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Maddening Crowds   Leave a comment

In my effort not to binge read Louise Penny mysteries, I discovered I’m still not up to date on her oeuvre. The Madness of Crowds gets me closer. Written in the midst of the pandemic,  this novel incorporates an element of timeliness unlike most of Penny’s previous works.

Beginning with the loosening of mask mandates and the availability of vaccinations, the residents of Three Pines are finally comfortable venturing out to enjoy the companionship of family and friends.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is tasked with overseeing security at a nearby university for a controversial speaker. Professor Abigail Robinson believes the pandemic demonstrated the need to euthanize the physically weak and mentally feeble but otherwise healthy human beings. Her thesis slowly gains attention from supporters and detractors.

The usual cast of characters is featured, including Gamache’s family, his closet colleagues Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste, along with the quirky, but endearing residents, of the serene, isolated village of Three Pines. Added to the mix are Robinson, her assistant, the university’s chancellor and a Sudanese refugee being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.

No Gamache tale would be complete without plenty of intrigue. In this case several issues arise, in addition to that of euthanizing, there’s murder, defending free speech,  family secrets, tortuous mental health treatments and how far one has – or might have –  to go to protect a loved one.

The murder investigation is at the forefront, but everything else is always near the surface.

The Madness of Crowds

Four Bookmarks

Minotaur Books,  2021

436 pages, including acknowledgements