cover image The Madness of Crowds

The Madness of Crowds

Louise Penny. Minotaur, $28.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-250-14526-0

Might a post-Covid Canada value individual lives less? That provocative question’s at the heart of bestseller Penny’s brilliant 17th whodunit featuring Sûreté du Québec Chief Insp. Armand Gamache (after 2020’s All the Devils Are Here). Gamache, who has been devastated to learn that nursing homes were abandoned during the pandemic, leaving the vulnerable residents to die alone, is discomfited to be asked to provide security for a lecture by a controversial figure, statistician Abigail Robinson. After analyzing the pandemic’s social and economic fallout for the Canadian government, Robinson concluded that the health care system and the economy would be in good shape, if only the elderly and infirm were euthanized so everyone else could have adequate resources. The government disclaimed her findings, but her views have proven disturbingly popular among a segment of the population. Gamache saves Robinson from an assassin’s bullet at the talk, but a related murder in his home village of Three Pines follows. Seamlessly integrating debates about scientific experimentation and morality into a fair-play puzzle, Penny excels at placing her characters in challenging ethical quandaries. This author just goes from strength to strength. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Aug.)