Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.
It starts innocently enough.
While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.
He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.
While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.
They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.
Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.
Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.
When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.
LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (seven times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.
The Madness Of Crowds was better than All The Devils Are Here, but that’s not saying much and I wasn’t keen on it.
Back in Three Pines (thank heavens!) Gamache is, implausibly, given the job of policing a talk by a very controversial academic. This leads to lots of moral dilemmas, violence and ultimately a death. He and his team/family then have to find the killer, which involves a lot of historical delving, some thoroughly unlikely coincidences and yet more moral soul-searching.
Frankly, I found much of it it pretty stodgy and not very well done – something I am surprised and very sorry to have to say about a Louise Penny novel. For example, she keeps the nature of the “shocking” views of the academic from us for so long at the start that it would be a significant spoiler to reveal them, even though all the characters know what they are and react strongly to them. This went on for so long that it became ridiculous and I eventually found it very annoying. I’m afraid I found her dealing with the moral issues clumsy throughout, with some very unsubtle moralising and a disappointingly underdeveloped study of one morally abhorrent but personally charming character and another who is morally noble but personally repellent. Needless to say, everyone learns Important Life Lessons in a conclusion which I found positively cloying.
Gamache is now so saintly that there is a distinct odour of sanctimony about him, the characters of Three Pines are reduced to a thin backdrop and there are some quite absurd scenes. I can just about live with the idea that two of Canada’s most renowned academics and a Sudanese contender for the Nobel Peace Prize would all be in a tiny, unknown village for New Year, but other things were too much. For example, Gamache and Jean Guy need to leave the house for some privacy for a difficult conversation...so they go to the bistro where the whole village can hear the argument. And so on.
Even this I could just about have coped with, I think, if it weren’t for Penny’s increasingly irritating prose style. She will insist on making a clause. Into a sentence. For no reason. And it made me cross. Very cross. Indeed. It’s a cheap trick which lesser writers use to try to heighten tension. Not only is Louise Penny better than this, she does it so much - and often about such trivial things - that it loses all impact, save making me mutter “For heavens sake” (I paraphrase) a lot.
I did read to the end, which is more than I can say for All The Devils, but I was quite glad when I’d finished the book, which is never a good sign. I’ve rounded 2.5 stars up to 3 out of respect for an author who has written some very good books, but I think I may have reached the end of the road with Louise Penny.
(My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for an ARC via NetGalley.)
You should never start a Louise Penny book expecting a normal mystery. Her books totally transcend the genre. She incorporates philosophy, art, poetry and politics into her stories. While some series get stale after a certain number of books, if anything, Penny’s is getting better. And this counts as one of my favorite books of 2021. This time, Gamache is asked to help police a speech being given by a professor, a charismatic personality putting forth an economic agenda that tears at the country’s moral fiber. Gamache is forced to confront the thin line between free speech and hate speech. “Ca va bien aller. All will be well.” But not for everyone. The book hits home as we have all been living through a divided culture. It speaks to how a group can grow up around a compelling personality and truth and facts can be twisted to fit a belief system. But don’t think this is a mockery of what’s happening in the US with Trump. This personality is normal, calm. This time, the belief is wrapped in the idea of “mercy”. “While shocking, even abhorrent, Professor Robinson’s figures were actually correct. But correct and right were actually two different things as were facts and truth.” I also loved that Penny explored how personality can make a difference in what people think. She contrasts Robinson against Hanita Daoud, “the hero of Sudan”, who also makes an appearance in the village. Robinson is low key while Daoud is strident and puts people off. Yet Daoud actually fights the good fight. This is one of Penny’s best yet. It’s not often a mystery has me chasing off to investigate historical characters. I was unaware of Ewen Cameron or his experiments. Another dark chapter in history. Robert Bathurst is the perfect narrator for this series.
It's always a joy to pick up Louise Penny's latest in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Head of Homicide at the Surete, series set in the stunning Canadian location of the Three Pines village in Quebec. This addition has contagion as the central theme running through it, here the people have emerged from the horrors of Covid, but its impact continues as rising numbers begin to support the unpalatable lunatic theories and ideas being put forward by the seemingly normal and innocuous statistics professor, Abigail Robinson. She is at the heart of a fast growing divisively infectious febrile climate of high emotions. Robinson is but one of many others in the history of Canada, such as the now pariah and shamed McGill psychiatry professor who carried out unethical, devastating experiments that destroyed the lives of countless ordinary people, whilst others stood by doing nothing. Such people illustrate just how normal the monsters in our society can appear to be.
The likes of Robinson are a reflection of our contemporary realities, particularly in the age of social media being used to spread discord through manipulated facts and outright lies, where people will do anything to attain and maintain power. Gamache has been asked to oversee Robinson's talk at the university, something that really shouldn't have needed his involvement. The wintry conditions of snow and freezing cold over the festive period should have ensured few attendees, but people travel from far and wide to hear Robinson. Chaos and mayhem result, and its only through good fortune that no-one is seriously hurt, but murder is to follow during New Year celebrations at the Auberge. As Gamache, Jean Guy and Isabelle investigate, the emotive conflicts and debates penetrate their professional and personal lives, raising questions such as whether murder can be motivated by love, and how far is it permissable to venture to prevent the deaths of thousands?
