After receiving a mysterious letter from a notary who had been dead for six-months, Armand Gamache, the suspended head of the Sûreté du Québec arrives at a rundown farmhouse in a secluded area on a snowy evening. There Armand finds out that he along with Myrna Landers, his neighbour in Three Pines and Benedict Pouliot, a young builder from Montreal have been named executors of a will of a woman named Bertha Baumgartnor who once owned this desolate place. None of them has ever met Bertha or known her, so they are baffled why a total stranger would appoint them as her estate’s liquidators. But the son of the dead notary, who had used his father’s stationery to summon them all to the house, ensures them that Bertha was of sound mind at the time she wrote her will! Although the trio has doubts about taking up this responsibility, they are intrigued enough to agree to carry out Bertha’s last wishes. And soon they find out that Bertha was none other than the cleaning lady at Three Pines who insisted on being called Baroness! The residents at Three Pines had always pegged it to be one of her eccentricities. However, the contents of her will reveal that Bertha had left buildings in Geneva and Vienna and $5 million each to her grown children, on top of the Baron title to her eldest son, making them wonder if this was more than an old woman’s fantasy.
While this question of inheritance followed by a murder plays an integral part of the story, there is another plot-line involving Armand’s past. We learn that Armand had successfully run a narcotics operation which took down a major drug cartel in Canada, but he had done so by releasing some drugs onto the streets. Armand had managed to recover most of it back, yet during the operation, a new drug called Carfentanil had gone missing. Carfentanil is extremely dangerous and way more potent than Heroine or Fentanyl, so Armand is willing to do anything to get them back. In Kingdom of the Blind, Louise Penny cleverly intertwines these two story-lines together, and the result, at least for me, was a solid 3-star crime novel.
There are many things to like about Kingdom of the Blind. It’s a pretty straightforward crime and an investigation, and from the onset, you get the feeling that Armand and Jean-Guy, Armand’s son-in-law/ acting head of the Sûreté du Québec are good, decent cops who can be trusted. Because I inherently dislike novels featuring corrupt law officials, the way their characters were written was a plus for me. I also liked the strong sense of community that’s embodied in the narrative. Three Pines is a charming small town, where residents regularly get together to have good food and conversation, making me wish I lived there! 😀
As I dived straight into the story without bothering to read its excerpt, I didn’t realize Kingdom of the Blind is the fourteenth book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series until I got to Louise Penny’s heartbreaking Acknowledgements section – her late husband, Michael, who was the inspiration for her series’ protagonist had died before she started writing this. Even though not having read the previous thirteen books didn’t hamper my ability to follow the story in Kingdom of the Blind in any way, I wonder if my rating for it would have been higher had I read them before. On Goodreads readers who have read the series from the beginning speaks highly of this (at the time of this review, Kingdom of the Blind has a rating of 4.49, and 10,000+ readers have read it!), and their love for the novel seems to stem from their familiarity of the long-established characters in Three Pines. Because of this, even though Kingdom of the Blind can be read as a standalone novel, I feel like this is a series that is best read in order.
Note: Many thanks to Minotaur Books for sending me a review copy of Kingdom of the Blind.