About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – The Map

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – For my third post on A Great Reckoning I return to Three Pines. After murder occurs at the Surete du Quebec Academy where Armand Gamache has been appointed commander he brings four cadets with him to stay in Three Pines. He is quietly protecting them during the investigation.

While there has been ongoing turmoil at the Academy, even before the murder, the residents of Three Pines have been examining a unique cache.

Gabri and Oliver have gathered together a mass of papers and documents, recently found during renovations to the bistro, that formed the original insulation. The aged poet, Ruth Zardo, and Reine Marie spend leisurely afternoons sorting through and considering this wall archive.

During their review they become absorbed by a hand drawn map with illustrations around the edges. Hidden for almost a hundred years, it has Three Pines at its heart. The roads of the map all lead to the village.

I loved maps when I was a boy. They took me to places far from the farm in Saskatchewan. I never thought of them as means of finding your way home.

Until reading A Great Reckoning I never thought of them as creations in which we are left looking down from the heavens upon the earth.

The map is a surprise for the village is not on any modern maps; not even the ubiquitous Google Maps. Our rational minds question how can it be that a village is absent from an obsessively mapped world?

Reine Marie provides an explanation by quoting the latin phrase damnatio memoriae (banished from memory) but why has Three Pines been banished from memory?

Yet there is magic in Three Pines being absent from maps. The village belongs to another world that the characters arrive in from the real world. Penny has created such an amazing place in Three Pines that it is real to me. In reading the series, especially A Great Reckoning, I leave my real world for the paper world of Three Pines. It is a “looking glass” experience as I am taken into the imaginary world of Three Pines just as the fictional young cadets feel themselves leaving their real world for the other world of Three Pines. I had a sense of the legendary Brigadoon where once every hundred years a Scottish village comes alive. The four students are experiencing a village that does not officially exist.

On their arrival Gamache billets each of the cadets with a villager. It is brilliant plotting as the villagers are drawn into the mystery and we see the young cadets respectively interacting with Clara, Ruth, Myrna, Gabri and Oliver.

To occupy the Cadets Gamache instructs four of the cadets to research the map.

Not often does a reader of mysteries have a moment of pure astonishment. Where and when the cadets find a sign of the map’s history in Three Pines left me almost gaping in surprise.

Yet how can an aged map explain a lost village. If the discovery of the map left me astonished the reason was even more powerful. In the conclusion of the 12th book of the series Penny leads readers to the poignant background of Three Pines. The explanation is so beautifully crafted and so perfect and so unexpected I was left sitting in my chair in wonderment.

A Great Reckoning is the culmination of a dozen books. It is the best in a grand series and deserves to be an award winner.

In reading her acknowledgements I was misty eyed as Louise went through the dozens of people who have helped her and her husband, Michael, so that she could continue writing. His dementia has progressed and he needs constant care.

Loss comes in different ways to everyone. Louise, in the midst of the swirl of caring for and loving Michael, has written a classic.
Penny, Louise – (2005) - Still Life; (2006) - Dead Cold (Tied for 3rd Best fiction of 2006); (2007) - The Cruelest Month; (2009) - The Murder Stone (Tied for 4th Best fiction of 2009); (2010) - The Brutal Telling; (2011) - Bury Your Dead (Best Fiction of 2011); (2011) - A Trick of the Light; (2012) - The Beautiful Mystery (Part I) and The Beautiful Mystery (Part II); (2013) - "P" is for Louise Penny - Movie Producer and Review of the Movie of Still Life; (2013) - How the Light Gets In; (2014) - The Long Way Home; (2014) - The Armand Gamache Series after 10 Mysteries - Part I and Part II; (2015) - The Nature of the Beast (Part I) and The Nature of the Beast (Part II); (2016) - A Great Reckoning - The Academy and Comparisons


  1. It is so terribly sad, Bill, about Michael's health. I wish them both peace and strength as they deal with this.

    As for the book, I'm so glad you think so highly of it. I love maps, too, and I can see how one could play an important role in a story. And it sounds as though all of the beloved Three Pines characters are involved in the novel, and I'm happy about that. I know what you mean about the place seeming real.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Dementia is a cruel affliction. I find maps wonderful aids to imagination. While I generally appreciate letting words in fiction provide the inspiration I would have loved to have seen an artist's conception of the map in A Great Reckoning.

  2. I've not been a great fan of Louise Penny, but your three blogposts on this book are fascinating and really encouraging. I'm another fan of maps, and the use of them in this book sounds extraordinary..

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I would be very interested in your thoughts on this book. I am thinking that maybe loving maps is an indicator of a lover of mysteries.

  3. I had stopped reading the Armand Gamache books, but I think I'll try this one. I love maps, too, and any time I'm reading about a location in a book or a blog, I look at maps online/

    Dementia is awful. My mother had that affliction for the last six years of her life, but it had begun before that, but worsened quickly. It's awful, but we found a wonderful facility for her to live in.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I would not have thought a map of a local area could be as powerful a part of a plot as it was in A Great Reckoning.

      I am sorry your mother, yourself and your family had to deal with dementia.

  4. Thank you. It is harrowing, but skilled professionals and a good facility mean a great deal.