The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny came to me as a Net-Galley offering. It’s well through the Inspector Gamache series, which I first encountered in A to Z Challenge 2014 when I needed a book starting with Q, and ended up picking one set in Quebec – Still Life. I’ve been trying to get back to this series ever since. This one is published next Tuesday (24th August) and I brought the review forward because of my WEP Flash Fiction this coming Wednesday..

It wasn’t easy jumping into a series this far on, but it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the plot. Warning: this is a post-Covid narrative. I suspect the author wrote most of it before the end of restrictions in Canada. It includes accurate, and distressing, description of heinous research Ewan Cameron carried out in the 1950/60s. It also discusses the Harold Shipman murders in the UK.

The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #17)

by Louise Penny

[edited] While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold….

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds. (goodreads)

My Review

The Madness of Crowds is full of apt quotations, partly because Chief Inspector Gamache is prone to quoting them. It contains plenty more phrases for others to quote. The one that showed me that the author really knew what is going on in today’s society.

It’s about what happens when fear and gullibility meet greed and power.

Madness of Crowds, Louise Penny

Louise Penny describes the madness of crowds brilliantly. The opening mob event which turns nasty, to protectionist stances taken by people who won’t consider any views than their own. Plus the dangers of our governments taking recommendations without fully understanding the consequences. Throughout her narrative she is fully aware of the humanity that underpins our society, which is under so much threat from ignorance and power.

Despite sounding like it could be a heavy tome, this is a fast-paced, fascinating jigsaw of a crime thriller. It takes a psychological approach, but is not a psychological thriller. There are so many twists, turns, options and scenarios, that even I had three versions in my head at once. It kept me up till 2 a.m. demanding me to read to the end.

I’ve skipped fifteen books in this series. I’ve now added them to my To Read list. There will be more Inspector Gamache on this blog!

Book Review | The Madness of Crowds
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3 thoughts on “Book Review | The Madness of Crowds

  • 14 August, 2021 at 8:38 pm
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    Louise Penny is one of my favorite mystery authors – I haven’t read this one but will definitely! Enjoy the rest of her books!

    Reply
  • 16 August, 2021 at 11:28 am
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    Hi Jemima – I have to read one of hers … I must get to the library to take one of the 17 out! Cheers – Hilary

    Reply
  • 21 August, 2021 at 12:33 am
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    I got about 4 into the series and got sidetracked. I seem to remember something about the next book being really disturbing and I didn’t want to go there. Not sure now. They are very well written.

    Reply

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