Penny tells a good Three Pines/Gamache story, one that is timely as well, dealing with the scourge of mounting drug abuse. The narrative goes on too long, though, with too much repetitive background and extremely slow pacing. The excessive detail and introspection, perhaps intended to build suspense, instead become tedious, and the constant shift from past to present can be confusing. The writing style seems choppier and sloppier, filled with sentence fragments.
Worse, the characters seem off much of the time. They don't have conversations filled with affectionate teasing; they exchange one-liners, often uncharacteristically mean ones. There are still some good moments, just not as many as in previous books. Things become better toward the end, when the action speeds up and emotions become real. The conclusion, though troubling, is believable.
I did end up liking the book. I appreciate the people, the setting, and the complex arc that Penny has crafted. This latest book is just not the best entry, or my favorite, in an overall excellent series.