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The Madness of Crowds

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Member Reviews

I love Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny but really did struggle with this one. The setting of the story seemed to take forever with a debate before the main event. I know it is giving background but it really did go on too long. There are many issues here including that of free speech, genetic engineering and ethics. I have a disabled sister so did find some aspects of this book had me feeling quite angry at times. I don't think it was an easy read and sadly, I didn't really enjoy this book. However, we all have varied tastes so I do thank Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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As Quebec and the world return to normal following the pandemic, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is tasked with supervising the visit of university lecturer Professor Abigail Robinson. Her controversial subject - controlling population numbers to ensure the future - pits Gamache and his son-in-law Inspector Beauvoir against many of their friends and when murder strikes, their job becomes almost impossible. Can they solve the case without tearing their small community apart?

The Madness of Crowds is an engrossing story, with a scarily real dilemma at its heart. With an ever increasing population and with finite resources, would we contemplate enforced euthanasia for vulnerable people? Louise Penny has created a thought provoking idea within a very entertaining book. Gamache is a well created character and his thought and actions are believable and real.

A great story and I can’t wait to read more of Louise Penny’s books.
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This is an atmospheric crime story set against the backdrop of a snowy winter in Quebec.  The description of the landscape, mystery and the icy depths are evocative.  The plot twists and turns around the potential suspects and those searching for the truth, both in their personal lives and the wider political context.  A good read.
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After the previous book took the Gamache family (and, therefore, the reader) to Paris, The Madness Of Crowds finds us back in Three Pines. Gamache, asked to police a public speaking event, finds himself morally repulsed by the scientist his team are tasked to protect. This is a truly post-pandemic novel, centred on a very relevant question: whose lives are worth saving? The struggle of various characters to come to terms both with the pandemic generally, and with the work of Professor Robinson specifically, will resonate with readers who by this point in the series are well used to the philosophising of the Gamache novels. Alongside the ethical questions raised there is also, of course, a very readable murder mystery (albeit one that wasn’t too tricky to crack), and I enjoyed very much being back with some of my favourite characters in the Bistro.
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In the Canadian village of Three Pines, we're post-pandemic: the scars are still there but life is starting to get back to normal. The villagers are beginning to return to the Bistro and the Auberge. They're visiting each other's homes and having friends and relatives to stay. A young Sudanese woman who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize is one such visitor and she soon proves that not all saints are necessarily pleasant people to be around - a bit like Vincent Gilbert, known in the village as the Asshole Saint.

In that usually dead week between Christmas and the New Year, there's some excitement. Well, on the face of it, you could think of it as more of a diversion for the precious few who might be interested. It's a statistics lecture given by Professor Abigail Robinson and Armand Gamache has been asked to provide security for the lecture at the Université de l'Estrie in Quebec. He can't imagine why such a job should fall to the head of homicide but it's a personal request from the chancellor, so he goes ahead - and it rapidly becomes obvious that there's a lot more than meets the eye to this lecture. The pandemic has made people nervous about their futures, about the future of their country. They've also been given food for thought: in the course of the pandemic, many of the frailer members of society died, their deaths perhaps hastened by the illness but the probability is that they would not have lived for much longer in any case.

The Professor has a suggestion for a dramatic solution for the situation which Canada finds itself in and it's one that many people would be happy to get behind. They've come to listen to Robinson: she has the statistics to prove that what she suggests is right and would work. People have travelled hundreds of miles to hear the lecture and they're prepared to queue for hours in the bitter cold to ensure that they get a seat. The lecture hall is packed. First, there were the firecrackers - and then the gunshots.

You can always rely on Louise Penny to give you a great story and this one is no exception. Regular readers of the series will be relieved to know that they're going to meet all their old friends from the village with just the necessary sprinkling of new characters, all of which will stay in your mind. Some you'll root for - others you'll be less certain about - but you're going to need to know what's happening and why. You'll also be desperate to know whether Abigail Robinson's proposal has the legs to run. There's obvious support for it in some quarters but you'll find yourself musing on the distinction between 'mathematically correct' and 'morally defensible'.

