The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (2015)

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, Book #11

After a few weeks off from my Louise Penny reading spree, I was thrilled to finally restart the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series yesterday. Penny has returned the action back to the small Quebec village of Three Pines and reassembled her cast of beloved characters who work together to solve another mysterious murder.

Fall is approaching Three Pines and the residents are reveling in the beautiful weather and fall colors descending down the mountain. Now retired from the police, Armand Gamache and his wife are settling into a peaceful, quiet life in the village; filled with rest, good friends, and delicious meals. Armand has recently been fielding offers to return to the police force, as well as other offers to work for various government and international agencies. Despite increasing pressure to return to work, Armand has been reluctant to do so. He is at a crucial crossroads: what does “next” look like for he and Reine-Marie?

The calm exterior of the village is shattered when a little boy is found murdered, his body disguised as an accident and his father rumored to be a prime suspect. Armand assists his former colleagues in solving the murder and makes an early, critical discovery: the boy’s body has been moved. The search for the site of his murder leads to an unimaginable find: a cave hiding an enormous Soviet-era missile launcher hidden in the Quebec wilderness.

Soon the case spins out in a million directions: who build this gun? Why is it hidden outside of Three Pines? Is it still capable of firing? And who was intended target when the weapon was built?

Armand and the police force must dig deep into the weapon’s history, going back to the start of the Cold War and the years of the nuclear arms race. Military experts and secret service agents soon arrive in Three Pines to investigate the case; causing tensions between the different groups. Armand wants to find the boy’s killer, the other agents want to find out more about the gun and who built it. These tensions cause everyone to begin hiding information from one another, stalling out the search for the murderer.

When another citizen is killed, the case veers wildly off course and Armand and the others must dig deep into documents about physics, weapons design, military strategy, and government secrets to find all of the answers they seek.

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