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The Georgicks of Virgil, with an English Translation and Notes Virgil, John Martyn Ipsi in defossis specubus secura sub alta Otia agunt terra, congestaque robora, Pierius says it is confecto in the Roman manuscript. And Tacitus also says the Germans used to make caves to defend them from the severity of winter, .

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Indeed this novel is a classic locked room mystery. Penny has a superb command of the English language. As a mystery author, Ms. Penny plays fair with her readers. The Charlotte Observer 4 out of 4 stars At least two people are waiting very impatiently for this review to be done so I can pass the new Louise Penny along to them. With just her fourth book, she already has that kind of well-deserved following Starred Library Journal Canadian author Penny has garnered numerous awards for her elegant literary mysteries featuring the urbane Armand Gamache, chief police inspector from Quebec.

Gamache is intelligent, observant, and implacable, indispensible attributes for the sophisticated detection that characterizes this series Her psychological acumen, excellent prose, and ingenious plotting make this essential reading for mystery lovers and admirers of superb literary fiction. Fans of Dorothy L. Sayers, P. James, and Elizabeth George will also be delighted.

One of the best traditional mystery series currently being published. Publishers Weekly Murder interrupts Chief Insp. It's a serious novel that bridges the gap between the mystery genre and mainstream fiction Louise Penny's fourth novel is an enduring mystery that begins and ends with the qualities that make great fiction writing -- compelling storytelling, evocative descriptions that are the heart of the story -- and characters the novel's soul who are rich in qualities and foibles that make them unforgettable -- and capable of murder.

Time Out London. Montreal Review of Books The plotting is flawless and when the murderer is finally revealed in a thrilling climactic scene Penny has found her perfect formula with the carefully constructed puzzle plot in the perfect village with the classic cast of characters. The fact that it's modern Quebec is the icing on the petit four Once the puzzle is set up, it's impossible to put this book down until it's solved.

Devotees of Christie will be delighted by Penny's clever plots and deft characters. The Irish News In a traditional who-dunnit crime thriller that rivals Agatha Christie's Poirot, Gamache is a refreshing alternative to the hard-nosed stereotypical detective. Penny builds the lives and imperfections of the characters effectively, exposing the complexity of human nature, challenging the reader's opinion and creating a constant sense of suspicion. This is a classic tale that proves that revenge is a dish best served ice cold. You have to read it The temptation is to scarf Penny's books like potato chips but it's ever wise to savor each bite and let the flavors fill your tongue.

Easter in Three Pines is a time of church services, egg hunts and seances to raise the dead. A group of friends trudges up to the Old Hadley House, the horror on the hill, to finally rid it of the evil spirits that have so obviously plagued it, and the village, for decades. One of their numbers dies of fright. As they peel back the layers of flilth and artiface that have covered the haunted old home, they discover the evil isn't confined there. Some evil is guiding the actions of one of the seemingly kindly villagers. A very personal demon is about to strike.

A time of rebirth, when nature comes alive. And it become clear - for there to be a rebirth, there first must be a death. The mouthwatering food, the beautiful gardens, the quirky and literate villagers -- Three Pines is a charming oasis for the spirit Move over, Mitford. The Scotsman There's real pleasure here. Kirkus Review Perhaps the deftest talent to arrive since Minette Walters, Penny produces what many have tried but few have mastered: a psychologically acute cozy. If you don't give your heart to Gamache, you may have no heart to give. Publishers Weekly Chief Insp. Highly recommended.

As Penny demonstrates with laser-like precision, the book's title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache's personal and professional challenges - making this the series standout so far. And this place, this wonderous, fantastical place. The thing about the Gamache novels is that while the crimes are intriguing, the people are downright fascinating not just Gamache himself, who manages to be completely original despite his similarities to Columbo and Poirot, but also the entire cast of supporting characters, who are so strongly written that every single one of them could probably carry an entire novel all by themselves.

The writing is sensual, full of sights and smells and tastes that will resonate with her readers. And although Penny paints an almost Grandma Moses idealized view of village life, it is a view tinged with ominous foreboding, reminiscent of the brooding images of Breughel and Bosch It's a gem.

Penny's writing is rich in imagery and atmosphere and characterised by a very quick and highly verbal intelligence. Winter in Three Pines and the sleepy village is carpeted in snow. It's a time of peace and goodwill - until a scream pierces the biting air. There's been a murder. Local police are baffled. A spectator at the annual Boxing Day curling match has been fatally electrocuted. Despite the large crowd, there are no witnesses and - apparently - no clues. Called in to head the investigation, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache unravels the dead woman's past and discovers a history of secrets and enemies.

But Gamache has enemies of his own. Frozen out of decision-making at the highest level of the Surete du Quebec, Gamache finds there are few he can trust. As a bitter wind blows into Three Pines, something even more chilling is sneaking up behind him Gamache is a prodigiously complicated and engaging hero, destined to become one of the classic detectives.

Library Journal A highly intelliegent mystery. Penny's new title is sure to creat great reader demand for more stories featuring civilized and articulate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Booklist Gamache, a smart and likable investigator - think Columbo with an accent, or perhaps a modern-day Poirot This is a fine mystery in the classic Agatha Christie style and it is sure to leave mainstream fans wanting more.

