It is Easter time in the small Quebec village of Three Pines, and the earth is beginning to come out of winter's long shadow. As a lark, several villagers enlist the aid of a visitor to hold a seance. The results are less than satisfactory, so they plan a second one-- to be held in the creepy old Hadley house. The second seance has deadly consequences. Madeleine Favreau is frightened to death, and many people feel that the Hadley house has claimed yet another victim. Forensics prove otherwise, and it's not long before Inspector Armand Gamache and his team are in Three Pines to solve the murder. Unfortunately Gamache has more on his plate than finding a killer. Five years before he put a bad cop behind bars, and there are members of the Surete du Quebec who want to make sure he pays for this.
It is always a pleasure to visit this small village in Quebec. It has some of the best characters in crime fiction living there. The old Hadley house ranks high on my list of creepy, spooky places that I wouldn't spend the night in-- a French Canadian version of Shirley Jackson's Hill House:
"As he approached he was surprised to see peeling paint and jagged, broken windows. The 'For Sale' sign had fallen over and tiles were missing from the roof and even some bricks from the chimney. It was almost as though the house was casting parts of itself away."
"Something in him felt the need to seal away whatever was in that room. He'd never admit it, of course, but Jean Guy Beauvoir had felt something growing. The longer he stayed the more it grew. Foreboding. No, not foreboding. Something else."
Even Gamache has a problem with the Hadley house:
"What does that house want? Gamache wondered. Anything that went in alive came out either dead or different."
Mix a creepy old house with a group of marvelous characters, and you have the ingredients for an excellent read. The only part of this book that palled a bit for me was the secondary story line about the police officers in the Surete who were out to get Gamache. I was hopeful that Gamache would just round them all up and brick them in the basement of the Hadley house, but he's just too nice to do something like that!
If you like reading about a wonderful cast of characters, life in a Shangri-La-like village, and mysteries where the killers always have interesting motivations, Louise Penny's series is the one for you. I would suggest, however, that you do read the series in order because of the characters and their inter-relatedness.