Armand Gamache is Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Quebec and acknowledged as a fine policeman. As this book opens however he is on leave, recovering from the physical and emotional scars left by events that we don’t know the details of until well into the book. He has gone to Quebec City to stay with his former boss and to conduct some historical research. This activity leads him to become involved in an investigation into a local murder. Although not yet ready to return to work in an official capacity his involvement in this interesting case does provide him some respite from reflecting on the terrible events that have led to his being on leave. At the same time he has become concerned that the resolution to his last case, depicted in The Brutal Telling, might have been incorrect so he asks his colleague Jean Guy Beauvoir, also on leave and recovering from injuries he sustained in the same events that still affect Gamache, to return to Three Pines and see if he can spot something the investigative team missed.
Louise Penny is a consistently good teller of stories but she has outdone herself here, juggling three quite distinct stories without a thread dropped or a wobble made. The re-investigation into the last Three Pines murder is probably the simplest of the stories told and stems from everyone’s belief that the man who went to prison for that murder wouldn’t have behaved as stupidly as it appears he did. Jean Guy is told to approach the re-opened investigation with the assumption that the man is innocent and see what else he can find out on that basis. Unlike Gamache Jean Guy has not been a big fan of the odd little village and its quirky inhabitants but it seems to offer just what he needs for his recovery.
In Quebec City Gamache is doing some research at the Literary and Historical Society library. This peculiar institution is home to all the books and personal papers which capture the history of Quebec’s tiny English-speaking community. The building, the collection it houses and the people who look after it have all seen better days. When Augustin Renaud, an eccentric character who has spent his life searching for the burial site of Quebec’s founder, Samuel de Champlain, is found in the sub-basement of the building Gamache is asked to become involved in the investigation by the elderly librarian. She thinks he will be more sympathetic to the English than other French people. I must admit to finding this story particularly engaging, involving many interesting historical tidbits and a thoughtful depiction of the separatist movement (as well as much walking around the historical city by Gamache and his adorable sounding dog Henri). Fittingly this is a case that is solved mostly by old-fashioned policing.
The final story is the recounting of the events that have led to Gamache and Jean Guy being on leave. Penny has for the most part resisted the temptation to indulge in too much sentimentality here, which for me makes it all the more compelling. Told mostly via Gamache’s remembered conversations with another of his colleagues, with occasional input from Jean Guy, this thread is a contrast to the case unfolding in Quebec City, involving very modern problems and the latest policing techniques.
For me this series has not, in the past, quite reached the ‘must read’ list primarily because I found its hero a bit too perfect and its fictional setting a bit too quirky. Here though we spend less time in quirky Three Pines and Gamache’s perfection is a little tarnished (if only in his own eyes) which made the book a much more credible and satisfying read than its predecessor. The intertwining stories had me hooked from beginning to end and I adored Adam Sims’ narration, complete with mild French accents where appropriate (le puff, le pant as my favourite cartoon character would say).
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Bury Your Dead has been reviewed at Mysteries in Paradise
There has been talk of late in the book blogosphere about visiting in real life locations that appear in books and I couldn’t help but smile when Armand Gamache talks in Bury Your Dead about walking through the old part of Quebec City and coming across ‘Canada’s most photographed building’. I went to Canada as part of my first overseas trip as a 20-year old (approximately 100 years ago) and, yes, I took a photo of it too (I certainly couldn’t afford to stay there). The building is now the Chateau Frontenac Hotel and has always been a luxury hotel since its opening in 1893.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 4/5
Author website http://www.louisepenny.com/
Publisher ISIS Audio Books 
Length 12 hours 15 minutes
Format Audio CD
Book Series #6 in the Armand Gamache/Three Pines series
Source I borrowed it from the library