"Kingdom of the Blind" by Louise Penny; Minotaur (384 pages, $28.99)
Each of Louise Penny's novels takes the reader to the idyllic-sounding Canadian town of Three Pines where a diverse group of residents thrive on their closeness, their acceptance of each other's lives and the beautiful landscape. But these residents also know that malfeasance can lurk just under the surface.
That picturesque view can be deceptive. A heavy snow is beautiful to watch from the safety of "a cheery hearth." But it also can be deadly for those who don't respect how brutal nature can be. "A Quebec winter, so cheerful and peaceful, could turn on you.... In the countryside, winter was a gorgeous, glorious, luminous killer."
No one knows this better than Chief Supt. Armand Gamache of the S–rete du Quebec, making his 14th appearance in the enthralling "Kingdom of the Blind." Gamache has found Three Pines to be a refuge from his high-profile job, and, now on suspension, needs that sense of sanctuary more than ever.
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But where Gamache goes, so do mysteries. He, his neighbor Myrna Landers, a psychologist-turned-bookseller, and the young stranger Benedict Pouliot, a builder, are named executors for the will of an elderly woman who called herself the Baroness. While Gamache and Myrna know each other, none of them were acquainted with the Baroness, and the trio is not sure why they were chosen. The terms of the will also are confusing, and before they can work with the will, a key beneficiary is killed.
As Gamache, along with Myrna and Benedict, look into the murder, the chief superintendent also contends with his suspension that hinges on a drug investigation in Montreal. While that investigation was set in motion in Penny's 2017's "Glass Houses," "Kingdom of the Blind" can be enjoyed without reading that previous novel, though savvy readers will not want to deprive themselves of another visit to Three Pines.
Penny pulls together an insightful plot that weaves in family feuds, clandestine investigations, undercover cops and a loving look at Three Pines.
"The Kingdom of the Blind" realistically careens from one surprising turn to the other. Each twist further echoes the unpredictability of nature and people. "...both beautiful and alarming. Comforting and ominous. As though nature were trying to decide whether to protect or consume the little village."