Three Pines has a fascinating visitor, a Nobel peace prize nominee, the Sudanese 'hero', the 23 year old Haniya Daoud, the expectations of a 'saint' are rudely shattered by the reality of someone so damaged by past traumas and horrors that can barely be imagined, making almost everyone in the village want to avoid her. What Haniya has seen and experienced suggest that she is a monster on the side of the angels, making her a suspect in Gamache's inquiries. This was a wonderfully compulsive, entertaining and engaging read, even though it trawls through the darkest side of humanity. It is always a joy to reacquaint myself with the residents of Three Pines, none more so than the poet Ruth, of whom there are key insights here, and her duck, Rosa. I am already eagerly anticipating my next visit to Three Pines. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
It was nice to be back in Three Pines. All of a sudden the characters were swearing like pirates, but thankfully that beats reading about Gamache's sparkling, kind eyes every ten pages. Sure, there were many implausible aspects to advance the plot, but that's not my main criticism. I enjoyed books one to fifteen; they were cozy mystery murders that held my interest. However, I could not wait to get to the end of this novel. It was like being on a merry-go-round that wouldn't stop. Gamache and his team kept having the same conversation over and over again, often discussing the murder in the bistro, of course. I didn't care who did it and just wanted the ride to end. I woke up wondering, "Wait, now who was it?"
The interspersing of serious, disturbing topics and issues of morality throughout the novel was stilted. I just can't agree with the enthusiastic reviews of the crowd on this one.
OMG! Returning back to Three Pines feel like going back to your hometown for holiday season!
You’re not only greeted by Chief Inspector Armand Gamache or his partners in crime Jean Guy Buovoir ( also son-in-law) and Isabella Lacoste.You’ll be also welcomed by villagers including bookstore owners Claire, Myrna, bistro managers Gabe and Oliver, unconventional poet Ruth! They seem like your old time friends! At least I feel like they’re part of my fictional close circle friends after spending so much time with them at the previous books.
I wish to go that fictional town, chatting with fellow villagers, sitting in front of fire, nursing my cognac as the snow slowly falls outside. Best way to escape from reality! But instead of that, I’m sitting on my couch, wearing floral pajamas, burying my head into my hard copy but at least the book takes me anywhere I want as long as I feed my highly creative imagination!
I think this book was my favorite one of the series! Because it’s bold, though provoking, complex, moving, soul crushing, powerful, unconventional! Because a visiting statistician’s thoughts about euthanasia can threaten the well being of the community by ethically and morally questioning their beliefs.
When Chief Inspector is requested to provide security of statistician lecturer Abigail Robinson, it seemed like an awkward request to be asked to a person who was the head of homicide for the Surete de Quebec.
Abigail plans to give her lecture at a nearby university. Probably there will be very small attendance. ( who wants to listen about statistic in the death of winter, instead of scrolling through Netflix menu, lying on the couch, drinking hot chocolate) Gamache tries to have the lecture canceled which is denied by authorities. Abigail Robinson advocates euthanasia on the elderly and disabled people and during her lecture shots are fired and traumatic incidents take place. Divided groups and cultures turn against each other and madness start to intact the entire village like an epidemic.
The book reflects the villagers’ adjusting in new normal life after COVID- 19 and now they’re ideologically infected and their twisted perspectives start to affect the village’s unity like growing wild fire!
This is quiet literature feast! As a big fan of series, I highly recommend this book! This is so exceptional and one of my favorite books of the year!
I have such mixed feelings about this latest entry in the Three Pines/Inspector Gamache series. On the plus side, it’s always wonderful to spend time with the cherished regulars, like Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir and their families, Clara Morrow, Olivier and Gabri from the bistro, Myrna, and even Ruth. The book begins in Three Pines with all of Armand’s family temporarily living with him and Reine-Marie, in a cold and snowy run-up to Christmas and the New Year. It’s pleasant, too, to read about a Three Pines winter during the dog days of summer.
On the negative side, this is one of Louise Penny’s occasional “issues” books, like her past book involving the opioid crisis and drug smuggling. I feel her handling of issues to be contrived, at best. She is so good at portraying the human tragedies that lead to murder, and to try to wedge in social issues feels forced to me. In this book, I guess I shouldn’t specify what the social issue is, since the book description doesn’t, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s a proposal from an academic that becomes a popular movement enthusiastically embraced by some and abhorred by others. I will also say that I thought Penny’s handling of the popular reactions to this proposal was unsatisfying. She takes forever to reveal what the proposal is, and then never fully explores its implications—which, considering that it’s not a new idea, reduces this to cheap, contrived sensation, similar to her handling of the past opioid plot.
Did I read it all? You bet. My annual reading of a Louise Penny novel is something I always look forward to, like a summer visit by old friends. And despite my dissatisfaction with the handling of the social issue, I did enjoy catching up with the characters. I’ll just hope that next year she’ll drop the social issues stuff and do what she does best.
I am a long-time fan of Louise Penny and the Gamache series. Out of 17 books, I have been disappointed in only three. This is one of them. (Glass Houses #13, 2 stars. A Better Man #15, 3 stars.) Perhaps it was because I am weary of the pandemic and just don't need to read about it in fiction. I purposely read very little about the book in advance so as not to have expectations.
This book just tried too hard. One-third too long.
THE STORY 1. The framework of the story and the big question -- whodunnit? -- were fine. However, "getting there" was torture - and not the page-turning, I-cannot-put-this-down exciting torture. The reader is strung along for an exceedingly long time before we know what the heck is going on. 2. Once we are brought into the story, we are privy to endless conversations, speculations, and brainstorming sessions that cover the same territory - over and over and over. Him? Her? The other her? The other him? Them? By the time we reached who actually did the deed, I. Did. Not. Care. (see bullet #1 under Style, below). 2. Oh, the pontificating! Over the top and re-emphasized annoyingly. 3. Other than Jean-Guy, and occasional appearances by Ruth and Reine-Marie, the characters are flat.