Koch For all the perplexing mechanics of the murder, and the snowed-in village setting, this is not the usual "cosy" or even a traditional puzzle mystery. It's a finely written, intelligent and observant book. Imbued with a constant awareness of the astonishing cold, this perfect blend of police procedural and closed-room mystery finds its solution, as in the best of those traditions, in the slow unlayering of a sorrowful past. Her characters leap from the page, her plotting is sublime, the atmosphere she builds in a bitter Quebec winter in Dead Cold, completely chilling.

The writing is superb. A magnificent read. And like Gamache, you too will be drawn to Three Pines and to this work of magical realism masquerading as a cosy English mystery. We're back in the charming Quebec village of Three Pines The setting is wonderfully done, as are the characters. The solution is perfectly in tune with their psychology and there's plenty of evidence that Gamache will make a third appearance.

Sooner or later the whole world will discover Penny. With a unique sense of timing, patience and subtle wit, Penny is able to create a whodunit that recalls those of Agatha Christie Magically bringing the postcard village of Three Pines to life, she gives it innocence, allows a touch of evil to intrude and then brings in the outsider, the intriguing Gamache, to solve the crime. The result is an engrossing read that will only add to the ranks of her readers. Shotsmag, UK This is a wonderful novel, full of mystery.

It is as deeply layered as snow drifting down upon snow. The cold will seep into your bones so wrap up warm and have a good hot drink at your elbow. As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life - all except one. To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found lying dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident - a hunter's arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead? Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will begin to give up its secrets.

Kirkus Review Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut. Publishers Weekly Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight. Filled with unexpected insights, this winning traditional mystery sets a solid foundation for future entries in the series. Booklist , Emily Melton This is a real gem of a book that slowly draws the reader into a beautifully told, lyrically written story of love, life, friendship and tragedy.

Miss Jane Neal kept a well-read book on her nightstand, C. Lewis' Surprised by Joy. That title is a fitting phrase for Still Life. Three Pines delivers. Toronto Star, Jack Batten A delightful and clever collection of false leads, red herrings, meditations on human nature, strange behavior and other diverting stuff.

The Calgary Herald , Joanne Sasvari, This is a much darker, cleverer, funnier and, finally, more hopeful novel than even the great Dame Agatha could have penned. It's light, witty and poignant, a thrilling debut from a new Canadian crime writer. As the last note of the chant escaped the Blessed Chapel a great silence fell, and with it came an even greater disquiet.

The silence stretched on. And on. These were men used to silence, but this seemed extreme, even to them. And still they stood in their long black robes and white tops, motionless. These were men also used to waiting. But this too seemed extreme. The less disciplined among them stole glances at the tall, slim, elderly man who had been the last to file in and would be the first to leave.

Dom Philippe kept his eyes closed. Where once this was a moment of profound peace, a private moment with his private God, when Vigils had ended and before he signaled for the Angelus, now it was simply escape. Besides, he knew what was there. What was always there. What had been there for hundreds of years before he arrived and would, God willing, be there for centuries after he was buried in the cemetery.

Two rows of men across from him, in black robes with white hoods, a simple rope tied at their waists. And beside him to his right, two more rows of men. They were facing each other across the stone floor of the chapel, like ancient battle lines. No, he told his weary mind. Just opposing points of view. Expressed in a healthy community. Then why was he so reluctant to open his eyes? To get the day going? To signal the great bells that would ring the Angelus to the forests and birds and lakes and fish. And the monks. To the angels and all the saints.

And God. In the great silence it sounded like a bomb. With an effort he continued to keep his eyes closed. He remained still, and quiet. But there was no peace anymore. Now there was only turmoil, inside and out. He could feel it, vibrating from and between the two rows of waiting men. He could feel it vibrating within him. Dom Philippe counted to one hundred. Then opening his blue eyes, he stared directly across the chapel, to the short, round man who stood with his eyes open, his hands folded on his stomach, a small smile on his endlessly patient face.

And the bells began. The perfect, round, rich toll left the bell tower and took off into the early morning darkness.

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It skimmed over the clear lake, the forests, the rolling hills. To be heard by all sorts of creatures. A clarion call. Their day had begun. That would be ridiculous. In the background an old Beau Dommage album was playing. Beauvoir hummed quietly to the familiar tune. Beauvoir laughed. Poor Mom. Felt she had to marry him. After all, who else would have him? Beauvoir laughed again. I could hardly give you a worse gift. He reached down beside the table in the sunny kitchen. A platter of bacon and scrambled eggs with melted Brie sat on the small pine table.

The cat leapt to the ground and found a spot on the floor where the sun hit. Beauvoir lifted it into plain sight. Happy anniversary. And I got you nothing. Annie took the plunger. You are full of it, after all. She thrust the plunger forward, gently prodding him with the red rubber suction cup as though it was a rapier and she the swordsman. So like Annie. Where other women might have pretended the ridiculous plunger was a wand, she pretended it was a sword.

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Of course, Jean-Guy realized, he would never have given a toilet plunger to any other woman. Only Annie. As he spoke he looked at Annie. Her eyes never left him, barely blinked. She took in every word, every gesture, every inflection. Enid, his ex-wife, had also listened. But there was always an edge of desperation about it, a demand. As though he owed her. As though she was dying and he was the medicine.

Enid left him drained, and yet still feeling inadequate. But Annie was gentler. More generous. Like her father, she listened carefully and quietly. With Enid he never talked about his work, and she never asked. With Annie he told her everything. He told her what they found, how they felt, and who they arrested. Beauvoir nodded and chewed and saw the Chief Inspector in the dim cabin. Whispering the story. So as the two homicide investigators deftly searched, Chief Inspector Gamache had told Beauvoir about the bathmat. And somehow deciding a bathmat was the perfect hostess gift.

