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.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny - The Academy

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – Since retiring from the Sûreté du Québec Armand Gamache has been receiving a stream of offers from “major corporations, to political parties anxious for him to run for office, to police organizations, national and international”. After patiently weighing the opportunities he has become the commander of the Sûreté Academy which trains officers for the force.

Ordinarily it would be a perfect fit for Gamache. He has spent a lifetime of mentoring and training young officers after graduation.

Yet running the Academy is a far greater challenge from when Gamache was a student. Under the previous corrupt leadership of the Sûreté the Academy has become a vicious place turning out brutal officers. Evil now lurks about the academy.

While the Academy was nominally led by a senior officer it was the second-in-command, Serge Leduc, who actually ran the institution. Known as the Duke he formed the young recruits while carrying on assorted illegal activities.

Gamache dismisses many of the professors but startling everyone, especially Leduc, Gamache keeps Leduc on as a professor.

Even more shocking Gamache reaches out to Michel Brebeuf and asks him to teach at the Academy. Brebuf has disgraced the force and betrayed Gamache, his childhood friend.

After classes begin Gamache comes to appreciate how difficult it is to change the culture of an academic organization, even if he has the authority of a commander in a police academy.

As part of his efforts to re-make the Academy he reviewed every new application and admitted some unlikely candidates.

Most striking is Amelia Choquet. Swiftly nicknamed Goth Girl she has multiple tattoos and piercings. Her high school marks were “abysmal”. She was a rooming house away from life on the streets. Yet she has taught herself ancient Greek and Latin.

As Gamache labours at the academy Reine Marie has become involved in archiving material donated to the regional historical historical society.

Aged poet, Ruth Zardo, is reviewing a cache of documents and papers found in the wall of Gabri and Olivier’s bistro in Three Pines. In her review she comes across a map. Its uniqueness and importance will be considered in the third post I will be writing about A Great Reckoning.

As the school year progresses Gamache is trying to determine if he is making progress in changing the Academy.

Readers learn about four students, two new and two graduating, among the group of students and professors that have spent numerous evenings with Gamache.

The Academy is thrown into chaos one late winter morning when the Duke is found dead in his rooms. He has been killed by a single shot to the head fired from a traditional revolver that he had stored in his bedroom. There are no signs of a fight. Though the scene is clearly staged it was not done to suggest a suicide. Why was this tableau created and what is its hidden meaning?

The location, characters and murder set up a mystery that is enthralling. While it is possible there was an intruder the expectation is that the killer was residing at the Academy. The Sûreté homicide unit led by Gamache’s former colleague, Isabelle Lacoste, must investigate both the students and faculty of their own force. All the professors are experienced police officers with extensive knowledge of murder. All, including Gamache, are suspects.

Lacoste reflects on the words of Mathew 10:36 that Gamache, when he was in charge of homicide, would pass on to new members of his squad:

          And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

The dynamics of the academy alone make this a compelling mystery. Penny then develops a fascinating plot line involving Three Pines. Her skill in combining the stories and reaching into the past is breathtaking. My next post explores why I find the 12th book in the series far better than some recent Gamache stories.
(Three Pines - Fictional Location) 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 Still Life; (2013) - How the Light Gets In and Comparing with The Gifted; (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)



  1. I did not realize this series had reached 12 books, Bill. I have read the first three books in the series and have the next two on my TBR pile. I am glad you enjoyed this one so much.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. The books are coming out annually so it is easy to get behind. I hope you enjoy the books from the series on your TBR pile.