INTRODUCTION BY ANNETTE JONES
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.
Ch. 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.
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.
Ch. 12 – end: Hi, this is Joe taking over for Annette on part 2 of this recap. I consider myself a reader and have been ever since I can remember. Over the years there have been many books I have loved and consider a favorite. Surprisingly though, I am not the type of reader who will reread a book. There are so many books I want to read that I have a hard time justifying going back to one I’ve already read even, if it was a favorite of mine. Bury Your Dead I can make an exception for because it still won’t let go of my emotions after all this time.
Murder at the Lit and His:
While going through Renaud’s diaries, Gamache finds the date of the Lit and His board meeting with nothing else. He also sees a notation for the following week—SC at 1pm. The journal is blank after that. Looking back he finds a mention of the Lit and His a week before the board meeting and above it, four names Renaud planned to meet there—a Chin, a JD, S. Patrick, and F. O’Mara with the number 18-something. There is a S. Patrick in the phone book.
A visit to Sean Patrick’s house turns up nothing of interest, as does asking the Lit and His board. Gamache does notice some strange numbers in the book Mr. Blake is reading that look like two numbers Renaud had put in his diary: 9-8499 & 9-8572. It turns out they are catalog numbers the Lit and His used years ago. Not a very efficient system and the best they can do is narrow the references down to two possible years. The first year is 1939 and does not seem promising. The next. from 1899, refers to a lot donated by Madame Claude Marchand of Montreal. Gamache later discovers that Marchand was a housekeeper in 1899 for a Charles Paschal Télesphore Chiniquy who had died that year.
From Émile., we learn that Chiniquy was a priest who preached against the dangers of alcohol in Québec back in the 1860s or 1870s.
Gamache heads to search the local bookstores while Émile. does more research on Chiniquy. Gamache finds a store that sold Renaud some boxes of books it had purchased from the Lit and His the previous summer. Émile. discovers that Chiniquy was good friends with a James Douglas, who was one of the founders of the Lit and His. James was a doctor who started a mental hospital in Québec after being forced to leave the United States for robbing the wrong grave for dissection purposes. Also, it is revealed that the books that were sold by the Lit and His included the collection donated by Mrs. Claude Marchand back in 1899.
Gamache gets the idea to go back to Sean Patrick’s house and ask if he can check the back of a photo he noticed on his first visit. The photo is of Patrick’s great-grandfather, who shared his name, and a group of laborers in front of a large hole. The back of the photo reveals the names Sean Patrick and Francis O’Mara with the date 1869. Gamache also learns Patrick bought his home in 1870 in an unusual location for an Irish laborer to be able to afford.
Now we know the four names mentioned in Renaud’s diary. Gamache first meets with the Chief Archeologist, Serge Croix, to ask him to look into what digging work was going on at the time of the photograph. and then with Langlois to find that Renaud had left some boxes of books with his ex-wife. Gamache immediately visits Madame Renaud and discovers that two of the books are missing. The two they are searching for.
Serge Croix sends Gamache an email telling him that in the summer of 1869 there were three big digs—one at the Citadelle, one at the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital, and one to dig a basement under the local restaurant The Old Homestead. Visiting the restaurant, Gamache recognizes the site of the photo he found at Sean Patrick’s house.
Gamache then spends a few hours at the Lit and His examining their books. When he leaves he has two books hidden in his satchel.
At the meeting of the Société Champlain, Gamache tells a story about what happened in the summer of 1869. The two books missing from Renaud’s collection are the two books Gamache found at the Lit and His: one of Chiniquy’s diaries and Champlain’s bible! The bible shows that Champlain was a Huguenot, which is why he was not buried in the Catholic cemetery. Also, from the diary we learn that Patrick and O’Mara found Champlain’s coffin under the Old Homestead and brought it to the Lit and His. After the meeting, Gamache asks Émile. why he lied about the time the meeting started and why he didn’t tell him the SC appointment in Renaud’s diary was for a meeting at the Société Champlain. Émile.apologizes for lying and says they rejected meeting with Renaud, who told them he had discovered important information and was willing to bury it if they accepted him into the group.
Back at the Lit and His, we find Inspector Langlois and Serge Croix in the basement. Gamache wants them to search again for the coffin and when Croix sees Champlain’s bible he agrees. A coffin is found buried near the stairs. The coffin is opened and…it contains the skeleton of a woman.
