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