STYLE 1. I am "over" the short phrases. Occasionally, this is a wonderful device for emphasis. But. It. Drives. Me. In-freaking-sane. (Fortunately, the wonderful readings by the stellar Ralph Cosham and excellent Robert Bathurst disguise this annoying habit to which Ms. Penny is addicted. I mostly read this book, and listened to about half, just to enjoy Mr. Bathurst's performance, which is 5 stars). WHERE IS THE EDITOR? TELL HER NO! NO. TO. THE. SHORT. PHRASES. 2. Gamache is plucking my nerves. I had hope that with the previous book, All the Devils Are Here (#16, which I gave 5 stars) he would not be quite so annoying. Alas, "annoying" has returned, and he's just not so interesting.
In this 17th book in the 'Chief Inspector Armand Gamache' series, the homicide detective investigates a New Year's Eve murder.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the homicide department at Montreal's Sûreté du Québec, was visiting Paris for his last adventure. Gamache is now back in his home town of Three Pines, where he sheltered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic is now over, and Gamache is asked to provide security for a visiting academic. Professor Abigail Robinson is a statistician who wrote a report on the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in Canada, with a view to mitigating future crises. Robinson's conclusions are VERY controversial, and as such things go, are passionately embraced by some and soundly excoriated by others.
Robinson has been invited to give a lecture at the Université de l’Estrie, and the school officials want to avoid trouble. So Gamache and his team will be on hand to control the crowd and protect the speaker.
There's an incident at the lecture, and Robinson - who's staying at the home of a friend - is told to stay put while Gamache looks for the conspirators. But it's the holiday season, and Robinson decides to attend a festive New Year's party at the Auberge Hotel in Three Pines. When the fireworks go off at midnight.....
.....someone is murdered, and Gamache and his colleagues, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir (who's also Gamache's son-in-law) and Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, investigate.
The detectives soon learn that Abigail Robinson had an ulterior motive for visiting Three Pines, which expands the murder inquiries to an administrator at the Universite de l’Estrie and a retired doctor.
In the meantime, Three Pines has another distinguished visitor, a 23-year-old Sudanese woman named Haniya Daoud, who's a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. During Sudan's civil war Daoud saved many people, and ugly scars are proof of her bravery. Daoud has a grudge against the outside world, however, for turning their backs on Sudan during the crisis, and the result is rude and crusty behavior.
As all this is going on Gamache's wife Reine-Marie, who's retired from her job as a library curator, is doing free-lance curatorial work.
A family whose deceased matriarch left a smaller than expected estate asks Reine-Marie to examine their mother's things, to see if they're worth anything. Reine-Marie discovers that the dead woman was obsessed with monkeys - drawing them everywhere - and Reine-Marie tries to determine why.
In the end all these threads (more or less) come together, and the big picture is truly tragic.
I'm in the minority here, but for me this is one of the weakest books in the series, for the following reasons:
◙ It takes FOREVER for the author to reveal the divisive conclusions in Abigail Robinson's statistical report. The delay is annoying and unnecessary and the revelation is predictable.
◙ The murder occurs later in the novel than it should, for a murder mystery.
◙ The murder investigation is 90% talk. The detectives ENDLESSLY speculate about who did what and why, envisioning innumerable scenarios involving the same group of people. The book could easily have been cut by a third.
◙ There's a lot of blather about people doing this and that for love, and the power of love, and love being the most important thing in the world. It gets cringey and - in the end - doesn't provide a good rational for the crimes.
I admire Penny's efforts to incorporate the Covid-19 pandemic into a novel - and the story has some high points - but the book isn't wholly successful (in my opinion).
That said, I always like to visit with the residents of Three Pines, especially the eccentric trash-talking poet Ruth and her beloved duck Rosa. It's a hoot that potty-mouth Rosa (inadvertently) teaches children bad words.
I've read many of Penny's Armand Gamache novels, and they're always up and down for me.....so I'll keep reading them. 😃
Five stars for this one because I finished it hours ago and yet my head is still in Three Pines with Armand and the others, probably enjoying a hot chocolate in the bistro, sitting by a log fire, and checking out all the snow outside.
A good series is one where the author creates people you could be friends with, people you like, and people who live in ways you wish you could enjoy too. Louise Penny does precisely this and every time she takes me to Three Pines I want to stay there.
The Madness of Crowds is a perfect title since the story takes us to a post Covid Quebec where the disease has been mastered, but the idiots who spread false information have not. Statistics can prove anything and, when presented by a charismatic individual, the masses will follow. Armand Gamache finds himself up against such an individual and it takes everything he has to solve the mystery behind her.
If I could I would have read this book in one sitting. It was that good! When I was not reading it I was thinking about it. My only disappointment is that I have finished it. Please let it be that Penny has already started the next one!
4.5 stars Whenever a new book by Louise Penny is published, it immediately goes to the top of my reading list. Set in the idyllic, charming village of Three Pines, Quebec, Penny has designed a place where I want to live. I want to get to know the people in this community and to eat in the Bistro. Her characters are so well developed that they seem real, and with each book, we get to know them better; their kindness, their foibles and quirks, their place in the village, and their relationships with neighbors and friends.
In many ways, this is the best and most powerful book in the series. It is deep, dark, and provocative. There are moral dilemmas and ethical discussions and much food for thought. There is a murder, of course, amongst the sparkling winter landscape, hot chocolate, and outdoor activities with the children playing in the snow.