That evening Gamache and Henri head out for their nightly walk. Even in a blizzard they walk on until they are at The Plains of Abraham, where they find they are not the only ones out on this frigid late evening. Entering a stone turret to get out of the storm, Gamache finds the mystery guest is the young Presbyterian minister, Tom Hancock, whom he identifies as Renaud’s killer. Tom doesn’t deny it and says he had to because he was the only one who could. Also, that he came out in the storm to take his own life to end things. Gamache refuses to let that happen and finally Tom agrees to go with him to be arrested.
Hermit’s Murder Revisited:
Beauvoir returns to the B&B after learning from Olivier that the Hermit’s name was not really Jakob. He decides to take Clara into his confidence and tell her the real reason he is back in Three Pines. Time for Beauvoir to question the original suspects, starting with Old Mundin and The Wife.
During an exercise class Clara and Myrna are debating if they should murder their instructor Pina. Elizabeth Gilbert and The Wife both agree that they should and need to do it now! After the class Clara tries to steer the conversation to help Beauvoir and asks Hanna if she could kill anyone. She is not sure, but both Dominique and The Wife say if they had to they could.
After hearing about this conversation, Beauvoir calls Gamache and says he needs his help about the murder of the Hermit. He has narrowed it down to five suspects—Havoc Parra and his father Roar, Vincent Gilbert and his son Marc, or Old Mundin. They all had opportunity, but what motive? Beauvoir suggests that maybe the murder had nothing to do with the treasure. Beauvoir ends the phone call by asking if the Chief could look into Carole Gilbert and Old Mundin’s backgrounds since they both came from Quebec City.
Gamache asks Elizabeth MacWhirter if she knew Carole Gilbert. It turns out there were in the same bridge club, but didn’t socialize otherwise. Elizabeth did add that Carole was very patient, very calm, and a great strategist. Also, her maiden name was Woloshyn. which was an old Québec family. She knew the Mundins as well and told Gamache the father committed suicide by walking out on the thin ice of the river.
Beauvoir begins to speculate that the treasure was not the reason for the murder, but was what brought the murderer to Three Pines. Beauvoir says if the treasures are not the key, then the words “woo” and “Charlotte” must be. Each of the suspects, except one, would have taken at least part of the treasure because they needed the money. Vincent Gilbert was the only one who had enough money and didn’t care about the treasure. Which is when the murderer stands up and reveals himself to be…Old Mundin.
Old Mundin, whose real name is Patrick, tells us he saw a walking stick of his father’s in the the Temps Perdu antique store. He knew then his father had been murdered because he never would have parted with any of his treasures. When he learned the seller had been Olivier he moved to Three Pines. It did not take long to realize that Olivier was not his father’s murderer, but his father’s treasures kept appearing for sale. Years later after marrying Michelle, The Wife, Old saw Olivier go off into the woods after locking up one Saturday night. He decided to follow him the next time he did this and discovered the cabin. When he looked in the window he recognized all the treasures from his father’s secret collection.
First, Patrick wanted to torment the Hermit with a spider web and wood carving of the word woo. When that didn’t seem to have any effect, Patrick took a menorah and hit the Hermit over the head, killing him. He left the body, figuring Olivier would find it and keep quiet because he still wanted the treasures. Upon further questioning we find out who the Hermit really was: he was Patrick’s father who faked his own death years ago and moved himself and his treasures to Three Pines!
We end with Gamache and Beauvoir delivering Olivier back to Three Pines a free man.
The burden is too much and Beauvoir has to tell someone his story and chooses Ruth, the one person he feels won’t judge him or care.
The frustration of not being able to trace the phone call from Morin grows, and Gamache goes against orders and secretly passes a note to Beauvoir to enlist the aid of Agent Nichol, who has been placed in Communications by Gamache to learn how to listen. She agrees, but needs Gamache to pause in talking so she can listen for ambient sounds in the background.
When the one clear word they hear is La Grande, Gamache pleads with Francoeur to at least put a few people on it and alert the security at the huge hydroelectric dam.
