Bury Your Dead, Part 1


One of the best things about being a librarian is having the ability to recommend great books to eager readers. I get to learn about all sorts of genres and the authors who write in them.

My dad was an avid reader so when he was in hospice with multiple myeloma he wanted me to recommend some good reads. The Brutal Telling had just come out on Playaway, which is a small MP3 player that contains one audio book. My dad couldn’t hold a book or maneuver a cd player at that point so this was perfect for him. I had read great reviews of Louise Penny’s books and had always meant to try one. So Dad started reading The Brutal Telling and was thrilled to tell me and my husband, Joe (also a librarian!), all about it. This, of course, prompted us to pick up the book and read along. All three of us fell in love with Louise’s writing, with her wonderful characters and with Three Pines. My dad was nearly to the end of the book when he started to take a turn for the worse and he passed away before he had a chance to finish it. During the second day of his wake, when all of us were saying goodbye to him, Joe told me to go ahead so he could be alone with my dad. . . . A few minutes later he told me that he wanted to tell Dad how the book ended.

So then I went back and started with Still Life and caught up to the rest of the series. When I read Bury Your Dead, I thought of my dad and how he would have loved the storylines and the continued investigation into the murder of the Hermit. After it was released, my library was host to Louise as she entertained 200+ very loyal fans. So I’m very pleased to be participating in the reread. Oh, and you’ll be meeting Joe as well . . . he’s bringing you Bury Your Dead’s Recap Part 2.

With Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny brings us not one, not two, but three brilliant storylines. She uses flashbacks to tell the tale of a rescue gone awry, in a way she has not done previously. The complexity of Gamache’s character comes center stage.

Each of the three storylines will be handled separately.

Recap (Chapters 1-11)

The book opens with an adrenaline-pumping description of a police stakeout . . . and the reveal that Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has made a mistake. What mistake? What could he have possibly done and how long must we wait to find out!?

Murder at the Lit and His:

Flash forward to the present day as Gamache is being consoled by his mentor, Emile Comeau. As a result of the mysterious incident (and the urging of his wife, Reine-Marie), Gamache takes a sabbatical to the quiet of Quebec City during Winter Caranaval to recoup.

While there, Gamache decides to take advantage of one of Québec City’s most iconic institutions, the Literary and Historical Society, to research the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. During the infamous battle, French General Montcalm was defeated by the English General Wolfe—a fate which took Canada out of French rule and handed it to the British. Gamache meets the librarian Winnie and various members of the Society’s board. While there, a body is discovered in the basement of building and our recovering Chief Inspector gets roped into the investigation.

The body is that of Augustin Renaud, a Champlain scholar who made it his life’s work to discover where Québec’s hero is buried. It seems that Renaud had consistently attempted to gain an audience with the Lit and His Board because he believed that Champlain was buried in their basement. Apparently, the man had a habit of making a nuisance of himself. While investigating, Gamache speaks with board members Elizabeth MacWhirter and Porter Wilson. The police state that Renaud was killed by a shovel at approximately 11 the previous evening . . . and that someone had to have let him into the subbasement where he was found.

Elizabeth MacWhirter meets Gamache at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where they discuss the theory that the “English” may have murdered Renaud to keep the secret that Champlain was buried under the Lit and His. We then meet the young minister Thomas Hancock. Gamache asks if he is Québécois but as it turns out, he was born in New Brunswick. The Reverend sat on the Lit and His board for 18 months and tells Gamache that the Society refused to speak with Renaud. Gamache asks who has access to the basement and Hancock tells him that Winnie does. He then goes on to say that the subbasement where the body was discovered was scheduled to be cemented over in a couple of days.

Emile invites Gamache to the Château Frontenac hotel to meet with two gentlemen from the Champlain Society. René Dallaire and Jean Hamel tell Gamache that Champlain is believed to be buried near his statue in the city. The chapel where the statue now stands was burned along with all of their burial records, making it difficult to find his body. The other, more controversial, theory is that they dumped his body in a landfill while Québec City was expanding. Gamache visits the Notre Dame cathedral and meets a Father Sébastien to talk about Renaud. While there, he is told that the portrait that is most associated with Champlain is really that of Louis XIII’s accountant.

In the meantime, the board gathers to listen to Porter give a radio interview about the murder. Elizabeth then reminisces about the Separatist revolt in 1966 and how the Lit and His, an “English” institution, was attacked.

Gamache meets Inspector Langlois at Renaud’s home, which is covered with Champlainalia. After hours of searching, he comes across the diaries of Augustin Renaud.

Hermit’s Murder Revisited:

At the close of The Brutal Telling we discover that bistro owner Olivier Brulé is accused of murdering a man referred to as The Hermit. After Olivier’s arrest, Gamache starts receiving letters every day from Olivier’s partner, the affable Gabri, stating, “Why would Olivier move the body?” Gabri’s prodding prompts Gamache to send his assistant Jean-Guy Beauvoir to Three Pines to unofficially investigate.