Her mother never tired of asking either. Her father, on the other hand, decided I was an imbecile and never mentioned it again. That was worse. When they died we found the bathmat in their linen closet, still in its plastic wrapping, with the card attached. Beauvoir stopped talking and looked across at Annie.

She smelled fresh and clean. Like a citron grove in the warm sunshine. No makeup. She wore warm slippers and loose, comfortable clothing. Annie was aware of fashion, and happy to be fashionable. But happier to be comfortable. She was not slim. She was not a stunning beauty.

But Annie knew something most people never learn. She knew how great it was to be alive. It had taken him almost forty years, but Jean-Guy Beauvoir finally understood it too. And knew now there was no greater beauty. Annie was approaching thirty now. Had made him part of the team, and eventually, over the years, part of the family. Though even the Chief Inspector had no idea how much a part of the family Beauvoir had become. She held up the plunger, with its cheery red bow. Would die together. In a home that smelled of fresh citron and coffee. And had a cat curled around the sunshine.

But hearing it now, it just seemed natural. As though this was always the plan. To have children. To grow old together. Beauvoir did the math. He was ten years older than her, and would almost certainly die first. He was relieved. But there was something troubling him. Annie grew quiet, and picked at her croissant. Just us. You know? He could never stop them, but it would be a disaster.

The Chief and Madame Gamache will be happy. Very happy. But he wanted to be sure. To know. It was in his nature. He collected facts for a living, and this uncertainty was taking its toll. It was the only shadow in a life suddenly, unexpectedly luminous. But in his heart it felt like a betrayal. She leaned toward him, her elbows and forearms resting on the croissant flakes on the pine table, and took his hand.

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She held it warm in hers. My father would be so happy. Seeing the look on his face she laughed and squeezed his hand. She adores you. Always has. They think of you as family, you know. As another son. She just held his hand and looked into his eyes. Annie paused, thinking. Dad spends his life looking for clues, piecing things together. Gathering evidence.

Too close, I guess. One of the first lessons he teaches new recruits. The phone rang. Not the robust peal of the landline, but the cheerful, invasive trill of a cell. He ran to the bedroom and grabbed it off the nightstand. No number was displayed, just a word. He almost hit the small green phone icon, then hesitated. It managed to be both relaxed and authoritative. It was on a Saturday morning. An invitation to dinner. A query about staffing or a case going to trial.

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This was a call to arms. A call to action. A call that marked something dreadful had happened. And raced. And even danced a little. Not with joy at the knowledge of a terrible and premature death. But knowing he and the Chief and others would be on the trail again. Jean-Guy Beauvoir loved his job. But now, for the first time, he looked into the kitchen, and saw Annie standing in the doorway.

Watching him. And he realized, with surprise, that he now loved something more. And just the two of us for now. Should she come? Just to organize the Scene of Crime team and leave? Hope you remember how to do it. All the way from downtown? Beauvoir felt the world stop for a moment. Not much traffic. Gamache laughed. And he did, placing calls, issuing orders, organizing. Then he threw a few clothes into an overnight bag. Even for a woman who cherished reality, this was far too real. She laughed, and he was glad. At the door he stopped and lowered his case to the ground. Once he was gone and she could no longer see the back of his car, Annie Gamache closed the door and held her hand to her chest.

She wondered if this was how her mother had felt, for all those years. How her mother felt at that very moment. Was she too leaning against the door, having watched her heart leave? Having let it go. Then Annie walked over to the bookcases lining her living room. After a few minutes she found what she was looking for. She and Jean-Guy would present them with their own white bibles, with their names and baptism dates inscribed. She looked at the thick first page. Sure enough, there was her name. And a date. But instead of a cross underneath her name her parents had drawn two little hearts.

Copyright by Three Pines Creations, Inc. She could see shadows, shapes, like wraiths moving back and forth, back and forth across the frosted glass. Appearing and disappearing. Distorted, but still human. Still the dead one lay moaning. The words had been going through her head all day, appearing and disappearing. A poem, half remembered. Words floating to the surface, then going under.

The body of the poem beyond her grasp. The blurred figures at the far end of the long corridor seemed almost liquid, or smoke. There, but insubstantial. This was it. The end of the journey. How often had they come to the MAC to marvel at some new exhibition? To support a friend, a fellow artist? Or to just sit quietly in the middle of the sleek gallery, in the middle of a weekday, when the rest of the city was at work? Art was their work. But it was more than that. It had to be. Otherwise, why put up with all those years of solitude? Of failure? Of silence from a baffled and even bemused art world?

She and Peter had worked away, every day, in their small studios in their small village, leading their tiny lives. But still yearning for more. Clara took a few more steps down the long, long, white marble hallway. Her first dream as a child, her last dream that morning, almost fifty years later, was at the far end of the hard white hallway.

He was by far the more successful artist, with his exquisite studies of life in close-up. So detailed, and so close that a piece of the natural world appeared distorted and abstract. Peter took what was natural and made it appear unnatural. People ate it up. Thank God. It kept food on the table and the wolves, while constantly circling their little home in Three Pines, were kept from the door.

