Published: August 25, 2015
Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, it is back.
A boy of nine who cried “wolf” one too many times is killed because someone DID believe his story about the “gun bigger than a house with a monster on it”. Suspicion falls on the father, who turns out to be a deserter who fled to Canada to escape his involvement in a massacre the Vietnam War is a damaging factor in the credibility of the family. His wife, Evie, knowing nothing about his past, believed him to be a draft dodger. After he is arrested by authorities in the US, she goes to live with Ruth, the old poet, and her duck, Rosa.
As in all of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books, there are multiple focal points and another in this story is a local argument over an amateur play being staged in the village, with the intriguing name “She sat down and wept.”Gamache is one of the few who is chilled when he recognizes the play as the work of John Fleming, a monster whose hideous killings led to his life imprisonment in the grimmest prison in the country and he urges that the play never be produced. Around this time, the body of the boy is found in a large cave that had been covered with camouflage netting for decades.
It is Gamache who realizes what it all means after a metal monster resembling the biblical whore of Babylon is found curled around a huge artillery gun that has been buried for years in the dense undergrowth and that was meant to become a global weapon of destruction in Canada and the United States. What makes that more fascinating is that Ms. Penny notes that such a “super gun” did exist at one time and her account of its origin and invention is based on fictionalized fact. But the super gun discovery means that Gamache is no longer retired and terror has come to the lovely village. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Bull
Members of the Canadian intelligence service arrive as well as a mysterious professor who knows more about the gun than he admits, and suddenly the sinister shadow of John Fleming darkens the happy little village.
The strange play written by Fleming assumes major importance when it is discovered that not only the firing mechanism but the plans for the gun are missing, and only Fleming knows where they are. Gamache is willing to cut a strange deal with the killer in return for that knowledge and the murders in Three Pines take on massive importance. As usual, Gamache is the controlling figure of the book, leading readers to suspect that he is indeed far from retired and I suspect that if the next book he will take a job that will lead in back in the direction of law enforcement while still maintaining a quiet life in Three Pines.
I had the audio version and the last several chapters had me on the edge of my seat. Fantastic book!