The Madness of Crowds

Minotaur: St. Martin’s (Chief Inspector Gamache, Bk. 17). Aug. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9781250145260. $28.99. M
Penny’s 17th entry in the “Chief Inspector Gamache” series (after All the Devils Are Here) finds the Gamache family in the Québec village of Three Pines during the Christmas holidays. The threat of COVID-19 has subsided, and the villagers may gather again. Many of the village windows still display children’s drawings with the words “Ça va bien aller” (“All will be well”). That phrase was used as comfort during the pandemic but now it has been co-opted by statistician Abigail Robinson, who uses data to prove that better times may come, but that there will be a price. Inspector Gamache must protect Professor Robinson during her lecture, which is attended by an unstable crowd. An incident at the lecture pulls Gamache into the world of this controversial academic. As the conflict moves to Three Pines, the tension escalates, resulting in crimes that seem impossible to untangle.
VERDICT This book has layers within layers: good versus evil; our duty to the weak; the nature of power; the fact that good people are not always likable, and likable people are not always good. Penny’s familiar characters are back, along with some intriguing visitors. The mystery will keep readers absorbed until the end and might make them realize how this unprecedented pandemic has changed the world. Highly recommended for public libraries.
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