Thanks to Peter and his art. Clara glanced at him walking slightly ahead of her, a smile on his handsome face. She knew most people, on first meeting them, never took her for his wife. Instead they assumed some slim executive with a white wine in her elegant hand was his mate. An example of natural selection. Of like moving to like.

The distinguished artist with the head of graying hair and noble features could not possibly have chosen the woman with the beer in her boxing glove hands. And the studio full of sculptures made out of old tractor parts and paintings of cabbages with wings. Peter Morrow could not have chosen her. That would have been unnatural. Clara would have smiled had she not been fairly certain she was about to throw up.

Oh, no no no, she thought again as she watched Peter march purposefully toward the closed door and the art wraiths waiting to pass judgment. On her. But mostly she wanted to turn and flee, to hide. To stumble back down the long, long, light-filled, art-filled, marble-filled hallway. And this is where it led. Someone had lied. She walked down this corridor. Composed and collected. Beautiful and slim. Witty and popular. Into the waiting arms of an adoring world. There was no terror. No nausea. No creatures glimpsed through the frosted glass, waiting to devour her.

Dissect her. Diminish her, and her creations. Had not told her something else might be waiting. Oh, no no no, thought Clara. What was the rest of the poem? Why did it elude her? Now, within feet of the end of her journey all she wanted to do was run away home to Three Pines. To open the wooden gate. To race up the path lined with apple trees in spring bloom. To slam their front door shut behind her. To lean against it. To lock it. To press her body against it, and keep the world out. She realized she was holding her breath and wondered for how long.

To make up for it she started breathing rapidly. Peter was talking but his voice was muffled, far away. Drowned out by the shrieking in her head, and the pounding in her chest. And the noise building behind the doors. As they got closer. Clara opened her hand and dropped her purse.

It fell with a plop to the floor, since it was all but empty, containing simply a breath mint and the tiny paint brush from the first paint-by-number set her grandmother had given her. Clara dropped to her knees, pretending to gather up invisible items and stuff them into her clutch. She lowered her head, trying to catch her breath, and wondered if she was about to pass out. Clara stared from the purse on the gleaming marble floor to the man crouched across from her. He was kneeling beside her, watching, his kind eyes life preservers thrown to a drowning woman.

She held them. His voice was calm. This was their own private crisis. Their own private rescue. Not missing her right away. Not noticing his wife was kneeling on the floor. Seeing his silky blond hair, and the lines only visible very close up. More lines than a thirty-eight-year-old man should have. Go back home. The dew heavy under her rubber boots.

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The early roses and late peonies damp and fragrant. Not once had she imagined herself collapsed on the floor. In terror. Longing to leave. To go back to the garden. But Olivier was right. Not yet. Oh, no no no. They were the only way home now. Clara laughed, and exhaled. And in that instant the body of the poem surfaced. The rest of it was revealed.

I was much too far out all my life. From far off Armand Gamache could hear the sound of children playing. He knew where it was coming from. He sometimes liked to sit there and pretend the shouts and laughter came from his young grandchildren, Florence and Zora. He imagined his son Daniel and Roslyn were in the park, watching their children. Or he and Reine-Marie would join them. And play catch, or conkers. But mostly he just listened to the shouts and shrieks and laughter of neighborhood children.

And smiled. And relaxed. His wife, Reine-Marie, sat across from him on their balcony. She too had a cold beer on this unexpectedly warm day in mid-June. But her copy of La Presse was folded on the table and she stared into the distance. He was silent for a moment, watching her. Her hair was quite gray now, but then, so was his. He was glad. Like him, she was in her mid-fifties. And this was what a couple of that age looked like. If they were lucky. Not like models.

No one would mistake them for that. But that too would be a mistake. Books were everywhere in their large apartment. Placed in orderly bookcases. Just about every table had at least one book on it, and often several magazines. And the weekend newspapers were scattered on the coffee table in the living room, in front of the fireplace.

The shelves were packed with case histories, with books on medicine and forensics, with tomes on Napoleonic and common law, fingerprinting, genetic coding, wounds and weapons. But still, even among the death, space was made for books on philosophy and poetry. Not socially. Not academically. But he could never shake the suspicion he had gotten very, very lucky. Unless it was the extraordinary stroke of luck that she should also love him. Now she turned her blue eyes on him. It was five past five. Their son-in-law was half an hour late and Gamache glanced inside their apartment.

He could just barely make out his daughter Annie sitting in the living room reading, and across from her was his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir. Jean Guy and Annie were ignoring each other. Gamache smiled slightly. Gamache nodded and picked up the magazine, then he lowered it slowly. Reine-Marie hesitated then smiled. Armand raised his brow in surprise. Awkward, gawky, bossy. And now he was nearing forty and she was nearing thirty. A lawyer. Still awkward and gawky and bossy. She looked as though she was genuinely glad to see them. As though they were important. Eyes shining. Only once.

In the hospital. Fought through the pain and the dark to that foreign but gentle touch. That bird-like grip he would not have come back for. But this hand was large, and certain, and warm. And it invited him back. And then he knew why. Because she had nowhere else to be. No other hospital bed to sit beside. Because her father was dead. Killed by a gunman in the abandoned factory. Beauvoir had seen it happen. Seen Gamache hit. Seen him lifted off his feet and fall to the concrete floor. And now Annie Gamache was holding his hand in the hospital, because the hand she really wanted to be holding was gone.

