Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #14
Format: Hardback, 389 pages
Genre: Mystery | Suspense

Back Cover Blurb

When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder named Benedict.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, well into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip though his hands, in order to bring down the drug cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands—carfentanil—has disappeared into the inner city of Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.

What I Thought

Once again, Louise Penny pulls out all the stops and gifts us with another insightful look into her characters, the village of Three Pines, and the thriving underbelly lurking down dark alleys and in the hidden corners of seedy Montreal, complete with two compelling storylines that deliver intrigue and murder in equal measure.

What’s so special about a Louise Penny Three Pines novel, are the complex nuanced characters, the display of camaraderie, the shared bonds of friendship, and sometimes, the not so subtle ribald humour. Plus the sheer complexity to her stories that draw you right into the narrative. Not satisfied with one or two threads, Penny’s novels are always layered and richly textured with wonderfully written detail. From the descriptions of the characters themselves, to their interactions with one another and the deliciously described food they eat. From the village of Three Pines dressed deceptively in winter snows, to the city of Montreal itself, all play a part bringing a Louise Penny novel to life.

The one thing you can be sure of, in a cut-throat world where anything goes and does happen, to the brutal world of drugs and murder, the one thing you can be sure of is Penny will always counterbalance the pain, grief, and abject horror. Three Pines will always be a welcomed respite with characters who have lived though and known pain, and understand that a community such as theirs survives not because of their idealism, or hope, but in the strength of their diversity. It’s through their flaws and failings we see, as Leonard Cohen wrote, how the light gets in.

In Penny’s own words the books are about “…the common yearning for community. For belonging. They’re about kindness, acceptance. Gratitude.” Wisdom and insight into human nature are infused into her books naturally and with such ease. She’s never preachy but gives us so much more to think about in life’s morally grey areas. And there’s always plenty of grey areas in a Penny novel. Why people lie, why people murder, motivation is not always money or prestige but sometimes bitter revenge. In Kingdom of the Blind, we have two very disturbing threads, one warped by the need for revenge, the other a the desperate need to stop deadly opioids from hitting the street. Both, in their own way, are going to destroy any number of people’s lives.

Of course, on a much lighter note, we can’t forget to mention the poet Ruth Zardo’s duck, Rosa, who, like it’s owner, provides a great deal of the humour in a Penny novel, with her on-point commentary throughout, “… fuck, fuck, fuck …” And, after all, isn’t that just what a duck would say?

As a side note, it would be helpful to first read, Glass Houses, the preceding novel to Kingdom of the Blind, for further context.

All-in-all, this may very well turn out to be my favourite Louise Penny novel, ever. As always, this one comes highly recommended.

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