For the first time in their conversation, Gamache hears the fear in Morin’s voice. He asks Morin if he is afraid. Everything stops in the office as the agents all stare at Gamache and listen to Morin trying to be brave. When he finally admits that he is, Gamache tells him he will find him in time, and asks Morin if he trusts him. Morin says he does. When asked if he thinks Gamache would lie to him, Morin says “No sir, never.” Each time Morin’s voice has more confidence. Gamache then tells Morin, “I will find you in time,” and asks, “Do you believe me?” When Morin says he does, Gamache tells him to never, ever forget that.
While meeting with the Société Champlain, Gamache feels his phone buzzing over and over again. When he finally checks it, he sees he has 27 missed calls and Beauvoir is on the line now. Beauvoir breaks the news that a video has been released online. We learn that Beauvoir and Nichol were able to figure out where the factory was located from the background noise and they expected to find three kidnappers there. Gamache handpicked six agents to cover the chance there were more. There were: There were more than they could possibly have anticipated. After the phone call, Gamache has some phone calls to make: first to his wife, then to the officers who survived and the families of those who didn’t.
Beauvoir heads over to Ruth’s house again, where they sit and watch the video together. Back in Quebec City, Gamache and Émile.do the same. What follows is heartbreaking. Into the breach they went, determined to save one of their own. only to find themselves outnumbered. First Beauvoir went down with a gunshot wound… then Gamache. By the end there were three dead Surete officers and four wounded. Eight kidnappers were killed, one critically injured, and one captured. The plot to blow up the La Grande dam was stopped but at a price no one knew would be so high. Not just for the loss of life.
Gamache still blames himself as he tells Tom Hancock his story. When Tom asks if he knew how the video got out, Gamache says no. When asked if he had his suspicions, Gamache remembers the rage on Francoeur’s face when Gamache told him to send help to the dam. If Gamache was wrong he would resign, but if he was right and Francoeur did nothing, he would bring him up on charges. Gamache sees another face as well: one that saw everything, that heard everything, that remembered everything.
After dropping off Olivier at the Bistro in Three Pines, Gamache goes for a solitary walk outside. He sees the image of Morin’s dead body, found too late to save him. “I’m so sorry. Forgive me” is all he can say. This time there is no answer back.
FAVORITE QUOTES & CONCLUSION
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.
There were a number of ones to choose from, but the one that has stuck with me was when Beauvoir was about to meet with the residents of Three Pines at the Bistro to reveal the murderer:
“Like the rest of Three Pines, and its residents, it took what was coming and remained standing.”
A simple thought that has so many meanings. We can look at this as a city, a family, or a person. Life can be challenging and it is how we deal with its ups and downs that define us. Thanks to the Gamache series it is comforting for the reader to know that no matter what is going on in our hectic lives we can always come back to Three Pines, sit in the Bistro by the fire, and feel at home.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- Which of the three storylines appeals to you the most?
- 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?
- Do you think Beauvoir’s cynical view of Three Pines is beginning to change, and if so, how?
- While talking about Renaud, Émile comments that his lack of any friends is the price of greatness. When Gamache comments that he thought Émile. and the Champlain Society considered Renaud a kook, Émile. says “Aren’t most great people? True? Is this one of the costs of greatness?
- Gamache is struck for the first time by how interesting the English expression to “know something by heart” is. “To commit something to memory was to know it by heart. Memories were kept in the heart, not the head. At least, that’s where the English kept their memories.” Are your great memories – tell us! – stored both in your heart and head?
- Mr. Blake comments on how the British Museum has many treasures taken from graves and says it was a good thing; otherwise they would be looted or destroyed. Gamache thinks that one civilization’s courageous action was another’s violation. Such was history and hubris. Is it good to have these treasures in museums? Should they be returned to the countries they came from?
- General Montcalm was originally buried after his injuries and the French loss at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The nuns had buried him there because they were afraid of English reprisals. Later he was dug up and his skull and a leg bone were reburied in a crypt in the chapel. Then recently he was reburied in a mass soldiers’ grave that contained the bodies of all the men who died in that one terrible hour. French and English together for eternity. Long enough to make peace. Should they have been buried together?
- Croix tells a quote from Horace to Gamache who then finished it. Croix says “It is sweet and right to die for your country. Magnificent.” Gamache doesn’t agree and says “It’s an old and dangerous lie. It might be necessary, but it is never sweet and rarely right. It’s a tragedy.” Who is right? Is there a right answer?
- Were you surprised to learn that Old Mundin was the real murderer of The Hermit? Whom did you suspect?