Jean Guy Beauvoir had pried his eyes open and seen Annie Gamache looking so sad. And his heart broke. Then he saw something else. No one had ever looked at him that way. With unconcealed and unbound joy. It was slightly citrony. Clean and fresh. Annie smelled like a lemon grove in summer. There were many humiliations waiting for him in the hospital. From bedpans and diapers to sponge baths. But none was more personal, more intimate, more of a betrayal than what his broken body did then.

And Annie saw. And Annie never mentioned it from that day to this. That was how it had felt. The shove. Very, very slowly Annie lowered her newspaper. And glared at him. And now he felt the words strike. Travel deep and explode. It was almost comforting, he realized. The pain. Your separation. As a lawyer you should know that.

Then she nodded. It makes you think about your life. Would you like to talk about it? Talk about Enid with Annie? All the petty sordid squabbles, the tiny slights, the scarring and scabbing. The thought revolted him and he must have shown it. He searched for something to say, some small bridge, a jetty back to her. The minutes stretched by, elongating. It was the first thing that popped into his hollow head, like the Magic Eight Ball, that when it stopped being shaken produced a single word.

Still her face was expressionless. She raised the newspaper again. The Canadian dollar was strong, he read from across the room. Winter potholes still unfixed, he read. An investigation into government corruption, he read. The newspaper slowly dropped. She was talking to him again. Her father was the bridge. Annie dropped her paper onto the table and glanced beyond Beauvoir to her parents talking quietly on the balcony. She was never going to be the most beautiful woman in the room.

That much was obvious even then. Annie was not fine-boned or delicate. She was more athletic than graceful. She cared about clothes, but she also cared about comfort. Opinionated, strong-willed, strong physically. With Enid he would never consider trying. And she would never offer. Annie Gamache had not only offered, but had fully expected to win. The perfect, round, rich toll left the bell tower and took off into the early morning darkness.

It skimmed over the clear lake, the forests, the rolling hills. To be heard by all sorts of creatures. A clarion call. Their day had begun. That would be ridiculous. In the background an old Beau Dommage album was playing. Beauvoir hummed quietly to the familiar tune.

Beauvoir laughed. Poor Mom. Felt she had to marry him. After all, who else would have him? Beauvoir laughed again. I could hardly give you a worse gift. He reached down beside the table in the sunny kitchen. A platter of bacon and scrambled eggs with melted Brie sat on the small pine table. The cat leapt to the ground and found a spot on the floor where the sun hit. Beauvoir lifted it into plain sight. Happy anniversary. And I got you nothing. Annie took the plunger. You are full of it, after all. She thrust the plunger forward, gently prodding him with the red rubber suction cup as though it was a rapier and she the swordsman.

So like Annie. Where other women might have pretended the ridiculous plunger was a wand, she pretended it was a sword. Of course, Jean-Guy realized, he would never have given a toilet plunger to any other woman. Only Annie. As he spoke he looked at Annie. Her eyes never left him, barely blinked.

She took in every word, every gesture, every inflection. Enid, his ex-wife, had also listened. But there was always an edge of desperation about it, a demand. As though he owed her. As though she was dying and he was the medicine. Enid left him drained, and yet still feeling inadequate. But Annie was gentler. More generous. Like her father, she listened carefully and quietly. With Enid he never talked about his work, and she never asked. With Annie he told her everything. He told her what they found, how they felt, and who they arrested. Beauvoir nodded and chewed and saw the Chief Inspector in the dim cabin.

Whispering the story. So as the two homicide investigators deftly searched, Chief Inspector Gamache had told Beauvoir about the bathmat. And somehow deciding a bathmat was the perfect hostess gift. Her mother never tired of asking either. Her father, on the other hand, decided I was an imbecile and never mentioned it again. That was worse. When they died we found the bathmat in their linen closet, still in its plastic wrapping, with the card attached. Beauvoir stopped talking and looked across at Annie. She smelled fresh and clean. Like a citron grove in the warm sunshine.

No makeup. She wore warm slippers and loose, comfortable clothing. Annie was aware of fashion, and happy to be fashionable. But happier to be comfortable. She was not slim. She was not a stunning beauty. But Annie knew something most people never learn. She knew how great it was to be alive. It had taken him almost forty years, but Jean-Guy Beauvoir finally understood it too. And knew now there was no greater beauty. Annie was approaching thirty now. Had made him part of the team, and eventually, over the years, part of the family.

Though even the Chief Inspector had no idea how much a part of the family Beauvoir had become. She held up the plunger, with its cheery red bow. Would die together. In a home that smelled of fresh citron and coffee. And had a cat curled around the sunshine. But hearing it now, it just seemed natural. As though this was always the plan. To have children. To grow old together. Beauvoir did the math.

He was ten years older than her, and would almost certainly die first. He was relieved. But there was something troubling him. Annie grew quiet, and picked at her croissant. Just us. You know? He could never stop them, but it would be a disaster. The Chief and Madame Gamache will be happy. Very happy. But he wanted to be sure. To know. It was in his nature. He collected facts for a living, and this uncertainty was taking its toll. It was the only shadow in a life suddenly, unexpectedly luminous.

But in his heart it felt like a betrayal. She leaned toward him, her elbows and forearms resting on the croissant flakes on the pine table, and took his hand. She held it warm in hers. My father would be so happy. Seeing the look on his face she laughed and squeezed his hand. She adores you. Always has. They think of you as family, you know. As another son. She just held his hand and looked into his eyes.