As Beauvoir arrives in Three Pines, we have a recap of what happened in the previous book. Olivier had discovered that a hermit, who lived in a cabin in the woods, had an amazing talent for carving sculptures. Olivier exchanged food for the works of art and sold them and other valuables to an antiques dealer for a huge profit. The Hermit was later beaten to death and the weapon found in Olivier’s possession.

In Three Pines, Beauvoir visits the new inn, run by Carole Gilbert. While there he is introduced to Roar Parra, who, along with his wife Hanna and their son Havoc were all previously suspects in the murder of the Hermit.

Beauvoir decides to visit the scene of the crime and takes a Ski-doo to the Hermit’s cabin. On his ride he suddenly collapses from overwhelming “familiar” pain, only to be rescued by Dr. Vincent Gilbert, the hated “asshole saint.”

Upon recovering, Beauvoir visits Olivier in prison and tells him that Gamache has asked him to investigate his case further. Olivier admits that he has lied and proceeds to tell him how he became involved with the Hermit. He shares how he visited the Hermit every two weeks to gather the valuable goods to sell for his own profit. The Hermit had scratched the words Charlotte, Emily and Woo in carvings that he had made. Olivier confides to Beauvoir that he moved the body to implicate Mark Gilbert, the owner of the new inn in town.

Beauvoir proceeds to visit the shop where Olivier had sold the Hermit’s goods, the Temps Perdu. He questions the shop owner about Olivier’s items, under the ruse that he was Olivier’s partner and that he had died. Afterwards, Beauvoir calls to speak with Olivier, who admits to yet another lie, the Hermit was not Czech.

The Stakeout:

Now back to the story which permeates the whole book: The stakeout. In the beginning of Bury Your Dead we learn that Gamache is speaking to a young person via a set of headphones, telling the mystery listener that nothing bad will happen to him. Then we see that time is counting down: 47 seconds… 43 seconds… 36 seconds… All we know at this point is that officers are in an abandoned factory building with automatic weapons, ready to infiltrate. At this moment, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache realizes that he’s made a mistake.

As our other storylines unfold, so does the story behind the stakeout. A note from Agent Isabelle Lacoste tells Gamache that the atmosphere is intense at the Sûreté. Then we flash to memories of a funeral with uniformed officers: the first realization that someone has died.

And now the slow unfolding of the story, a brilliant device. While Gamache finds solitude at the Lit and His his peace is interrupted by haunting memories of gunshots, exploding wood and the words, “I believe you, Sir.” The fireworks for the opening festivities of the Carnaval de Québec prompt Gamache to remember that Beauvoir was shot on the factory floor.

Throughout the next several chapters Gamache recalls conversations with Agent Morin, the Sûreté officer who lovingly played the violin in the Hermit’s cabin in The Brutal Telling. The two talk about Morin’s childhood and his first swimming lesson. He speaks of his upcoming nuptials and Gamache tells of the Apache prayer that was spoken at his wedding with Reine-Marie.

We see the story through Beauvoir’s eyes as well. We discover that an officer, who had been investigating a stopped car had been shot. Agent Morin was apparently present at the incident.

Gamache then gets a call from a frantic man who was pulled over with a flat tire, a gun in his front seat. The man was terrified that the officers would find out what he was carrying in the back of his truck and, in turn, ended up shooting the officer and kidnapping Morin.

Favorite Quote

While on the phone with Morin, Gamache tells him about the Apache blessing that he and Reine-Marie used at their wedding. I was floored when I read it in Bury Your Dead because, oddly enough, Joe and I used it at our wedding as well. Here it is, in its entirety:

Now you will feel no rain
For each of you will be shelter for the other
Now you will feel no cold
For each of you will be warmth for the other
Now there is no loneliness for you
Now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two persons, but there is one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon this earth.

Discussion Questions

1. Rene said, “I sometimes think we are a rowboat society. It’s why Québec is so perfectly preserved. It’s why we’re all so fascinated with history. We’re in a rowboat. We move forward, but we’re always looking back.” Do you think this is true? Is it unique to Québec?

2. Anti-English sentiment is a theme that runs throughout the book. For American readers; were you surprised that this still exists today? For our Canadian fans, have you ever encountered this?

3. Pere Sebastien tells Gamache there are a lot of reasons for murder. Gamache answers back that there is actually only one. “Beneath all the justifications, all the psychology, all the motives given, like revenge or jealousy, there lies the real reason. Fear. Fear of losing what you have or not getting what you want.” True?

4. Which of the three storylines appeals to you the most?

5. Gamache seems newly vulnerable—and fallible—in this book, compared to the earlier titles in the series. How does this change your view of him?

6. Do you think Beauvoir’s cynical view of Three Pines is beginning to change, and if so, how?

Annette JonesANNETTE JONES is the head of adult services at the Brecksville Branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library near Cleveland, Ohio. An avid genre lover, she has hosted several mystery authors at her library, including Louise Penny. As a founding member of the Library's Reconnect With Reading Action Group, Annette has given workshops on various fiction genres and has created and administers CCPL's Read Intuit reader's advisory service. On her day off, you can find Annette combing a remote cemetery or a creepy ruin with her antique Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera.