After a long time following COVID restrictions, the villagers have come out of isolation, delighted that the vaccine has ended the pandemic. They are now free to congregate, hug, discard masks, and resume a normal life, but the pandemic has left them with grief and lingering sadness. This post-COVID setting is a little too soon while we are still in the midst of the 4th wave in most places, even when fully vaccinated. I felt the plot became convoluted when possible motives, opportunities, and suspects were discussed and with the added inclusion of a killing long in the past. These theories seemed to be contemplated repeatedly to the point of tedium but gave the reader a puzzle to ponder.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is back. He is Head of Homicide for the Surete de Quebec. Team members Isabelle and Jean-Guy, his son-in-law, are also involved in the investigations. The Gamache family now has several grandchildren. Fellow villagers, like the artist Claire, Myrna, who runs a bookstore, Gabe and Olivier, managers of the Bistro (shut down during the pandemic), are now busy and open for business. It was great to be reacquainted with the elderly, foul-mouthed, eccentric poet Ruth with her pet duck. She is much more insightful than people believe. There are three visitors to Three Pines. Do they have hidden agendas? Why are they there in the dead of winter?
Gamache has been requested to provide security at a lecture for a visiting statistician, Abigal Robinson. He feels that there will be little attendance in a small nearby University in the dead of winter and that statistics are not a stimulating subject. However, he learns that she holds abhorrent conclusions and that many are traveling in to hear her speech. She is personally charming, but her views are dangerous and morally repellent. Gamache tries to have the lecture canceled but is unsuccessful. Gamache is haunted by a scene he witnessed in a nursing home where the elderly were neglected and left to die. Based on her research to be presented to the Quebec Premier on how COVID had dire effects on health care and the economy, Abigal is advocating forced euthanasia on the elderly and disabled. Shots are fired at the lecture, and chaos results.
Abigal is visiting with her friend and assistant. The other newcomer is Haniya Daoud, a young Nobel Peace Prize nominee from Sudan. She has experienced the most horrible, nightmarish torture before her escape to freedom. Living in an isolated cabin in the woods is a professor who, as a young doctor, participated in some factual and dreadful mind-altering experiments at McGill University on behalf of the CIA. He knew what was happening but kept quiet about it. These left many of the subjects damaged for life. He keeps this part of his life secret but is unpopular as he did nothing to help the community during the COVID lockdown.
On New Year's eve, there is a murder in a nearby wooded area while most villagers enjoyed a party. An intelligent and empathetic Gamache and his team must question the possible suspects and figure out the killer's motive. This turns out to be a very complex and difficult investigation and asks if a murder can be motivated by love as well as hate. Can there ever be a justification for killing?
This was an enthralling, thought-provoking novel involving the reader's emotions with some tear-jerking moments and surprising twists and revelations, tension and suspense, a difficult puzzle, and captivating characters.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
3.5⭐️ It's definitely good, but I'm not sure I loved it.
First, things I loved/really liked:
1. We were back in Three Pines. THE BEST PLACE.
2. We were back with the villagers we love oh so much.
3. Louise Penny has a knack for coming up with really good conflicts that her books center around. This one for sure fit the bill - the moral and ethical question of mandatory mercy killings…
4. This book obviously includes the pandemic. But thank goodness it was after it was over, and there is a suggestion of hope. I don’t know if I could have taken a book in the middle of it all.
5. FIVE stinkin bright yellow stars for that COVER 😍😍
Things I didn’t love:
1. Even though we were in the village and had Ruth, Clara, Myrna, Olivier, and Gabri at our disposal, they didn’t play as much of a part of the story as they usually do. So much of this series is their character development and the continuation of their story arcs. But in this book, they were kinda just there.
2. While her character was very interesting and I gained some perspective about being a martyr, I didn’t really feel like Haniya Daoud fit in to things. I’ll have to go back to the beginning to see what the (short) explanation was, but clearly I forgot it pretty quickly. And the whole book I was thinking - I understand the connections Louise is trying to make here, but why is this world famous, Nobel Peace Prize finalist from Sudan here in Three Pines? It just seemed like a big stretch for her character to be there at all.
3. The resolution of the mystery. This is where I’m really struggling with how to rate the book. This - the element so crucial to mystery novels being “good” - is what majorly fell flat for me. The last 80-100 pages (I could be wrong on that, but it felt like a large chunk) were spent going over and over and over possible similar theories for why the same few people would be the culprit. And they all make sense and it seems like the inspectors couldn’t see or believe what was right in front of them. There was no major theory change (which happens a lot in this series). No new piece of shocking evidence. No AHA moment about something they’ve been looking at for days. Just a final “this is it” to a theory you could have seen coming from a mile away and just read about for 80 pages. I do think Louise was trying to make her social commentary more prominent in this one, and OK - fair point. It was an interesting subject and I did love Jean-Guy’s arc within this book, a lot. But considering how long this book was, I was expecting more to happen.
I honestly do not know how Louise Penny keeps writing captivating, imaginative installments to this series after all of these years. This is an achingly beautiful book about so much more than the central mystery. Her novels are also about humanity, the choices we make, and the reasons behind those choices.
Although Armand Gamache, his son-in-law and second-hand man Jean-Guy Bouvoir and Isabelle Lacoste have a potential riot to contain and a murder to solve. But threaded through all of that are situations that cause the characters and the reader to pause and take account. How much are we caught up in "The Madness of Crowds"? How much do we allow statistics to persuade us toward certain beliefs? These and many other things are posed for pondering.