Annie paused, thinking. Dad spends his life looking for clues, piecing things together. Gathering evidence. Too close, I guess. One of the first lessons he teaches new recruits. The phone rang. Not the robust peal of the landline, but the cheerful, invasive trill of a cell. He ran to the bedroom and grabbed it off the nightstand. No number was displayed, just a word. He almost hit the small green phone icon, then hesitated. It managed to be both relaxed and authoritative. It was on a Saturday morning. An invitation to dinner. A query about staffing or a case going to trial.

This was a call to arms. A call to action. A call that marked something dreadful had happened. And raced. And even danced a little. Not with joy at the knowledge of a terrible and premature death. But knowing he and the Chief and others would be on the trail again. Jean-Guy Beauvoir loved his job. But now, for the first time, he looked into the kitchen, and saw Annie standing in the doorway. Watching him. And he realized, with surprise, that he now loved something more. And just the two of us for now. Should she come? Just to organize the Scene of Crime team and leave? Hope you remember how to do it.

All the way from downtown? Beauvoir felt the world stop for a moment. Not much traffic. Gamache laughed. And he did, placing calls, issuing orders, organizing. Then he threw a few clothes into an overnight bag. Even for a woman who cherished reality, this was far too real. She laughed, and he was glad. At the door he stopped and lowered his case to the ground. Once he was gone and she could no longer see the back of his car, Annie Gamache closed the door and held her hand to her chest. She wondered if this was how her mother had felt, for all those years.

How her mother felt at that very moment. Was she too leaning against the door, having watched her heart leave? Having let it go. Then Annie walked over to the bookcases lining her living room. After a few minutes she found what she was looking for. She and Jean-Guy would present them with their own white bibles, with their names and baptism dates inscribed.

She looked at the thick first page. Sure enough, there was her name. And a date. But instead of a cross underneath her name her parents had drawn two little hearts. Copyright by Three Pines Creations, Inc. She could see shadows, shapes, like wraiths moving back and forth, back and forth across the frosted glass.

Appearing and disappearing. Distorted, but still human. Still the dead one lay moaning. The words had been going through her head all day, appearing and disappearing. A poem, half remembered. Words floating to the surface, then going under. The body of the poem beyond her grasp. The blurred figures at the far end of the long corridor seemed almost liquid, or smoke. There, but insubstantial. This was it. The end of the journey. How often had they come to the MAC to marvel at some new exhibition? To support a friend, a fellow artist? Or to just sit quietly in the middle of the sleek gallery, in the middle of a weekday, when the rest of the city was at work?

Art was their work. But it was more than that. It had to be. Otherwise, why put up with all those years of solitude? Of failure? Of silence from a baffled and even bemused art world? She and Peter had worked away, every day, in their small studios in their small village, leading their tiny lives. But still yearning for more. Clara took a few more steps down the long, long, white marble hallway. Her first dream as a child, her last dream that morning, almost fifty years later, was at the far end of the hard white hallway.

He was by far the more successful artist, with his exquisite studies of life in close-up. So detailed, and so close that a piece of the natural world appeared distorted and abstract. Peter took what was natural and made it appear unnatural. People ate it up. Thank God. It kept food on the table and the wolves, while constantly circling their little home in Three Pines, were kept from the door. Thanks to Peter and his art. Clara glanced at him walking slightly ahead of her, a smile on his handsome face.

She knew most people, on first meeting them, never took her for his wife. Instead they assumed some slim executive with a white wine in her elegant hand was his mate. An example of natural selection. Of like moving to like. The distinguished artist with the head of graying hair and noble features could not possibly have chosen the woman with the beer in her boxing glove hands.

And the studio full of sculptures made out of old tractor parts and paintings of cabbages with wings. Peter Morrow could not have chosen her. That would have been unnatural. Clara would have smiled had she not been fairly certain she was about to throw up. Oh, no no no, she thought again as she watched Peter march purposefully toward the closed door and the art wraiths waiting to pass judgment. On her. But mostly she wanted to turn and flee, to hide. To stumble back down the long, long, light-filled, art-filled, marble-filled hallway. And this is where it led. Someone had lied.

She walked down this corridor. Composed and collected. Beautiful and slim. Witty and popular. Into the waiting arms of an adoring world. There was no terror. No nausea. No creatures glimpsed through the frosted glass, waiting to devour her. Dissect her. Diminish her, and her creations. Had not told her something else might be waiting. Oh, no no no, thought Clara. What was the rest of the poem? Why did it elude her?

Now, within feet of the end of her journey all she wanted to do was run away home to Three Pines. To open the wooden gate.


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To race up the path lined with apple trees in spring bloom. To slam their front door shut behind her. To lean against it. To lock it. To press her body against it, and keep the world out. She realized she was holding her breath and wondered for how long. To make up for it she started breathing rapidly. Peter was talking but his voice was muffled, far away.

Drowned out by the shrieking in her head, and the pounding in her chest. And the noise building behind the doors. As they got closer. Clara opened her hand and dropped her purse. It fell with a plop to the floor, since it was all but empty, containing simply a breath mint and the tiny paint brush from the first paint-by-number set her grandmother had given her. Clara dropped to her knees, pretending to gather up invisible items and stuff them into her clutch. She lowered her head, trying to catch her breath, and wondered if she was about to pass out.

