These were the four sentences Chief Inspector Armand Gamache had learned from his own Chief, Emile Comeau, when he was a green agent and which he passed on to each agent under his command in the Sûreté du Québec. They are sentences Gamache has found more need of than ever in the months since the events in Louise Penny's previous novel, The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel.
Not only does he have continued second thoughts about arresting and helping convict one his Three Pines friends of killing a man, but he is haunted by a recent operation that led to the violent deaths of a number of officers serving under him. One of the deaths weighs particularly heavily on his mind, as he plays back seemingly endless bits of conversation between himself and the doomed officer. Gamache is a man of extraordinary sensitivity and feeling in a job that sometimes can require nearly superhuman choices with no good endings. He knows that it takes time to heal (or at least cover over the wound), but he also knows he will always carry with him the mistakes and misjudgments he thinks led to terrible and final consequences for others and to his own sorrow of soul. No matter whether he says, "I'm sorry. I was wrong," or not, he cannot bring back the lives lost. But perhaps he, with the help of someone else in the Sûreté, can take another look at the Three Pines case...
Penny has done something I'd been hoping she would: she has written a book focused more on the police we've come to know in this series than on the villagers in Three Pines. Since I sometimes find the greed, selfishness, anger, and what-have-you of the Three Pines residents to be a little more than I'd like to stomach, I'm also pleased that Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel spends a lot of time in the old city of Québec as Gamache and his faithful dog, Henri, stay with his old boss, Emile, for a while. There, he reluctantly agrees to help the local constabulary investigate a murder at the Literary and Historical Society where he's been going to research some history.
BURY YOUR DEAD is a fabulous novel. It effortlessly intertwines three plots: the two geographically separated murder cases going on in real time and, in retrospective, the disastrous Canadian police operation that left dead and near dead in its wake. Gamache's probing in Québec City examines (without being pretentiously didactic) the tensions between the Anglophones and the Francophones, it delves into the Battle of the Plains of Abraham which shaped the destiny of the beautiful old metropolis, and it searches for answers to the mystery of where founding father Champlain might be buried. To say too much about the plot dims the satisfaction of reading this splendid work, so I'll say no more, except to note that toward the end a careful reader can savor the emotion, the psychological insights, and the often beautiful language but also look beyond them to ask questions about a few apparent plot inconsistencies. But overall, I'd say this is Penny's best book to date, and it doesn't require full knowledge of the previous novels to be accessible.
Penny advises that "BURY YOUR DEAD is not about death, but about life." Absolutely. But it teaches about life through death. Especially poignant and heartbreaking are the unforgettable scenes when Gamache can't forget his brave, slain subordinate and comrade. The last scene leaves an unforgettable certainty about who these two respectively are and were. Don't miss BURY YOUR DEAD. (4.7 stars)