And with this book we are back in the beloved Three Pines, back at the Bistro, back with the familiar characters and their various quirks. This series is like a comfortable blanket, yet one that doesn't allow me to get too comfortable and helps me to examine my values and beliefs while in the company of old friends.
As per usual, I listened to this book as an audiobook and that is the only way I prefer to experience this series because the narrator, Robert Bathurst, is stellar.
Such a disappointment. Trite. Repetitive (no one finds the duck funny anymore and the fact that Clara has food falling out of hair all the time is disgusting and an insult to artists). Jean-Guy is her favorite character to dump on. Mercy killing of disabled people as the plot line? Really? Even if you were going for satire, this was poorly done. Bring back the real Gamache or end the series. This was awful. Two stars only because I love these characters when she’s not screwing them up.
I can be assured of something sensational when Louise Penny pens a Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel and I was not disappointed with the latest offering. Penny develops a strong story and layers it with narrative twists that take the reader on an adventure, without venturing too far from the bucolic community of Three Pines. Gamache juggles another homicide and some family issues as he focuses his attention on that which many overlook. Penny provides some of the best descriptive writing I have seen in years, entertaining and offering social commentary along the way. I cannot offer enough praise to her for what she’s done with this novel and series.
The rural community of Three Pines, Quebec is in the festive season with the New Year on the horizon. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is looking forward to spending some time with family only to have it cut short by an odd request. When a visiting Professor of Statistics arrives to deliver a lecture at the local university, she’s in need of some security. Abigail Robinson has made a name for herself and causes a whirlwind of sentiment wherever she goes. Enter, Gamache.
During the lecture, shots are fired and Professor Robinson is whisked off to safety, leaving Chief Inspector Gamache to determine what’s happened and how security has been compromised. While the shooter is identified and taken into custody, Gamache is not ready to rest on his laurels. As New Year’s Eve celebrations begin, Gamache cannot help but wonder if the shooting was planned well ahead of time.
After a body is discovered in town early on New Year’s Day, Chief Inspector Gamache opens up the investigation. The body is soon identified as Professor Robinson’s assistant, leaving some to wonder if it was a case of mistaken identity in the pale moonlight. However, nothing is as simple as that and Gamache pulls together his team of Homicide investigators to comb through all the evidence.
With a number of subplots taking the investigation in a handful of directions, Gamache must pay close attention to what’s before him and peel back the layers to get to the heart of the matter. With the usual Three Pines residents adding flavour to an already busy story, it’s no doubt that the madness of crowds will cloud Gamache’s thoughts on a regular basis.
It was a few years ago that I stumbled upon Louise Penny and this stunning series, which grips onto the reader and will not let go. Penny develops complex storylines and lively characters throughout the novel to educate and entertain in equal measure. Many have applauded Penny’s work and this novel falls in line with many of the preceding books, making it well worth the reader’s time and effort.
While Chief Inspector Armand Gamache remains front and centre throughout, Penny brings back many of her core characters to offer a number of perspectives and lighter moments amidst the heartier narrative. Many of the familiar faces are past offering backstories, though there is some minor character development in the piece, primarily in the realm of Gamache’s own family. This provides some interesting subplot development and Penny does not shy away with the controversy there. Those familiar with Penny’s writing will likely enjoy her introduction of some new faces throughout this novel.
I have read a number of novels lately that allow me to push through in short order. However, Penny’s novels always force me to pay close attention and listen/notice the nuances offered throughout the narrative. The story moves quickly and the reader is pulled into the middle of it all, never losing its momentum throughout, though there is so much going on, making it difficult to enjoy without investing my full attention. Strong characters appear throughout and keep the reader on their toes. Some novels appear to lose steam the longer the series progresses, but Penny is able to defy the norm and has me begging her to keep writing years into the future. I can only hope that this collection of Canadian mysteries receive their due and readers from all over the world take notice.
Kudos, Madam Penny, for showcasing Canada so effectively. Brilliant work, sure to impress readers who take the time to enjoy your novels.
"The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our souls." (Edgar Allen Poe)
The Madness of Crowds ventures down a highway of thought not often visited upon by the residents of Three Pines situated outside of Quebec. Louise Penny hardly writes cozy novels. Her central character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, has often been beset with multiple murders, shifting evil forces in the Surete du Quebec, and the horrendous impact of the opiod trade on the Canadian border. The ills of society in all various shades have touched this man in one capacity or another. But what Penny lays at his feet this time will have a lasting effect on both Gamache and on us as readers.
When a threshhold is crossed, retracing your steps is not an option. Gamache is requested to provide security for a visiting professor of statistics at a lecture housed by the nearby university. It's the holidays and Gamache is looking forward to spending the time with his family in Three Pines with the usual local festivities. Before agreeing, Gamache does a little back study on Professor Abigail Robinson. What he finds is so repulsive to his nature that he must confront the head of the university and demand that the lecture be cancelled.
Chancellor Colette Roberge challenges Gamache and accuses him of suppressing freedom of speech. Duty finally wins out and Gamache sets up a plan for intense security with his son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir. On the night of the event, the hall is packed with curiosity seekers and adamant individuals against the professor's theories and statistics. It's a raging kettle that eventually boils over into the crowd itself.
Professor Robinson's message is cut to four simple words: "All Will Be Well". She steps forward as the bearer of her findings post-pandemic. What she proposes is ground-breaking and will shatter what individuals hold most dear. Just who determines the worthiness of life? It's a complete storm of controversy based on ever-changing scientific theories. But the waves of it will, nonetheless, seep into the populace regardless of one's stance.
