So this is a very good Louise Penny book following the Armand Gamache and another change in his professional and personal life. I gave "Kingdom of the Blind" three stars due to that whole opiod epidemic thing that still gives me hives when it is referred to in this book. I think Penny is a bit repetitive at times, but not as badly as she has been in the past. Though I gave this five stars, I honestly think this is a 4.5 star book (I rounded up) due to the ridiculous side plot with Clara and her art. I would happily just read about Gamache and his cases with the villagers there as a chorus in the background. Anytime Clara is elevated in the forefront in these books though I get totally lost. I cannot keep reading about her art anymore.
"A Better Man" has Gamache back as head of the homicide department (the job he had in the first book in the series). Gamache has been demoted and though many thought he would just resign and leave due to the insult of the job he was offered, he decides to take the position. This leaves Gamache and his son in law, Jean-Guy as both heads of homicide. Jean-Guy though is awaiting a move that will take him and his family to Paris. An officer we have me in the previous books, Agent Lysette Cloutier, is dealing with a personal matter. A friend has called her to ask for help in tracking down his missing and pregnant daughter, Vivienne. Gamache offers to go and see what's what since this way it will help smooth over things and allow Jean-Guy to focus on running the department. Of course things are not what they seem and Gamache and Cloutier are both concerned Vivienne, was murdered by her alcoholic and abusive husband. If that's not enough, we also have one of my favorites, Isabelle back and interviewing for potential jobs. She's still there though helping out Gamache on this case. And of course as I said above, we have Clara and her new art medium getting panned and slammed via social media along with Gamache's return to homicide.
So Gamache seems even more solid in this installment. He is more thoughtful about his actions and the repercussions that can happen. He is quick to make sure he's not seen as overstepping with regards to Jean-Guy's position and the new head of the Sûreté du Québec. The whole Gamache has enemies things needs to die a quick death. I just don't have the energy for it anymore in this series. At least the ending gave us a resolution on that whole thing so I am hoping that we don't see anymore of that. Gamache is affected by the case he's working on with Cloutier. He can't help imagine what he would feel like if his daughter Annie was missing. And I do like that he is able to take a step back and give warnings to several of the police officers about their actions and how they treat suspects. I think this may be the first Penny book that touches upon police brutality.
Jean-Guy was actually good in this one! I know, I am shocked too. Especially since I have been dragging the guy through the whole series. He's matured and is a good leader. He learned from Gamache and it's a shame we don't get a chance to see how he would have handled the role. Penny is not doing an 11th hour reprieve here, Jean-Guy, Annie, their son are really moving away.
We also get POVs of Cloutier and Isabelle. I am looking forward to the next book since it shows some exciting things underway for Isabelle. I loved how tough Isabelle is and how she's also learned a lot from Gamache and how to take apart a case and follow through on your instincts.
We get introduced to a new character, Cameron, who I wonder will turn up in future books.
We get the village of Three Pines. Ruth and her weird duck, her bad poetry, and her seemingly fighting back via social media at those who are attacking Gamache. The Clara thing was not good. I don't even know what to say about it other than that.
The writing was really great and I liked that for once we had everyone looking into a murder case without wider implications into a criminal conspiracy. This one had more heart I thought. The flow was great from beginning to end and the ending was a nice little surprise.
The setting of Three Pines continues to get best murdery village every awards though. Seriously, anywhere near that place should move.