Discussion on “Bury Your Dead, Part 1

  1. Meg R says:

    #4. MULTIPLE STORY LINES: I was surprised to see Reader’s Guide Q’s and ones above indicate that there are three story lines in this novel. I found four that intrigued me. One obviously is the murder in the Lit-His. The second is Jean-Guy’s return to Three Pines on assignment. Third is the one provided primarily in flashbacks of the hostage situation. Those three grabbed my attention because characters I knew and cared about were involved. The fourth one was a real surprise because I new absolutely nothing about it – i.e. the mysteries of Champlain! Being a U.S. citizen, I only knew he was an explorer up north and a lake bore his name, but really didn’t know anything about stories provided here in this work. Was also tickled to learn of a Pittsburgh connection too to this mystery. There are a lot of plot lines to knit and tangle in this one! Know most will want to lump #4 into #1, but -for me – although connected, they were separate threads. More on multiple plots in second half for a number of reasons.

    • Julie says:

      Meg, I think you are right in identifying the fourth storyline. For me, the information about Champlain was a revisit to what I’d learned in school. (I was born and raised in Canada, though I live in the US now.) But the information went much, much deeper than what was in our schoolbooks. Now, I began to see some detail, some idea of the deep-felt enmity between the English and French, and some of the really good reasons behind it. I grew up with the idea that the separatists in Quebec were ready to leave the country at any moment, and certainly willing to do whatever was necessary for their own sovereignty. All the information I have on this subject is seen through Anglo eyes, and really, the eyes of a child or teenager watching the adults in her life react to things. For myself, I never felt the animosity, but I know my parents’ generation did. I can remember my aunt proudly telling of turning all the cans of soup on a grocery shelf to the English side. (When I was about 16 or so, a new law in Canada required all products to have both French and English labeling, and for some reason, this really angered the Anglos! More proof that “All Anglos are crazy!” :D)

      Another part of this story is the fascinating idea of what has happened to Champlain’s body. I spent quite a bit of time on the internet regarding this storyline. Indeed, nobody knows where the body is, and there were many people who spent a lot of time “looking” for it – nobody moreso than one particular person – Rene Levesque – not to be confused with his distant cousin, Rene Levesque who was a separatist Quebec Premier. http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=1e9d50f0-d7d2-4f85-b937-dc50178e509a

      I was fascinated to read this story as it shows the degree to which Louise researches her stories, and how much they are based in fact.

      As to which storyline appeals to me most – they all have equal weight for me. I am so glad that Beauvoir is getting back into the Olivier case (and so dismayed that Olivier actually went to jail with one last lie still on his lips – a lie that can be shown to have thwarted the chances for solving the crime). But still, glad that we will get to the bottom of what really happened – or at least, we assume so, or why bother re-opening the case?

      I NEED to know what happened in the factory – what went wrong – what mistake(s) did Gamache make – who died – who did this thing? So for these reasons, I like this storyline, though it’s not warm and fuzzy and not at all easy to read, it certainly had me on the edge of my seat throughout.

      The Lit and His was such an interesting read – I certainly never knew about the organization, though I DID know there were small pockets of Anglos living in every major Quebec city. And it brought forth Gamache’s discussions with the Champlain Society (which I didn’t know about) and the largely separatist sentiments the represented members espoused. The whole idea of what happened to Champlain’s body – and even the visiting of the Plains of Abraham, the site of the battle where Champlain died, were fascinating to me.

      I think we also have to say that, while not a storyline, the City of Quebec is certainly a character in this novel. I love that Louise’s stories are uniquely and definitely Canadian.

      • Linda Maday says:

        I was facinated by the history in this book. My paternal grandmother was French Canadian. My father was born on the U. S. though, and she died when he was very young. Though he spoke only French until he was 5, he was subsequently raised by his English relatives in Montana. This series of books, an this one in particular, are like a window into what her life might have been like.

      • Sharon Norris says:

        I don’t think Champlain died on the Plains of Abraham; that was Montcalm, who,incidentally, was involved in the 5th mystery of this book. Gamache himself is investigating the great final battle which determined Quebec’s fate for the next 200 years, specifically why the great explorer Bougainville, Montcalm’s aide de camp, did not bring his men to the rescue of Montcalm as he was ordered to do. I don’t know that we actually get an answer, but this mystery is also part of the story, because it’s part of the history of Quebec and it’s the reason Gamache becomes acquainted with the Lit and Hist at the beginning. This is the third time I’ve read this book, but it probably won’t be the last. I have read all the books to date and I consider this the best by far.

        • Julie says:

          Quite right, Sharon – I misspoke.

