Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny
I first heard about Louise Penny in 2009. I was at Houston's marvelous Murder by the Book [which has been enabling my book habit for almost 20 years now] waiting for a book signing to start, when I overhead staff members repeatedly recommending Louise Penny's books. The recommendations were clearly genuine, coming from a real knowledge & appreciation of Penny's books. I headed over to where they were displayed for an upcoming signing, and ended up buying the first one, Still Life. It came home to the TBR pile, where of course it languished for far too long.
Fast forward to this past December, when I had a day off from work and picked it up. I'm sure I must have set it down again at some point during the day, but I wouldn't swear to it. I was completely caught up with the characters, and with the life of Three Pines, and with the art at the heart of the mystery. All too soon, it ended, and I was left with just the teaser chapter at the back of the book for A Fatal Grace. After work the next day, I virtuously headed to the library to collect the rest of the series - but there were none on the shelves, and a waiting list. I had no patience for a long reserve list, so I rushed off to MBTB, where everyone nodded knowingly as I picked up the four then in paperback. One helpful staffer even found me a used copy of Bury Your Dead.
Though I rushed to get the books, I didn't rush through the series (for once). They are such rich experiences that I wanted to savor them, not just gobble to find what happens next. Thus it's two months later and I have just finished the last (so far) of the series. In the meantime, I've given the first to three people for Christmas, and recommended them with the same fervor as the MBTB staff to others.
Bury Your Dead has several story lines woven together, one set in Quebec City and one in Three Pines - some set in the present and some in the past - one in the recent past and some much further back. The book opens with aching loss, and I was anxious about who had been lost - in fact I peeked ahead to be sure it wasn't Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Unfortunately, it did turn out to be a character from The Brutal Telling whom I had mentally labeled "the red shirt guy." But Jean-Guy and Isabel and Reine-Marie and Clara and Ruth and Gabri and Henri are all safe - and Armand Gamache is healing.
I love the quote from Kirkus Reviews, "If you don't give your heart to Gamache, you may have no heart to give." I have given my heart. He joins Peter Wimsey, and Francis Crawford, and Aral Vorkosigan, in my pantheon of perfect literary men - and the recap of the video from the raid reminded me very much of the Dendarii raid at the start of Lois McMaster Bujold's Mirror Dance - down to the headset video and the fall of the leader.