The Madness of Crowds

(Book 17)

Book Summary

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Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to Three Pines in #1 New York Times bestseller Louise Penny’s latest spellbinding novel, The Madness of Crowds.

You’re a coward.

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds.

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“This doesn’t feel right, patron.” Isabelle Lacoste’s voice in his earpiece was anxious, verging on urgent.

Chief Inspector Gamache looked out over the roiling crowd, as the noise in the auditorium rose to a din.

A year ago a gathering of this sort would have not only been unthinkable, it would have been illegal. They’d have broken it up and gotten everyone tested. But thanks to the vaccines, they no longer had to worry about the spread of a deadly virus. They only had to worry about a riot.

Armand Gamache would never forget when the Premier of Québec, a personal friend, had called him with the news that they had a vaccine. The man was in tears, barely able to get the words out.

As he’d hung up, Armand had felt light-headed. He could feel a sort of hysteria welling up. It was like nothing he’d ever felt before. Not on this scale. It wasn’t just relief, it felt like a rebirth. Though not everyone, and not everything, would be resurrected.

Reading Group Guide

  • During the shooting at the lecture in Three Pines, Gamache uses his body to shield Abigail Robinson from danger. Gamache makes his feelings about Professor Robinson’s message clear from the beginning of the novel—so why does he save her life? If you were in his position, what would you have done?
  • How we care for those who cannot take care of themselves is an important theme in this novel, and many of the characters are themselves in caretaker roles. For some of these characters—Jean-Guy, Colette Roberge, Paul Robinson—how do their desires to protect the ones they love influence the decisions they make?
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