By Louise Penny. (Minotaur Books, 400 pages, $28.99.)
In the most intriguing installment yet chronicling Quebec’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the quirky citizens of Three Pines, Louise Penny deftly combines crime and punishment, a timeless avenger and a dark exploration of the conscience.
Three Pines, often bringing to mind “Twin Peaks” with its odd inhabitants, is one day haunted by a dark, cloaked, masked figure standing as a silent sentry over the town. He (it?) moves into the village green, standing stationary through the cold and dark, keeping watch and engaging with no one. As the top police official, Gamache encounters this voiceless presence, but lacking any determination of threat or cause for arrest, he takes no action. Until a village visitor’s body is found.
What follows is a great and twisting tale, as we’ve come to expect from the previous 12 Gamache novels, but also an exploration of moral judgments, mental frailty and the eerie notion of reckoning: We all must pay our debts.
Fans will be glued to Gamache’s struggle as he testifies at the suspected killer’s trial and where those complexities lead. Gamache himself, it seems, is also on trial in his own head.
It’s a profound story, with all the warmth of steaming coffee drinks in the town bistro and the bitter cold of death and decay of the conscience.
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
By Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. (Penguin Books, 185 pages, $20.)
“Ikigai,” loosely translated from the Japanese as “reason for living,” encourages us to discover ours by reflecting on what we find where our passion, our mission, our profession and our vocation intersect. The authors travel to Ogimi, a rural town of 3,000 on Okinawa, Japan, that’s one of the world’s five heralded “Blue Zones,” places noted for their large populations of long-livers — and by long I mean older than age 90 and even up to 110.
To what do these simple, joyous and healthy people attribute the gift of their old age? Their secrets are not necessarily surprising but definitely worth the time it will take you to enjoy a cup or two of green tea as you digest this small, charming book: Nurture friendships; be part of a larger community; eat lightly; slow down and live in the moment; smile and be optimistic; reconnect with nature; give thanks; keep your mind and body active — no, not exercise, necessarily, but more like finding joy in the small acts of everyday living. And most important, find your ikigai, the spark that ignites your spirit and can light the way to a long and happy life.