Penny adopts a different structure for this latest title in her Three Pines series. Armand Gamache, head of the Sûreté du Québec, is testifying for the prosecution at a murder trial, and the Crown Prosecutor seems to hate him, even though he is the Crown’s own witness. As he testifies, the reader is taken back in time to the events described, when a group of friends is holding reunion at Three Pines and the village is terrorized by a black-cloaked Cobrador, a silent, stalking figure who shames people with secrets in their past. We learn early in the book that drug trafficking plays a big role in the mystery and that Gamache is deliberately committing perjury as part of a scheme to catch the traffickers.
I hate to give a bad review to my favorite series, but this is the first Three Pines book that just didn’t do it for me. The mystery was dull, and the solution to it was mostly conveyed through long exposition instead of an organic solution to the crime. Gamache’s decision to perjure himself, and its ramifications to his career, was hammered home over and over again – it may have been more entertaining to leave the reader to wonder what he was doing and why the facts didn’t match his testimony. Finally, I miss the usual Three Pines characters. They’re here, but they are completely irrelevant to the story and are the thinnest of cardboard cutouts. I’m not satisfied with a walk-on by a character carrying a duck and calling people numbnuts.
The Cobrador angle was intriguing. The climax is entertaining if you like shoot-em-ups, which I don’t, particularly. And there is a big, big cliffhanger at the end, so I’ll be forced to read the next book.