Louise Penny wrote The Madness of Crowds through the course of the lockdown during the pandemic. It seems that we were all caught up in the surround sound of our own personal thoughts. The time setting of this novel is post-pandemic. Read her Acknowledgments at the end of the book. This was not my favorite Louise Penny novel. (I've read them all and my reviews have always been 4 and 5 Stars.) It's not so much with the controversial subject at large. It's that this subject itself drove the novel and not so much the familiar characters themselves. We were visited upon by reactionaries through Three Pines. But the character of Jean-Guy was the most open and the most honest because his own fingers touched this sky.
Check this one out. It definitely will open dialogue and scurry around the thoughts in your head.
🗣 First time I’ve utilized audio format in this collection—excellent narration.
🦆 You will often encounter the phrase cozy mystery when looking through reviews on this series, but not much is comfy or at ease in this offering except Rosa the duck, and her fowl mouth may spoil it for sensitive readers as we learn some of the inspiration behind Ruth’s haunting lines of poetry.
🍮 Comfort food is in abundance here and you will no doubt need to partake of some upon finishing as this one drops us into the hole of humanity’s darker nature unlike any Penny has gifted us with to this point. I needed a hot chocolate with two shots of Bailey’s immediately and it was 100º here in California yesterday.
🏆 And though the author keeps surprising us with her ability to keep this series renewed with no signs of fatigue or retirement, I can only sound like a broken record here as I write. This is the best one yet.
Midway between Christmas and New Year, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache was enjoying family time at his home in Three Pines, and it was there that he received a request to provide security for Professor Abigail Robinson who had arrived in the area, preparing for a talk at a local stadium. When Armand checked up on the professor, watched some of her other events online, he was alarmed. He knew this should be cancelled, that it would prove to be dangerous. The Chancellor of the University was who Armand approached but she refused. Everyone thought no one would bother to come, but the time of the event proved otherwise...
The professor’s words were ludicrous, horrifying, crazy. But in a post Covid Quebec – the world in fact – the words of a charming and captivating woman were followed. There were others who disagreed – violently – so where did that leave Gamache? Gamache, along with his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir as well as Isabelle Lacoste, started from the beginning, searching for answers, for connections, for truth. And when a body was found, the three Sûreté du Québec officers dug deeper. But would they find what they needed, find who did it and why?
The Madness of Crowds (a perfect title) is the 17th in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny and it was superb! I love each time I head back to Three Pines with the wonderfully crafted characters, sitting in the Bistro with a hot chocolate while the snow falls outside. While we go along with Armand and his team, nodding or shaking our heads as they work through their theories, how they bring in their small pieces of evidence. I feel the author handled the pandemic well, setting the book after it was over (wouldn’t that be great!) and mentioning its effect on people. I love this series, admire the author, and am already looking forward to #18. Highly recommended.
With thanks to Hachette AU for my copy to read in exchange for an honest review.
There comes a time in the life of every long-running mystery series when the author should consider hanging it up. The main characters become caricatures of themselves, the relationship between writer and readers starts to feel a bit too cozy, and the plot twists slacken as dialogue takes over the narrative. I think the Gamache novels are about at that point. This one feels strained, like Ms. Penny was trying too hard to make Three Pines and the Sûreté crew relevant for the 21st century while continuing to give her legion of followers the liberal dose of quaintness that keeps them coming back. I think I'm ready for some new series.
No review, just a trigger warning: this book takes Julian of Norwich’s words of hope, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well, for the world is full of all manner of things” and twists them into the mouth of a politician bent on euthanising disabled people post-Covid-19. Her supporters wear buttons saying “All will be well.”
No acknowledgement is made of Julian’s actual context and words, although Louise Penny does make it clear that the politician is evil.
What an absolutely shitty way to treat the work of the first named woman to have written a book in English.
Zero stars, though upped to one because there’s no way to differentiate between people who refuse to enter into the star system and people who just didn’t like a particular book. Clearly, I did not like The Madness of Crowds, its pseudo-intellectualism and clunky debates around humanity. Boring at best, and offensive at worst.
I had to read The Madness of Crowds for my Book Club. Believe me I could not finish reading it fast enough. Some of the story line was interesting and intrigued me for a short period of time, the reason for the 3 stars. The rest of the story was very drawn out and constantly being repeated over and over again. Perhaps the story would have been better if it was at least 100 pages less.
So I actually got from the library the book that is referred to in Penny’s title and repeatedly referred to throughout her book, Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Personal Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841). Penny has a way of urging you to go down alleys and backstreets of research with her. You don’t have to do this to appreciate the book, but if you are aware of this book it just might be helpful in understanding her novel, her purposes in writing it, and just maybe, the world we are living in.
It’s a study of how crazy ideas can be advanced through a kind of mass hysteria. Today we advance such ideas through social media, another kind of crowd, though actual crowds can also be whipped up to a frenzy, getting them to take sometimes violent action, as we have seen in many ways today. From Wikipedia: “The subjects of Mackay's debunking include alchemy, crusades, duels, economic bubbles, fortune-telling, haunted houses, the Drummer of Tedworth, the influence of politics and religion on the shapes of beards and hair, magnetisers (influence of imagination in curing disease), murder through poisoning, prophecies, popular admiration of great thieves, popular follies of great cities, and relics.” People behave delusionally usually when they are afraid.