        • Laurie Atwater says:

          This is my favorite of Louise’s books, too. It’s the weaving together of all the stories, all of them deeply intriguing to me. I knew about Bougainville and Cook, Wolfe and Montcalm. But from the Anglo perspective only. It was terrific to get the French side of the story!
          I love the relationships so much in her books, too. And especially in this one, as Jean Guy spends more time in Three Pines with the villagers, as Gamache spends time with Emile, as the board of the Lit and His bump against one another. I even like the relationship of Renaud to Champlain. It’s very real!
          I’ve listened to all her books multiple times on audio. Ralph Cosham makes them really live for me. I laugh aloud. I cry tears. This particular book hooked me from the start and just never let go. Cosham’s pacing is spot on and his reading is pitch-perfect.

          • Michele says:

            I adore Ralph Cosham’s readings of these books, also. (And do not – do NOT! – miss his Wind in the Willows.)

      • Nancy Miller says:

        Julie…thanks so much for the link to this story. It makes Louise’s story so much more real reading about someone like this who actually existed. Truth is stranger than fiction. I really appreciate your finding this.

      • Michele says:

        About the Anglo resistance to French labeling made me think of us in the U.S., and the resistance to a “second language.” Spanish has been spoken on this land at least as long as English, but we persist in claiming that English was the ORIGINAL language (to the rolling of eyes from the ORIGINAL natives, I would think.) I think people cling to the familiar, but they also don’t want to lose touch with their own past, with their mothers and fathers, their grandparents, and want to save something of it for their children. I’m curious about the labeling laws, however. I know the French meticulously protect their language from incursions from other languages. I’m guessing (just guessing) that this is something the Quebecois have learned to do from their “mother country” in order to protect their heritage. But I guess if I were an Anglo I might perceive it as retaliation, even if it were not intended that way.

        • Cathryne Spencer says:

          Great point about Spanish and English languages in the U.S., Michelle. And helpful in understanding the characters in this book and their language prickliness/disagreement/anger. I live in San Diego, Ca., but one can find strong emotions regarding official/original language throughout the country.

        • Julie says:

          Michele – that’s a great point you make about the Spanish language here, AND the native languages! The labeling laws came in while I was a teenager and were part and parcel (at least in my very faulty memory, these many years later) with the rise in influence of Pierre Trudeau as he worked to be elected as Prime Minister. Until 1965, we were truly a part of the British Commonwealth. Our National Anthem was God Save the Queen (or King, depending on date), and our flag was the Union Jack, though there WAS another Canadian flag with the Union Jack in one corner on a red background, with a shield representing Canada – very similar to the provincial flags of the time. I remember the national contest to design a new flag at that time. In 1980, the National Anthem we all now know as “O Canada” was adopted as the official flag of Canada, and somewhere around that time, “Dominion Day” became “Canada Day”. Around the time that we became a sovereign nation, (when Pierre Trudeau went to England and brought back the constitution in 1982) it was officially decided that we would have two official languages and BOTH would be used equally for official Canadian business. Until that time, even though a large number of people in the country did not speak or read English, all road signage, labels, and most especially, all the Parliamentary business of the country was in English. It seemed almost as though the Anglos were happy enough to have French-speaking neighbors as long as they “knew their place”. I can’t IMAGINE nobody thought the Francophones wouldn’t object to this! The very charismatic Mr. Trudeau charmed all of Canada, then brought in many changes that the English speaking people of the country were upset about! So silly in retrospect – yet, as has been noted several times here – people in general don’t like change, and some of these seemed to be radical changes. To give the devil his due – Mr. Trudeau, while being a Francophone first and foremost, quashed, very effectively, a bid for separatism that most likely would have succeeded without his very strong government intervention, suppressing a violent revolt. My teenage and young adult years saw so much change in Canada that it became pretty “normal” for the country to be in flux. As I said, in my faulty memory banks, this is all the doing of Mr. Trudeau. Love him or hate him (and that’s pretty much how the country became divided), he did a lot to make Canada a proud and independent nation.

          I also suspect that my upbringing (in a not only English-speaking household, but one with parents who were actually from England) caused my experiences and memory of this time to be different from someone who grew up in, say, a Polish or Italian family.

          • Julie says:

            The National Anthem did NOT become the official flag of the country – SO wish we could edit posts, hahaha. It became the official Anthem.

    • Barbara H. Johnson says:

      Like you, I knew of Champlain only as an explorer and the lake named for him. I didn’t know about the mystery surrounding him so for me it is another story line. Another opportunity to learn. I love it.

    • Ann says:

      Meg, I, too, as a US citizen, was surprised by my lack of knowledge of my “neighbors to the north.” I have spent interesting hours reading about the Quebec situation. We are really more closely related than I had thought.

    • Diane says:

      Hello, Meg and all,
      As far as three or four storylines, why not go for FIVE?! I was very interested in learning about Emile Comeau, Gamache’s mentor. As the frame for the story of the murder at the Lit and His, we get to learn about Armand when he was in Jean Guy’s position of new, brash Agent Gamache. We learn that Emile was the one who told Gamache the four questions that lead to wisdom. We see how their relationship has matured and continued, and (SPOILER ALERT) how it is tested when Emile lies to Armand about the meeting time for the Champlain Society, thus revealing Emile’s true loyalties.