Clara stared from the purse on the gleaming marble floor to the man crouched across from her. He was kneeling beside her, watching, his kind eyes life preservers thrown to a drowning woman. She held them. His voice was calm. This was their own private crisis. Their own private rescue. Not missing her right away. Not noticing his wife was kneeling on the floor. Seeing his silky blond hair, and the lines only visible very close up. More lines than a thirty-eight-year-old man should have.

Go back home. The dew heavy under her rubber boots. The early roses and late peonies damp and fragrant. Not once had she imagined herself collapsed on the floor. In terror. Longing to leave. To go back to the garden. But Olivier was right. Not yet. Oh, no no no. They were the only way home now. Clara laughed, and exhaled. And in that instant the body of the poem surfaced.

The rest of it was revealed. I was much too far out all my life. From far off Armand Gamache could hear the sound of children playing. He knew where it was coming from. He sometimes liked to sit there and pretend the shouts and laughter came from his young grandchildren, Florence and Zora. He imagined his son Daniel and Roslyn were in the park, watching their children.

Or he and Reine-Marie would join them. And play catch, or conkers. But mostly he just listened to the shouts and shrieks and laughter of neighborhood children. And smiled. And relaxed. His wife, Reine-Marie, sat across from him on their balcony. She too had a cold beer on this unexpectedly warm day in mid-June. But her copy of La Presse was folded on the table and she stared into the distance. He was silent for a moment, watching her. Her hair was quite gray now, but then, so was his. He was glad. Like him, she was in her mid-fifties. And this was what a couple of that age looked like. If they were lucky.

Not like models. No one would mistake them for that. But that too would be a mistake. Books were everywhere in their large apartment. Placed in orderly bookcases. Just about every table had at least one book on it, and often several magazines. And the weekend newspapers were scattered on the coffee table in the living room, in front of the fireplace. The shelves were packed with case histories, with books on medicine and forensics, with tomes on Napoleonic and common law, fingerprinting, genetic coding, wounds and weapons.

But still, even among the death, space was made for books on philosophy and poetry. Not socially. Not academically. But he could never shake the suspicion he had gotten very, very lucky. Unless it was the extraordinary stroke of luck that she should also love him. Now she turned her blue eyes on him. It was five past five. Their son-in-law was half an hour late and Gamache glanced inside their apartment. He could just barely make out his daughter Annie sitting in the living room reading, and across from her was his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir.

Jean Guy and Annie were ignoring each other. Gamache smiled slightly. Gamache nodded and picked up the magazine, then he lowered it slowly. Reine-Marie hesitated then smiled. Armand raised his brow in surprise. Awkward, gawky, bossy. And now he was nearing forty and she was nearing thirty. A lawyer. Still awkward and gawky and bossy. She looked as though she was genuinely glad to see them. As though they were important. Eyes shining. Only once. In the hospital. Fought through the pain and the dark to that foreign but gentle touch.

That bird-like grip he would not have come back for. But this hand was large, and certain, and warm. And it invited him back. And then he knew why. Because she had nowhere else to be. No other hospital bed to sit beside. Because her father was dead. Killed by a gunman in the abandoned factory. Beauvoir had seen it happen. Seen Gamache hit. Seen him lifted off his feet and fall to the concrete floor. And now Annie Gamache was holding his hand in the hospital, because the hand she really wanted to be holding was gone.

Jean Guy Beauvoir had pried his eyes open and seen Annie Gamache looking so sad. And his heart broke. Then he saw something else. No one had ever looked at him that way. With unconcealed and unbound joy. It was slightly citrony. Clean and fresh. Annie smelled like a lemon grove in summer. There were many humiliations waiting for him in the hospital.

From bedpans and diapers to sponge baths. But none was more personal, more intimate, more of a betrayal than what his broken body did then. And Annie saw. And Annie never mentioned it from that day to this. That was how it had felt. The shove. Very, very slowly Annie lowered her newspaper. And glared at him. And now he felt the words strike. Travel deep and explode. It was almost comforting, he realized. The pain. Your separation. As a lawyer you should know that. Then she nodded. It makes you think about your life. Would you like to talk about it?

Talk about Enid with Annie? All the petty sordid squabbles, the tiny slights, the scarring and scabbing. The thought revolted him and he must have shown it. He searched for something to say, some small bridge, a jetty back to her. The minutes stretched by, elongating. It was the first thing that popped into his hollow head, like the Magic Eight Ball, that when it stopped being shaken produced a single word.

Still her face was expressionless. She raised the newspaper again. The Canadian dollar was strong, he read from across the room. Winter potholes still unfixed, he read. An investigation into government corruption, he read. The newspaper slowly dropped. She was talking to him again. Her father was the bridge.

Annie dropped her paper onto the table and glanced beyond Beauvoir to her parents talking quietly on the balcony. She was never going to be the most beautiful woman in the room. That much was obvious even then. Annie was not fine-boned or delicate. She was more athletic than graceful. She cared about clothes, but she also cared about comfort. Opinionated, strong-willed, strong physically.

With Enid he would never consider trying. And she would never offer. Annie Gamache had not only offered, but had fully expected to win. Where other women, including Enid, were lovely, Annie Gamache was alive. Late, too late, Jean Guy Beauvoir had come to appreciate how very important it was, how very attractive it was, how very rare it was, to be fully alive.