Louise Penny was a journalist before she was a novelist and I always prefer my mysteries with at least one foot firmly planted in the real world. I don’t just mean the world of crime, as one might expect, but in the global present. Noir usually grapples with the economic struggles of ordinary, working class people. Agatha Christie, as good as she was at mysteries, was decidedly on the side of escapism, of entertainment. And so, it seemed, was Louise Penny, early on, creating her little idyllic fantasy Quebecois village with Olivier and Gabri’s wonderful bistro. Not that I mind Christie, and not that I still wouldn’t want to live in Three Pines, with the cranky comic relief of Ruth and her duck. And the warmth of Inspector Armand Gamache, asserting that goodness will prevail. But as the series proceeds, things get darker, we see that Three Pines is not a haven from the world outside. Still, family matters, community matters, beauty matters. Love is important in combatting cruelty and hate. And that Penny has fused her interest in journalism and fiction here in ways I admire.
In The Madness of Crowds Penny takes full-on the frightening world we live in with the sword of all the remaining goodness she can find (and I am wondering if her move in the more political direction is also in part influenced by her recently co-writing a political thriller with Hillary Clinton?). We begin at a small university (we just seemed to have discovered) outside Three Pines, where the chancellor has invited a controversial mathematician, Abigail Robinson, who can show us statistics that prove that we can best survive economically and socially as a human race if we enact mandatory euthanasia for the old and infirm, and if we enforce the abortion of all fetuses that seem to indicate they will be born with disabilities, such as those with Down Syndrome. The argument is that in a world of diminishing resources, we just can’t save everyone, so let’s kill off the weak and disabled. If this seems far-fetched to you, let me remind you that such ideas are still being debated and have been enacted in various ways. The issue here is eugenics. And mass murder. Hitler and his henchmen murdered all sorts of people he didn’t want to live with. So did Stalin. And when we make moral choices that exclude others, we follow Robinson. Which lives matter?
The time of the novel is the near future when this particular pandemic seems to be over, but about which we are still living in shock. It’s still a dystopian world. People are afraid. We can see climate change, massive refugee problems, and so when Isabel Robinson comes to speak of her ideas for murder, we expect “mad” crowds, incited to violence from all possible directions. Some people want to stop her, and some people want to advance her ideas. Gamache begs the chancellor to cancel the speech on the grounds of public safety concerns, and sure enough, someone brings a gun to the talk and hysteria happens. The gun goes off, yes. As an academic, the free speech/hate speech discussion is by now an old one to me, so I wasn’t initially enthralled to read about it, but I am well aware that it is still a very relevant concern; do we invite Q-Anon shock jock liars to campus to “debate” them, inciting people on all sides of the issues to violence? And so on and on.
Nursing homes were hit hard by Covid-19, and many died in record numbers, so Penny dedicates the novel to front-line workers; she is taking the side of reasoned goodness, as always. And Dr. Robinson will remind us of many viral whackjob politicians and scholars and social media nuts. She reminds me of mathematician Charles Murray (The Bell Curve) and his statistical claim that blacks are genetically inferior to whites:
As to the resolution of the murder of a woman who is a friend and personal assistant to Isabel Robinson, we do not know whodunnit until the very end, but the resolution is complicated and ultimately satisfying. One suspect is another Three Pines visitor, a Nobel peace prize nominee, a Sudanese hero, Haniya Daoud, a person whose views many would admire more than the ideas of Robinson, though the latter on the surface seems to be personally more likable. Polls said that people liked Bush more than Gore, found him more likable. Millions preferred the personality of Trump to Hillary Clinton's.
I very much liked this book, which weaves in so many layers of ideas. Mikhail Bakhtin thought that the best of novels functioned as a kind of cultural forum, and I count this as one of those novels that takes on important social issues. It's not warm and cuddly Three Pines, it's her darkest book, but I like it a lot. I took a quick look at some three star reviews of this book, and some folks seem to be disappointed that she writes about politics.“Shut up and sing!” some folks screamed at The Dixie Chicks for taking stands on stage. I say: You go, Louise. Keep fighting the good fight.
I thought it amusing when in the acknowledgments, Penny thanked her editors. It may surprise her know the editing for grammar was nonexistent. The story editor hadn’t shown up for work either.
The characters haven’t evolved since before her cataclysmic failure that was two books behind this…well…this cataclysmic failure. They are trite, irritating and stupid. Gamache’s wife and the children are now the focus; the mystery simply sucked.
I’ve decided to say goodbye. While it makes me sad, I can always re-read the series. All but the last three books.
I can remember the writer she used to be instead of this puffed up hack who believes in beating us over the head with her politics and beliefs, instead of offering us what we REALLY want.
Which is the beauty, warmth and gentle friendship of Three Pines.
I think this might be the first one in the series that I’ve given less than 5 stars to. Definitely the first I’ve rated less than 4. And I’ve stopped writing reviews of the books I read, but I feel like I need to explain why I rated this so low. Louise Penny is one of my favorite authors. Up there with Austen and Alexander McCall Smith. The Gamache series is powerful. It’s beautifully written and there are always so many phrases that illuminate and make me think. About kindness. About beauty. About the power of everyday life and how our actions and reactions can reverberate. But this book I struggled with. There were still some good sentences that I took a picture of so I can go back to them and think further about them. But I think the backstory of the pandemic and someone spreading damaging and hurtful rhetoric in the name of science and statistics just cut a little too close to home? And maybe it isn’t fair to rate the book poorly because of the subject matter? But three stars is what feels right to me.
“It’s about what happens when gullibility and fear meet greed and power.” ― Louise Penny, The Madness of Crowds
I have read all of the books in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series and always enjoy returning to Three Pines for a visit although I found it discombobulating to learn that there is a university located nearby. Not only that but it appears that they have cell phone coverage now. I thought Three Pines wasn't located on any map and only people who were lost found it.