      What I have so enjoyed about these re-reads is linking, layer by layer, all of the rich details of these books taken as a whole. What masterful (or would that be mistressful ! :«) storytelling!

      • Meg R says:

        Diane, Yes! Emile does represent the fifth story line! He slides in so quickly in the opening pages with Armand and Reine-Marie that I sort of lumped him in with the Gamache family. So our author is juggling 5 balls, trying to keep straight 5 story strands here.

        • Meg R says:

          So, we’re up to SiX STORY LINES! 1) Lit-His murder 2) Emile/Armand background story 3) Jean-Guy in Three Pines 4) the hostage situation 5) mystery of Champlain and 6) mystery of Bouganville! I want to talk more about these, but will wait until we finish the book next week!

          HAPPY CANADA DAY to our participants north of the border!

  2. Meg R says:

    Darn “K” key’s sticking again! Should be “knew” not “new”!

  3. Julie says:

    Rene said, “I sometimes think we are a rowboat society. It’s why Québec is so perfectly preserved. It’s why we’re all so fascinated with history. We’re in a rowboat. We move forward, but we’re always looking back.” Do you think this is true? Is it unique to Québec?

    I do think it’s true, and that it’s perhaps unique to Canada, not just Quebec. To me, it’s the difference between the “melting pot” and the “mosaic”. In Canada, people have been encouraged to hang onto their ethnic roots, their mother language, etc., while in the US, immigrants have always been urged to “assimilate” as quickly as possible. This has meant the dropping of much of their history and language. There are probably other countries for whom the “rowboat” analogy works, but I just don’t know about them.

    • Kim B says:

      Other rowboat societies/nations: Jewish look back to remember they are the chosen people and their history of genocide so that it doesn’t happen again. Ukrainians look back to their history of genocide under the Stalin regime. I’ve also noticed on travels that some countries such as England preserve their historical buildings and sites as museums, while others such as France keep using them….sometimes not in a reverent way. What a society holds onto says a lot.

    • Meg R says:

      Julie, you made one of those little bells ring in the Meg brain! :~} – for two of the Q’s

      1. ANTI-ANGLO SENTIMENTS. Yes, I was vaguely aware of some discord between those of French and British ancestry in the province. Had a friend who attended college in Quebec to earn a degree in French a while back, but I never realized just how deeply and far back the roots of this issue were.

      A summer or two ago, I was working on a family genealogy project – primarily on my mother’s side. I and my siblings grew up in a small conservative town in western Pennsylvania. Since both of my mother’s parents immigrated from Poland (or whatever country occupied Poland then) during the late 1800-early 1900’s, we were having a difficult time trying to find not only their hometowns, but also who their parents were. Thought looking in county records for marriage license would provide info. I was absolutely stunned to see that for about twenty to thirty years spanning that period, the only marriage licenses recorded were those of primarily Anglo families (those of English, Irish and Scottish descent). There also was a large Italian contingency in one section of town and a large German one in another. Their names only made up about 1 to 2% of all names recorded! My grandparents lived in a smaller community abutting the city. It was settled by immigrants from eastern-Europe and some from Russia. None of their marriages were recorded entries in the official county records!

      I then went to their church, the other one where they married and eventually had to contact the diocese to find a record of their marriage as prior churches had been closed. From that recorded info, we were able to later obtain copies of their applications for naturalization and documents granting them citizenship. Although my grandmother could read and write in Polish, she never really mastered English. My grandfather learned enough to be able to work in coal mines and then later for Pullman – building sleeper, passenger and freight cars. They never really became assimilated into the larger community. Their children eventually did when they had to learn English in school. I haven’t lived in that town for almost 50 years now, but there are still very strong ethnic divisions/groupings and neighborhoods there.
      So – when I read about the Anglo-French divisiveness in this novel, I really wasn’t surprised by it. Coincidentally, there has been a recent influx of refugees from Nepal in my section of the city. Many of these people had spent up to 15 years in refugee camps when they were ousted from their homes by the Chinese. I’ve heard grumblings from Anglos in the area about “those people”. Unfortunately, that “Us-Them” mentality is very difficult for many people to let go of, to “adapt” (a repeated verb in this book!) to the new or change.

      • Julie says:

        Meg, you are so right! You’d think we’d learn, but each generation sends to have to find these things out the hard way! It’s certainly not just the French and English – there are so many instances of intolerance all around.

        Kim, I’d like to believe that the younger people have let go of resentments so old no-one remembers how they started! That would be a very good thing.

    • Michele says:

      I can’t speak with any knowledge about Quebec history, but I think we actually do have something of a rowboat culture in the U.S., not so much of real history, but of an image. We like to believe we come from pioneers who went out on their own and made it on their own, while in fact they wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t had the support of a community. Our mountain men of legend were actually misfits, and many of them came to a bad end. But still, we love the legend and people cling to that as the ideal.