Annie looked back at Beauvoir. Beauvoir lowered his voice. Annie leaned forward. They were a couple of feet apart and Beauvoir could just smell her scent. It was all he could do not to take her hands in his. Seems like a cottage industry there. Despite himself, Beauvoir laughed. Beauvoir smiled and nodded. And then your father said it. Annie smiled. I was the only kid in school who quoted Leigh Hunt.

Gamache smiled as he heard the laughter from the living room. He cocked his head in their direction. Since his separation from Enid, Jean Guy had seemed distant. And his narrow drawbridge had been raised. Armand Gamache knew no good ever came from putting up walls. What people mistook for safety was in fact captivity. And few things thrived in captivity. But privately he wondered. He knew time could heal. But it could also do more damage. A forest fire, spread over time, would consume everything. Gamache, with one last look at the two younger people, continued his conversation with Reine-Marie.

She considered for a moment. Gamache nodded and thought for a moment. I suppose it might be awkward. In fact, it was said quietly and gently. Feelings he himself might not even be aware he had. A face now clean-shaven. No more moustache. No more graying beard. Just Armand. He looked at her with his deep brown eyes.

And as she held them she could almost forget the scar above his left temple. After a moment his smile faded and he nodded again, taking a deep breath. A natural setting. He so yearned for that, since his days were filled with hunting the unnatural. People who took the lives of others. Often in gruesome and dreadful ways. He was very good at his job. It was in all the papers. But he never mentioned that someone involved might still hate him. We investigated and the evidence seemed overwhelming.

All of it hidden in the bistro. We arrested Olivier. He was tried and convicted. Beauvoir nodded. Did someone else confess? You remember a few months ago, after that raid on the factory? When your father was recovering in Quebec City? Jean Guy nodded. Though he himself had no such doubts.

He believed the right man was in prison. The real murderer. And the real reason for the killing. Not since all this had happened. Gamache was quiet. Seeing the sun gleaming off snowbanks. Through the frosted panes of glass he could see the villagers gathered in the bistro. Warm and safe. The cheery fires lit. The laughter. And Olivier, stalled. Two feet from the closed door.

Staring at it. Jean Guy had gone to open it, but Gamache had lain a gloved hand on his arm. For Olivier to make the move. After what seemed an age, but was probably only a few heartbeats, Olivier reached out, paused for one more moment, then opened the door. But he knew that no matter how much ecstasy Reine-Marie imagined, the reality was even greater. The rest of the villagers were elated to see Olivier too.

And it turned out that Olivier had used the stolen money to secretly buy up a lot of property in Three Pines. Dad got him out of prison. He took him back to Three Pines. Your father put him in. Annie stared at Beauvoir, then shook her head. Beauvoir went on. In front of everyone in the bistro. He told Olivier he was sorry for what he did. Annie thought about that. Beauvoir knew the only thing worse than no apology was an insincere one.

Jean Guy had to give Olivier that. Instead of appearing to accept the apology, Olivier had finally told the truth. The hurt went too deep. Up the stairs they raced, taking them two at a time, trying to be as quiet as possible. Gamache struggled to keep his breathing steady, as though he was sitting at home, as though he had not a care in the world. You must believe me, son. Nothing bad will happen to you. He hoped the young agent couldnt hear the strain in his voice, the flattening as the Chief Inspector fought to keep his voice authoritative, certain. They reached the landing.

Inspector Beauvoir stopped, staring at his Chief. Gamache looked at his watch. In his headphones the agent was telling him about the sunshine and how good it felt on his face. The rest of the team made the landing, tactical vests in place, automatic weapons drawn, eyes sharp. Trained on the Chief. Beside him Inspector Beauvoir was also waiting for a decision. Which way? They were close. Within feet of their quarry. Gamache stared down one dark, dingy corridor in the abandoned factory then down the other. They looked identical.

Light scraped through the broken, grubby windows lining the halls and with it came the December day. He pointed decisively to the left and they ran, silently, toward the door at the end. As he ran Gamache gripped his rifle and spoke calmly into the headset. Theres forty seconds left, sir. Each word was exhaled as though the man on the other end was having difficulty breathing. Just listen to me, said Gamache, thrusting his hand toward a door. The team surged ahead. I wont let anything happen to you, said Gamache, his voice convincing, commanding, daring the young agent to contradict.

Youll be having dinner with your family tonight. The tactical team surrounded the closed door with its frosted, filthy window. Gamache paused, staring at it, his hand hanging in the air ready to give the signal to break it down. To rescue his agent. Beside him Beauvoir strained, waiting to be loosed. Too late, Chief Inspector Gamache realized hed made a mistake. Avec le temps?

Gamache returned the older mans smile and made a fist of his right hand. To stop the trembling. A tremble so slight he was certain the waitress in the Quebec City caf hadnt noticed. The two students across the way tapping on their laptops wouldnt notice. No one would notice. Except someone very close to him. He looked at mile Comeau, crumbling a flaky croissant with sure hands.

He was nearing eighty now, Gamaches mentor and former chief. His hair was white and groomed, his eyes through his glasses a sharp blue. He was slender and energetic, even now. Though with each visit Armand Gamache noticed a slight softening about the face, a slight slowing of the movements.

Widowed five years, mile Comeau knew the power, and length, of time. Gamaches own wife, Reine-Marie, had left at dawn that morning after spending a week with them at miles stone home within the old walled city of Qubec. Theyd had quiet dinners together in front of the fire, theyd walked the narrow snow-covered streets. Were silent. Read the papers, discussed events. The three of them. Four, if you counted their German shepherd, Henri.