"Hearts are broken," Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. "Sweet relationships are dead."
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems.
Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.
Yet, as always, Penny gives us characters that are so real and nuanced that, frankly, you want to go and, if not live with them, at least spend a few weeks of quality time. Calling them "real," is perhaps a disservice, because the central characters, especially Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Sûreté du Québec, are in many ways the people we wish we could be. They are wise and kind and generous and damaged and flawed and trying their very best. They love and are loved, and have good friends with whom they share wine and simple meals (food is taken very seriously in these books!). The mental landscape of the characters is revealed through writing of such elegant and resonant clarity that the advancement of the story becomes synonymous with the development of a deep personal relationship with the characters.