    • Diane Grindol says:

      We are in somewhat of a rowboat in Monterey, CA. You can visit adobes kept as they were when the city was first settled, and also can travel up and down California to visit the Missions built a day’s ride apart from each other a couple hundred years ago. Though.. the services in active missions are not in Latin, and the Spanish of the mission builders is a second language. We kept the structures, not the culture of those times.

  4. Julie says:

    Gamache seems newly vulnerable—and fallible—in this book, compared to the earlier titles in the series. How does this change your view of him?

    Of course, it is painful to see Gamache be so vulnerable. At the same time, as we see him work through this catastrophe, we can see that he will survive. That he may be “sadder but wiser” after this. What is almost unbearable is the idea that Gamache takes so much of the blame for what happened onto himself. The plot was so very clever that I’m sure nobody else could have come close to working it out and saving anyone – Gamache was able to save a very great many lives – but not everyone. For this, he blames himself, and is haunted by Morin’s voice.

    One of the wonderful things to come from this, though, is to see his 3 am romps with Henri, who has become a full-fledged character in this book. Such unconditional love and joy must go a long way to healing Gamache – and I love to see him playing with Henri, and teasing him with the snowballs which inexplicably disappear just as Henri bites down on them! :D

    In the end, I think we know Gamache so much better after this book – we’ve been allowed a very intimate look, and it greatly enriches the whole experience for me.

    • Karen Gast says:

      I agree completely, Julie. This was the darkest of all the Gamache stories for me and I suffered a lot of angst reading it because I felt so deeply for Gamache.

      • Kim B says:

        I agree too. Gamache became much more human. More real. More compelling. And it was so hard to see him struggle. I needed the breaks that the other story lines gave.

        • Marie says:

          As did I. It was very difficult for me to read. You could only imagine the pain he was going through. Although I didn’t think it could be so, Gamache became even more endearing to me. I also agree there needed to be the breaks in the tale of the tragedy to send your mind elsewhere away from the pain. Heartbreaking, intriguing, beautiful tale.

      • Linda Maday says:

        I as most felt this book made Gamache seem so much more real. He’s always been described as more mature, but in this book we see him age. We’ve always seen him as kind and rarely wrong or fallible. He is now so much more human, his hand shakes; he’s scarred mentally and physically. He is still vital, but slower, quieter. I think he is trying in his mind to say, “I didn’t know. . . I’m sorry. . . I need help. . . please forgive me,” to those that were lost or hurt under his command. Almost like a morning prayer, or a recitation of his nightly sums.

        I was especially touched by the love and support of his wife. She didn’t smother or baby him as did Jean Guy’s wife. Though it must have been difficult, Reine gave him space to reflect while still helping him remember their togetherness. I’ve always liked Reine Marie, but in this book she was the light in Gamache’s space.

        • lrh says:

          Beautifully described & insightful Holly. This group of readers is a delight and adds meaningfully to my experience of the Gamach books. For me, Louise Penny’s work is an enlightenment and a joy to read.

      • Aganita Varkentine says:

        I found the Paul Morin thread of the novel almost unbearable, eve the first time I read the book. All the other plot lines are important in themselves, but also in how they break the tension. I think it is the best of the series up to this point.

    • Diane Grindol says:

      It is painful to see Gamache so affected by his mistake in the shootout. I love the homely banter he has with Morin. Sweet, real-life dialog of everyday things, with Gamache participating fully. I kept thinking I’d be so tired talking for 24 hours straight and might run out of topics.

  5. Linda Maday says:


    I think some locations are more “row boat” than others. In the U.S. Perhaps we are more canoe, where the rower looks and moves forward, seldom looking back. In either case it’s sad how often people don’t realize we’re all in this together and you can’t sink the other end of the boat without sinking your own.

    • Julie says:

      Well said, Linda – this is a lesson so many of us need to learn.

    • Meg R says:


      Kim B & Linda,
      When I first saw this term in the book – I immediately thought this was a reference to the U.S,!!! – Especially about stalemates in our federal government and blockages caused by “Tea Partiers”, John Boehner & cronies – i.e. — the old white guys and Sara Palin who want us to go back to the way things were in this country in the 1950’s! Rowin’ a boat, only looking back without a plan for the future. An unwillingness to adapt today to “horror of horrors” – having an African-American as our President. Lump a good chunk of southern obstructionists in there too who haven’t accepted that our civil war was fought and ended over 150 years ago. More and more of that “Us-Them” mentality. I look at them and think of what would happen to our country if they completely get the upper hand in all three executive branches! – Anybody remember the world of Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaiden’s Tale”? Can give you nightmares!!

      Extremism in any form or -ism really bothers me – especially if and when there are people who will act on it. I miss the days when we had legislators who actually talked and worked across party lines for the greater good.

