New York Times Review
The pretty Canadian village of Three Pines is slumbering peacefully through the "long, long, dark, dark, Québec winter" in Louise Penny's latest mystery, KINGDOM OF THE BLIND (Minotaur, $28.99), when it is suddenly hit by a blizzard. The temperature drops to a chilling minus 35 degrees, snow blankets the village green and neighbors trudge through the towering drifts to warm themselves by the fireside at the local inn. But while the setting is entrancing, everyone knows that, "in the countryside, winter was a gorgeous, glorious, luminous killer." And to prove that point, an old farmhouse collapses under the snow, trapping someone inside. Luckily, Armand Gamache, chief superintendent of the Sureté du Québec, is on the scene to deliver comfort and establish order. "He relied on, and trusted, both his rational mind and his instincts," Penny says of her avuncular detective, who is surely one of the most endearing specimens of his kind. But there is no shortage of appealing characters in this series, from Ruth Zardo, an aged and delightfully rude poet and her equally foulmouthed pet duck, to Bertha, the cleaning woman, who may very well be the titled baroness she calls herself. Typical of this author, the core mystery is a delicate matter and rather sad, something that draws the villagers closer together instead of tearing them apart. When Penny wants to darken the story, she shifts the action from the pristine village of Three Pines to inner-city Montreal, where the streets are vile. "Never safe. Never clean_Darker, filthier. Clogged with excrement, puke." Here, she picks up a grittier subplot involving a young cadet who's on the verge of being expelled from the Sureté Academy. Should the girl have been admitted in the first place Gamache pointedly asks the academy's commander. "A stoned former prostitute junkie who's dealing opioids in the academy" he responds. "Are you kidding She's a delight." Not a delight, exactly, but another outstanding - and completely unexpected - character in a constantly surprising series that deepens and darkens as it evolves. Arthur Bryant has written his memoirs - and a jolly good yarn they make, too. In bryant & MAY: HALL OF MIRRORS (Bantam, $27), Christopher Fowler transports crotchety Bryant and his suave sleuthing partner, John May, back to the 1960s, when those two old dears were mere youngsters, just starting out in the hippy-dippy days of "Swinging London." ("This is so groovy!" May observes of a colorful Canal Carnival in Camden Town.) As the only detectives in the Peculiar Crimes Unit, the partners are entrusted to watch over Monty Hatton-Jones, the key witness in a court case against a shady developer whose latest high-rise venture collapsed, killing some unfortunates. When their flighty charge takes off for a weekend at a country estate, the sleuths find themselves in a manor house mystery amusingly fitted out with chilly aristocrats, their family art collections (the Gainsborough and the Reynolds are quality goods, but "the PreRaphaelites are vulgar and virtually unsaleable") and their hereditary ghosts. As always in this series, this one's a lark. Ever since Oedipus, literary heroes have been searching for - or running from - their fathers, a theme that still bedevils many a mystery story. Joe Talbert Jr., the protagonist of Allen Eskens's prodigal son novel, the shadows WE HIDE (Mulholland, $27), follows that classic route, only to discover that the man he believes to have been his father was a nasty human being: a brutal husband, an unfit father and, as one person in the know puts it, "a jerk." Being in sore need of professional redemption, Talbert, a young reporter facing a defamation suit, hardly needs to hear this. While he comes off second best in a humiliating bar fight, he gets another chance to prove his manhood by standing up to a family of white supremacists and eventually solving his own father's murder. And because we're now living in a brave new world where manhood is defined in broader, more humanitarian terms, Talbert proves himself a true hero by the loving care he extends to a younger brother with special needs. Every detective has a case that haunts him. For the Chicago cops Hank Purcell and Marvin Bondarowicz, that would be the "dead kid in the suitcase" whose broken body epitomizes "some kind of evil that was one-of-a-kind, fresh and original down to its buttons." In writing SUITCASE CHARLIE (Kasva Press, paper, $14.95), John Guzlowski was inspired by a true crime that horrified his city in 1955 and retains the power to shock us today. Even the hardbitten police lieutenant in charge of the fictionalized case is shaken by the singular brutality of the unknown killer. "And when you find him," he tells his officers, "I want you to hurt him." The sheer cruelty of the case's multiple murders demands coarse language, at which Guzlowski excels. But in describing the saintly Sisters of St. Joseph nuns who live near the murder scene as "tough broads, eyes like razors," he lets us know that, back in the day, the city of Chicago was an all-around rough town. Marilyn stasio has covered crime fiction for the Book Review since 1988. Her column appears twice a month.
Publishers Weekly Review
Bestseller Penny's insightful, well-plotted 14th novel featuring Chief Supt. Armand Gamache finds him on suspension from the Sûreté du Québec following events that unfolded in 2017's Glass Houses. No matter the suspension, Gamache becomes embroiled in a murder case when he and psychologist-turned-bookseller Myrna Lander are enlisted to be executors for a stranger's will, and one of the key beneficiaries winds up dead. Over the course of the investigation, Penny offers intriguing commentary on the willful blindness that can keep people from acknowledging the secrets and lies in their own lives. For series fans, plenty of time is spent in the mystical village of Three Pines, and it's refreshing to have a spotlight shine on Myrna, one of the most relatable of the village's denizens. A secondary plot involving a rogue shipment of opioids in Montreal comes to a satisfactory close. Penny wraps up some continuing story lines and sends recurring characters in surprising directions in this solid installment. 600,000-copy announced first printing. Author tour. Agent: Teresa Chris, Teresa Chris Literary Agency. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.