. He’s an intelligent and compassionate man, able to step outside that compassion and assess, question. He sees angles I can’t see until he points them out. Then it is so obvious.
It’s the strength that Beauvoir finally understands in this one as he fulfills this request from his superior. While appreciating his chief, his mentor, he’s never understood Gamache’s approach to people being investigated. Never saw the point until he was forced to pretend to like the core cast in Three Pines. Beauvoir has always been surface and outside of understanding human beings. More interested in what he can see instead of delving inside the individual, keeping life separate.
Weak points in this story are the whys. Why does the Hermit need to escape into the woods with these treasures? Why, or should I ask how, do those bullet holes appear in that back?
This is a tough story with all this emotion roiling about the choices that are made, the promises that are made. The anger and fear between the French and the English in Québec. That need to cling to a façade of power and what people will do to hang on to even a semblance of it. The human need to present their own façade of well-being. The need for revenge whether it’s against one person or a people.
I did like the imagery of the nesting doll: North America inside of which is Canada which holds Québec which enfolds the English community who are huddled within the Literary and Historical Society and “their records, their thoughts, their memories, their symbols”.
Gamache is assessing an old battle. The one that decided the nationality of Canada. The one in which bad choices were made. I see it as a metaphor for what Gamache is attempting to understand about himself. Of course, it is also history and we all know that history is written and re-written to reflect what the winners want it to say. Gamache wants to dig deeper, for he sees flaws that were not brought into the light, and this is so typical of this character. A desire for truth and why. It’s also an anthropological exercise in basements and the things stored in them, how religion ruled lives, and a tour of Québec City, its history and architecture.
Yet another quote, which evokes emotion, and I find I agree with Gamache:
“Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori
It is sweet and right to die for your country.”
The manner in which Penny unfolds events, both today’s and yesterday’s, builds the suspense. I could wish she had inserted a text separator between the different times, more space between them, and yet, this is more effective in making us feel how much a part of Gamache’s thoughts these events are. There is no separation for Gamache; it preys upon him at all times.
Four phrases everyone should learn:
“I don’t know.
I was wrong.
I need help.”
It’s the aftermath of disaster and Gamache’s team is recovering from its wounds. The physical are difficult enough to survive, and there are still those emotional wounds that must be touched.
Worse, in questioning his judgement, his choices in another case, Gamache questions the decisions he made that resulted in such carnage. A loss that has affected so many. Determined to know, to understand, he asks Beauvoir to investigate, sub rosa.
To learn the truth.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the head of the Sûreté du Québec Homicide Division. A man who leads with compassion and warmth, who mentors the unwanted. Reine-Marie is his beloved wife, a librarian who accepts the man her husband is. Henri is their young shepherd. Annie is their bright, energetic daughter happily married. Daniel is their son who lives in Paris with his family.
Émile Comeau was Gamache’s mentor and chief when Gamache was the trainee. Now he’s retired in a “stone home within the old walled city of Québec”. Inspector Langlois invites Gamache to assist in his investigation.
The Literary and Historical Society
…is a bastion of English language and history within the beleaguered walled city of Québec. Porter Wilson is the ineffectual chairman. Elizabeth MacWhirter is the real power behind the throne. Stuart Blake is the oldest board member and always perfectly turned out and as attractive as ever. The Reverend Tom Hancock is the minister for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Ken Haslam is the murmuring one with a sad, sad secret. Winnie is the librarian.
Augustin Renaud is obsessed with Samuel de Champlain, the founder, the father, of Québec. Most believe he’s nuts. An elderly Cree woman Gamache had met years ago and helped.
René Dallaire and Jean Hamel are members along with Éacute;mile.
Père Sébastien is a “leading scholar on the early settlement of Québec and the role of the church”. Chief Archeologist Serge Croix is a major pain. Sean Patrick had a great-grandfather who knew Francis O’Mara.
Names from the past include:
Madame Claude Marchand was housekeeper to Charles Paschal Télesphore Chiniquy, a former Catholic priest who went too far in rescuing alcoholics. Dr. James Douglas was a founder of the Literary and Historical Society, a collector of mummies, a grave robber, a gifted physician who could whack off a limb in less than ten seconds, and a brilliant teacher. He also believed the mentally ill should be treated with care and respect.
In Three Pines
Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir is anxious to get out of the house, away from Enid, and back into the field. Actually, to get anywhere at all.
The core characters in the village
Ruth Zardo, a respected and honored poet within Canada, is still telling everyone to fuck off while Rosa flew off south. Gabri still believes in Olivier Brulé‘s innocence, even though he was convicted of murdering the Hermit. Peter Morrow is bemused by Clara Morrow and Myrna‘s enjoyment of the vacation porn game. Old Mundin is a furniture builder and restorer with a much-loved wife and son: The Wife and Charlie, a toddler with Down syndrome.
Roar Paar works for the Gilberts these days; his wife is Hanna and their son is Havoc, a waiter at the bistro. Carole Woloshyn Gilbert is Marc’s mother. Marc and his wife, Dominique, bought the old Hadley house and turned it into an inn and spa. Dr. Vincent Gilbert, Saint Asshole, is the resurrected father who has done so much for people with Down syndrome. Pina is an exercise instructor.
The Hermit is still so much a part of the Three Pines community (see The Brutal Telling, 5). Temps Perdu is the shop where Olivier sold so much.
Back in Montreal
The rest of Gamache’s team is mentioned: Agent Isabelle Lacoste and Agent Yvette Nichol who has been banished to telecommunications so she may learn to listen.
And his new trainee, Agent Paul Morin who loves to play violin. He and Suzanne plan to marry soon. Inspector Norman in Ste-Agathe relays the hideous news.
Chief Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, Gamache’s primary enemy, takes the disaster-in-the-making over and refuses to see beneath the surface.
The Cover and Title
The cover is thoughtful as well as a metaphor. The bright orange of autumn leaves falling onto crisp, white snow. The death of a season buried by the one following.
The title is the underlying theme throughout this story. The need to Bury Your Dead in whatever shape, form, or reason it appears.