  6. Julie says:

    Do you think Beauvoir’s cynical view of Three Pines is beginning to change, and if so, how?

    Oh, Beauvoir! Here is where he really begins to grow and change, and yet also, where he begins his “dance with the devil”… He has to navigate Three Pines without Gamache for the first time, and so he must talk to everyone, and allow them to treat him as a friend. And shock of shocks, he begins to feel friendly toward them! He still thinks Anglos are crazy, but he also begins to understand why Gamache loves this village so much. It begins to work its magic on him, and I love watching that. Now, we have him seeking Ruth out – talking with her – something that has come about in part because he needs to talk to someone who won’t “sympathize”, but also because Ruth reached out to him in the last novel. I love this first showing of Beauvoir’s vulnerability, and understanding toward the villagers. I also love that he is beginning to dress properly for the weather! His sartorial days are waning, which can only be a good thing, hahaha.

  7. Linda Maday says:


    I was so glad to revisit the Olivier case and I was fascinated by the case of the Lit and His but my heart was truly drawn to the stake out. I was so fond of the young agent Morin.

    In each story up to this, we have only briefly known or been told about the victim. In this we hear of Morin’s childhood, his impending marriage, his relationship with his father, his hopes, his fears, his trust in Gamache. This young man’s story pierced my heart on first reading and each subsequent. I even downloaded the song he played on the violin to my iPad.

    • Julie says:

      Yes, Linda, my heart broke for Morin, for his fiancee, and for Gamache, as it dawned on me that, as we were getting to know Morin more, we were also saying goodbye to him.

  8. Jody Hamilton says:

    I agree with Linda Maday that the storyline at the factory and the conversations between Gamache and Morin were the most compelling and interesting to me.

    I listened to the audiobook of this story (read by Ralph Coshem) and since I was driving when I began listening, I had to shut it off within a few minutes after I started. So intense and so emotional; I had to take a break right away. As this storyline continued, I was brought to tears on numerous occasions.

    Definitely my favorite of the series to date.

  9. The three story lines are used to entangle you with the characters. Tragedy is happening and it is all around everyone. As an US reader I was intrigued with Quebec, the Anglo Society and the tensions that had existed and continued to exist. I knew little about this aspect of Canadian life. Champlain? A whole new chapter of history to explore. Each character is undergoing profound changes. The nightmare of wounds that are really not healed, wounds digging deeper into the psyche of Beauvoir, the betrayals that seem to never to untangle. Louise Penney had me going back and forth, rereading what I read to better understand what was going on. I liked the fact that Gamache is revisiting the case of Olivier, I was so unhappy at the end of the last book, the tangled webs within 3 Pines pulls the reader even closer to that mystical village.

  10. Ruth says:

    The reasons for murder (question #3) have for me always been the three well known ones. I hadn’t really considered the idea of fear being the actual basis under all of them, but now I think it is. It makes perfect sense and can certainly be an extremely strong emotion.

    Although there are certainly multiple story lines, I was viscerally drawn to Gamache’s suffering and his attempt to recover his strength, both physical and mental, and his confidence. What was at stake was his ability to continue his life as it had been, although “older and wiser.” It is not easy to accept the inability to solve all problems that come into someone’s life, and Penny has shown this so clearly in Gamache.

    Bury Your Dead is the first of the Gamache books that I read. I was going through a very difficult patch in my own life when I read it and the story meant so much more to me because of that. I needed to bury my own dead and was having trouble doing it. In my mind, I was walking in the early hours with Henri and trying to clear my mind so I could rest. Of course I immediately went back and read all the books leading up to it, but it still remains my favorite. Penny has the ability to share the depth of human emotions in a very realistic way and I think that along with her deep research and strong storytelling are the reasons she is my favorite author.

    • Michele says:

      Oh, well said, Ruth, particularly about walking with Gamache in the early morning hours. I’ve heard that that time around three and four is called the devil’s hour, and I can really believe it. When I wake up and start to toss and turn, my thoughts go to might-have-beens and things that I really can’t solve. I eventually made a rule with myself: if I don’t fall back to sleep in fifteen minutes, I go out to my computer and play solitaire or work a jigsaw puzzle. Focusing on the one thing pulls back all the thought balloons in a bunch and I can go back to sleep. The descriptions of Gamache walking, walking, walking through a quiet city, it’s such a vivid depiction of how it feels to be haunted by early morning ghosts.

  11. Kim B says:

    #2. Anti English sentiment. I’ve spent 2 immersion summers in Quebec – the first, when I was 18 and fresh out of high school, was in Quebec City at l’Universite Laval. It was always easy to find English speaking people because of tourism. Students struggled by in French, but many times the Quebecois waiters, store clerks, etc. switched to English. I chose to think it was because they wanted to help out rather than because they wanted to show superiority. They didn’t know whether we were students wanting to improve our language skills or tourists coming to see the living history. At the “discos”, the first question was “Anglophone ou francophone?”, so it definitely mattered. But maybe just because the person making the inquiry thought that he’d get lucky with a young girl from “away”. Or maybe he thought he had less obligation to talk or knew he had to talk slower. It certainly didn’t mean that we got ignored.
    The second immersion program – after a science degree and part way through an education degree – was at Chicoutimi (a much more unilingual French city). Here, the university students helping out were beautiful and kind. And the people generally complimented students on our “excellent” French. We were not subjected to lecturing about how the English had oppressed the French and how it was still going on. Of course, everyone involved with the program wanted to help the poor Anglophones learn la belle langue, so my experience is probably skewed.

