Thursday, September 14, 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Louise Penny's latest novel deals with contemporary issues. In the face of ever-bolder criminals, the corruption and inadequacy of traditional Quebec institutions is thrown into sharp relief. 

As organized criminals plan to recruit new krokodil users,  freshly promoted Surete head Armand Gamache carefully plans his action against them. For a year, he's been gathering a team of with the integrity to face the fact that things may get worse before they improve. "It was an ever-evolving world, thought Gamache. Adapt or die."

Penny also probes the darker sides of friendship, using two couples who've been friends since adolescence. Using "'the tyranny of the weak,'" the dominant one is "not the one it would appear to be."

Jean-Guy Beauvoir, still working for Gamache, has a son. The fact that Beauvoir now wears glasses carries a multifaceted symbolic weight. Even as the spectacles demonstrate his increasing maturity, they also allude to what he has seen -- his hard experience -- as well as what he sees and does not see as an increasingly skilled investigator.

Isabel Lacoste, the new head of Homicide, enjoys watching Gamache and his son-in-law work together. In a moment of levity, she observes that "If ever two men were made for cahoots, it was these two. They were cahootites."

The atmosphere of the village is the same, and there are moments of playful humour to lighten the heaviness. The Gamaches still have their faithful dog Henri, a mutt of mixed breeds, whose ears seem to indicate that he has "some satellite dish in him." But he is handsome compared to their other rescue dog, described by Beauvoir as being pup, pug, pig or possibly wolverine.

This novel also portrays an ambitious politician, whom Lacoste must interview. Even though she is "not the cynical sort," Isabel always feels a "slight alarm go off when anyone answered 'honestly' to an interrogation question." On balance, she credits the woman with sincerity and true shock on hearing of the murder of one of her friends. Still, the police officer knows that "politics is theater."

Contemporary themes, sleight of language and a leavening of humour go together to make this another fascinating and absorbing Gamache novel.

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