Armand is asked to take the lead on security at a nearby university. A visiting professor of statistics will be giving a lecture between Christmas and New Years. Perplexed as to why he, the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, would be asked to do this but it sounds simple enough. Who is going to show up for a lecture on statistics during the holidays? Then he starts checking on Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda that repulses him. He views a video from her last speech and is so horrified that he begs the university to cancel the event. They refuse citing academic freedom.
The pandemic is over. There is a vaccine. But what was the cost? What happens in the future? Professor Robinson wrote a report that is very controversial in it's conclusions. People are very divided. Her views find themselves into conversations. Spreading. Dividing people. Truth, fact, reality, delusion. It becomes difficult to separate one from the other. Professor Robinson may have freedom of speech but her views are like a cancer causing great division among the people.
Professor Robinson's speech at the Université de l’Estrie does not go without incident which only brings her, and her views, more attention. Then there is a murder. Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Inspector Isabelle Lacoste have to investigate. They have to separate their personal feelings about Professor Robinson and her views from the job.
There are several side stories going on at the same time. Haniya Daoud, a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, happens to be visiting Three Pines at the same time. Armand's wife, Reine-Marie, has been asked by the family of a recently deceased woman to go through her things and see if there is anything of value and discovers the woman was obsessed with monkeys.
This was not my favorite book in the series but I like the characters and the setting. It was interesting to see how Louise Penny handled topics such as freedom of speech and the divisions that sometimes result. The damage.
Well we're back in 3 Pines but suddenly with a much bigger hinterland. The rather mannered local characters don't dominate thank goodness apart from the f***ing duck and its owner who are far too ubiquitous. And Ms Penney seems far too fond of her Asshole Saint name if not the man. The plot is still rather preposterous and involves a post COVID reaction that I simply find unbelievable, although I also thought the same about Quebec care home story, but apparently it happened. I know that the UK doesn't have a great record like some other countries in emptying our hospitals into care homes without testing, but simply abandoning the residents is on a whole other level. I am starting to wonder if Canada is quite the nice place we have been led to believe... Gamache is also acting out of character with 2 spells of angry though controlled reaction - maybe that is the author responding to some of comments about his saintliness in the previous book. There are some interesting conflicting ideas in the book, but maybe I am not ready for a book with COVID at its heart yet.
Adults and children are skating on the newly iced over ponds, stopping only briefly to warm themselves with hot chocolate and then rushing back to the ice. On the snowy slopes, the skis and toboggans that were so recently under Christmas trees are being tested. Over at the bistro, the tables are filled with local citizens enjoying a meal and conversation. The sweet life has returned to Three Pines, Quebec Canada. For Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his family this is a particularly welcomed holiday season. Paris, the Pandemic, and the quarantines are behind them and most importantly the family is together. Time to relax and reacquaint with friends and loved ones. The Pandemic is over, we can breathe! Of course, there will be a detour on this roadway to normalcy. Armand receives a request (really a summons) to plan and provide crowd control and security at a lecture being given by a visiting Professor of Statistics, Abigail Robinson, three days before New Year’s. One would think that factoring in the lecture date, the snowy weather, and the statistics topic, the attendance would probably be between eight and ten people. As Armand learns, this professor offers a theory based on statistics that plays into people’s fears. The Covid Pandemic revealed deep disturbing societal weaknesses that are not easily cured. Indeed, there is even discord over What should be remedied and how to do it. People are emotionally spent. It seems unfair to have to face more concerns for survival. How do you know the right path? The day of the lecture, Armand checks and triple checks his plan for control and security. While apprehensive, he feels he has done as much as possible to control the situation. Unfortunately, not everyone performs their job correctly and the lecture is disrupted when shots are fired at Professor Robinson. Luckily, she was not harmed but Chief Inspector Gamache faces scrutiny for the failure. That he can handle. What unsettles Armand is who and why failed to follow orders. Plans for the New Year’s celebration in Three Pines continue and Armand continues exploring the failed lecture event and the impact of Professor Robinsons view of the future. The news that the University Chancellor and Professor Robinson will be attending the celebrations in Three Pines does little to ease the situation. A festive party is planned, a bonfire is prepared, fireworks are planned- everyone is looking ahead to a real “Happy New Year.” At the actual gathering, the unexpected happens. Events and action from the past come to light. Residents and visitors face scrutiny and concerns are raised. When a dead body is found, the questions are who is it and why did this death occur. Armand now faces a complex problem. The weather and time of day have an impact on the investigation. The number of people at the party must be interviewed and their information interpreted. As only he can, Gamache patiently and carefully examines each clue, each reaction, each little difference. Though some revelations are shaky and difficult to accept, Armand’s investigation is soothing to the reader because Armand will not be rushed, will take no short cuts. He recognizes his own emotions and biases and will only be satisfied when every piece fits. He is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. I felt that this book is Louise Penny’s attempt to remind us that the COVID Pandemic may well be ending but there is still another Pandemic out there and this one cannot be cured with a vaccine. The Madness of Crowds can be read as a standalone novel but there are references to incidents, actions and reactions that were fully covered in prior novels. The lack of explanations in the current novel can leave one questioning, “What is the significance of this that I am not privy to?” The ultimate question is does this lack of detail of the past detract from the impact of the current story. This book was difficult to accept. It is dispiriting that all we’ve been through may not be the end of our struggles. Seems we’ll need Armand for some time in the future. I feel certain he will dutifully accept this burden and we will have more opportunities to “enjoy” his efforts.