(Image from Barnes & Noble)
(Note: Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Hangman, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Armand Gamache mysteries. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
"'There's a killer in every village. In every home. In every heart,' Gamache said. 'All anyone needs is the right reason.'"
Three Pines is a peaceful hamlet hidden in the countryside between Quebec and the U.S. border. It's a place where friends meet in the cozy bistro, out-of-towners relax at the spa on the hill, and broken people from all over the globe come to mend. Violence seems incongruous with the town's warmth and beauty. And yet, the village has become a magnet for murder. Just ask Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûrete du Québec—Three Pines has practically become his second home.
The head of homicide is summoned to town once again when a jogger discovers a body hanging from a tree in the woods. Although the dead man was staying at the spa, he was doing so under an assumed name. Who was this "Arthur Ellis"? What was he doing in Three Pines? Did he come to the village to commit suicide or was he murdered? Armand Gamache will soon find out.
Although The Hangman features Louise Penny's iconic detective, the author says the novella isn't really part of the Armand Gamache series. Written as part of a literacy campaign to supply emergent adult readers with material suitable to their reading level, the story is, according to Penny, "Very clear, very simple. Not really the most complex plot or style, for obvious reasons." By publication date (2010), the novella fits in between Bury Your Dead and A Trick of the Light. Despite its shorter, simpler form, I found The Hangman both compelling and surprising. Naturally, it lacks the fullness of a longer Gamache mystery, which made it a less pleasurable (for me, anyway) read than Penny's thicker tomes. Still, I appreciate that The Hangman achieves the purpose for which it was created. I'm not an emergent reader, but I still enjoyed the read.
(Readalikes: Other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; A Fatal Grace; The Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; A Trick of the Light; The Beautiful Mystery; How the Light Gets In; The Long Way Home; The Nature of the Beast; and A Great Reckoning)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs) and violence
To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of The Hangman from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.)