    • Julie says:

      I think it’s important to note that the resentments were not one-sided, and not limited to Quebec. All of Canada had such feelings, and as a whole, I expect there were much more anti-Francophone feelings than the other way around.

  12. Carol says:

    I too truly enjoyed getting into the history of the Quebec area, discovering the longstanding differences between the people and observing the caring of preserving their ways…..feeling I was among them, within those old walls or walking those sacred battlefields….Louise Penny puts you there….and then rereading chapters to clarify within my sleepy mind, because I could not put the book down…..feeling as though I had led my men into a trap, men that put all their trust in me,….still not getting to the bottom of those well kept secrets, but all the while, feeling guilty for that outcome in that warehouse…..
    I have read almost all the Gamache books, and am sad when I finish one, but eager to read the next. I wish the story would just go on and on, the characters never ending. I cannot say which one has been my favorite, love them all.

  13. Karen I Ford says:

    I agree with you all — this was the darkest Gamache book. I also agree that there were four story-lines but Louise was able to not lose the reader in this story.
    The canoe analogy is not just a “Quebec” thing. It is human nature — we are searching for what we may have missed, looking back at the “what if’s” in history — personal or community.
    Because I have a degree in Social Sciences and taught history, I was aware of some of the story of Champlain but also found I needed to dig deeper into the “stacks” to discover more of what happened to him.
    My parents had many Canadian friends, both English and French, so I was very aware of the tension around the Anglophone/Francophone disputes and the Separatist movement.
    It was interesting to see Jean-Guy go alone to Three Pines. This is a different side of Jean-Guy. He is still not whole, like Gamache, but he is pushing through his pain. It is interesting that Jean-Guy is willing to go back and look at the evidence with Olivier, Gabri, etal. It opens him up to see the village in a different light and we actually begin to see a “human” — he has been so much the “cop” who sees the world as all black or all white.
    We really see a very vulnerable Gamache in this book. WE see how deeply he grieves for the mistakes made and all the people hurt or killed. But it also opens up the question — why did this happen? What are the other underlying causes to this costly encounter?
    I am one who loves to be in libraries and museums and art galleries — have a new goal to go to Quebec City and visit the Lit and Hit!

    • Meg R says:

      Karen, your comments about JEAN-GUY reminded me about chuckling when I first read that he had been assigned to return to 3 P’s with a new mission. We know that our “dapper Dan” thinks that Anglos are all crazy and that he defines himself as a Surete officer who has to get the bad guy – almost like a blood hound pulling at a leash to follow a scent! Cracked me up when Gamache assigned him to work the case with the intent to prove that Olivier had not killed the Hermit! Talk about pulling the rug out from under Beauvior! :~D

      Armand was always the one who socialized with the villagers and became friends with a number of them. J-G always seemed to maintain his “Sergeant Friday” posture (from old, old “Dragnet” tv series) when he was around the villagers before. He tolerated the local “crazies”. Now J-G has been forced to interact and deal with our local characters as if they’re real people instead of the “Them”! Our boy’s slowly maturing a tad in this book!

  14. Maddie says:

    Bury Your Dead is my favorite of the series, and honestly one of the finest books I have ever read — and I’ve been a bookseller for 15 years (and an avid reader for far more!). Louise weaves the 4 story lines together masterfully, but the story between Morin and Gamache is heartbreakingly beautiful. The device of having them talk non-stop while Gamache desperately tries to solve the crime is just stunning in how it reveals not just the mind but the heart of the Chief Inspector. I love, love, love this book and recommend it to EVERYONE, although I do think you should start at Still Life!

    • Kim B says:

      The conversations between Gamache and Morin were a brilliant way to let us in to discover Gamache. And so haunting.

  15. Holly Collar says:

    I’m spending my summer re-reading Louise Penny’s books and just finished Bury Your Dead this afternoon. Reading it immediately following The Brutal Telling was excellent — follows the Hermit’s murder to a very unexpected conclusion, and the further unveiling Beauvior’s growth as a more accepting man was unexpected and very pleasing.
    As an American with French Canadian roots, it was gratifying to learn so much about Samuel Champlain and Quebec. Sure love books that stretch my limited knowledge –we’re always learning! Perhaps the rowboat example is true of us all — it’s much more comfortable to live in the present and look back, ignoring a future that’s so unsettling.
    Thank you Louise, for your very real, well developed and layered characters as well as story lines that challenge us.

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