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.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny - Comparisons

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – I have had an uneven reading relationship with recent additions to the Armand Gamache series. Some I have greatly enjoyed. A few have left me troubled enough to write posts on what I liked and disliked in the same book. The last, The Nature of the Beast, left me frustrated and unhappy. I have no reservations about A Great Reckoning.

In my first post on the book I described the principal setting of the Academy for the Surete. The Academy is a closed setting for murder but far more plausible than the closed locale in The Beautiful Mystery. One of my frustrations with the earlier book was that it was a Gilbertine (an order that was extinguished in the 16th Century) monastery that was purportedly secretly established and maintained in rural Quebec for hundreds of years with the monks having contact with their neighbours and recruited from other monasteries for their singing talent. Had the book been a work of fantasy the monastery might have been credible but not in a mystery series firmly set in contemporary Quebec.

By contrast, the Academy of A Great Reckoning, is set in a community with real contacts and challenges in its relationship with the citizens of the town. The cadets and professors at the Academy are not in a hidden institution. They come from varied communities in Quebec and reflect the diversity of the province. The demands of training have them focused on life in the Academy but they do interact with the world outside the Academy doors.

Murder in a monastery is harder to be convincing than murder in a police academy.

I was grateful in A Great Reckoning that there was no implausible, if not impossible, secret location near Three Pines. In A Brutal Telling there was a hermit living in a cabin a few kilometres from Three Pines who was apparently invisible to the residents of the area. In the most recent book, The Nature of the Beast, it was a giant gun, so large you can stand up inside the firing chamber, which was supposedly concealed in the forest less than a kilometre from the village. Having grown up in rural Canada there is no plausible way for there to be an unknown hermit or a huge hidden gun so close to the village. The inhabitants of rural Canada know what is around them.

In A Great Reckoning the homes of the regular characters and the bistro are featured. Beyond the bistro being impossibly welcoming each house is a home. None are grand edifices. Each is a place for real people.

The feature of the village in A Great Reckoning is the small church that serves as a sanctuary for the residents. Far from being secret it is accessible all the time. It plays an amazing credible role in the book. In The Nature of the Beast the church had an unworthy and unlikely role.

When I finished The Nature of the Beast I was uneasy about the direction of the series. That book had an end of the world, Doomsday scenario, with Gamache saving the world at the final minute. Gamache is not the character to be saving the world.

A Great Reckoning turned from rescuing the earth from Armageddon to having Gamache return to his police roots in becoming commander of the Academy that had trained him as a police officer. 

It has been a reading roller coaster proceeding in consecutive books from the weakest in the series, The Nature of the Beast, to the best, A Great Reckoning.

My third post will explore how a map made A Great Reckoning a special reading experience.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Bill. I think you've highlighted the real importance of credibility in a series. And one thing I like about the direction of this novel is that its focus is again on the real people of Three Pines. I think those sorts of plots are a lot more engaging.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I agree. I was glad to see Three Pines and its residents important in the book.

  2. It is good to know there is variation in the quality of the Three Pines books. That is always true somewhat in a series but possibly with this knowledge I won't give up on the series if I have problems with some of the books.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. You have a good approach to reading being willing to give an author another chance if a book does not read well for you.