Despite the fact that the village of Three Pines has an unreasonably high number of homicides (at least one a year for the last sixteen years, by my reckoning) it's a place you find yourself wanting to inhabit. It's a series which I've followed, quietly, for many years as I know that I can always rely on Louise Penny for a good plot with plenty of thought-provoking side issues. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

All the Armand Gamache books read well as standalones but you might enjoy starting at the beginning of the series. You won't regret it!
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There is such a lot I loved about this book despite it being one in a very long series which I hadn’t read. The characters are wonderful and the way the author really makes you feel you are in a cold snowy country but lovely and warm when she takes you inside. I would love to give five stars but there are a couple of reasons I can’t. Firstly I didn’t  think the “ cause” was ever properly explained and secondly the last 20% had me reeling from all the considered opinions of who done it  which I’m sure might be what happens within a group of investigators but it was completely exhausting. 
The book is wonderful though so do give it a go. I will be recommending it to my book groups.
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This book raised a lot of interesting issues, and a number of the characters are well-drawn but I'm afraid I found the whole thing very slow-moving and drawn-out. I wouldn't rush to read another book by this author.
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The Madness of crowds is set in post pandemic Canada and the title refers to how crowds of decent people can be affected by a certain madness that allows extraordinary delusions to become popular. Ideas that in normal times would be instantly dismissed. 
Following the pandemic a scientist,  Professor Abigail Robinson, considers the statistics and comes to the conclusion that the answer to the problems facing the country is mandatory euthanasia. Her ideas are creating a wave of support around the country which is countered by a wave of disgust. When she gives a lecture in a hall in a small town an attempted assignation takes place followed by the murder of her close companion. What follows is a plot with many twists and turns that leads Ganache and his team down many dead ends before the truth is revealed. The book is excellent in the way it uses the pandemic as a backdrop to how society might consider what has happened and how it goes forward. You can judge how civilised a society is by how it treats the weak and vulnerable and the pandemic highlighted where there was a lack of empathy. This excellent crime novels picks up on that theme.
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Set in the wonderful Three Pines, Inspector Gamache is asked to provide crowd control and a police presence at a lecture given by Professor Abigail Robinson on the contentious subject of almost culling the human population; those who are over a certain age or have illness/conditions that limit their life span in order for society to survive and improve, especially in the aftermath of the recent pandemic!

Some people are horrified by her theories, some accept them but ultimately it causes a riot at the lecture,, as firecrackers are let off, which people think is gun fire but indeed a shot is fired. But how did someone get a gun into the lecture hall at the university, especially with a police presence and his son in law Jean-Guy on the door. 

A few days after the lecture, Gamache is analysing how things went wrong and then Professor Robinson's best friend who was with her, has now been murdered on New Years Eve in Three Pines in the woods. 

A great plot, much loved characters still and interesting that is was et post pandemic. 

It could be read as a stand alone but to appreciate the characters and relationships then best to read the books in order. 

Bring on the next one!
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I had been waiting impatiently for "The Madness of Crowds" to be published, when NetGalley kindly offered me an ARC. Although this is my favourite crime series ever, one never knows what to expect: the last novel took place in Paris, but here we are once again comfortably ensconced in Three Pines. Comfortably? You've got to be joking!

I love the way Louise Penny unfolds the plot little by little, dosing out the suspense to keep the reader interested and guessing. But most of all I love the characters in this series who, despite the repercussions of the pandemic, maintain a warm and healthy community spirit. They are prone to human frailties and often get things wrong, like you and I, but it is interesting to follow Armand Gamache, Isabelle Lacoste and Jean-Guy Beauvoir's thoughts and suspicions throughout the investigation.

Without giving anything away, the themes Louise Penny chose to write about have such a clear and poignant universality about them and, despite living on the other side of the world, I couldn't help drawing parallels to what is happening in my own country at this unsettling time.

It is definitely the right time to read "The Madness of Crowds" (a wonderful title to choose) and take a while to deliberate on it. Louise Penny is one of the most gifted storytellers I have ever had the pleasure to read.


Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with this copy in return for an honest review.
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A great detective thriller set in a remote Canadian village, post-pandemic. This is the 17th installment in the brilliant Inspector Gamache series but all pertinent history is explained so it can easily be read as a standalone. 

Life is back to "normal" but the characters are still bruised and haunted by the harrowing ordeal of the pandemic. Trying to make sense of how to rebuild, a statistician is commissioned to analyse the data, coming to horrifying and divisive conclusions. The plot is very well put together and somewhat reminiscent of the populist political culture we have been witnessing, and draws out multiple facets of the arguments. 

The characters are very well drawn and I especially love the kindness and thoughtfulness of Inspector Gamache in particular, and the nature of his relationships with all those around him. I've already read the first book and I'm definitely going to be reading the rest of the series.
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I hadn't realised that this book was the latest in a long series, when I saw that and that it was probably not a light read I wondered whether I had made a mistake in choosing it. Not so!
This book soon grabbed me and the pace of the book just flowed. Yes there were some references to previous events but nothing that distracted me from this storyline, the book can easily be read as a standalone.
I found the characters well drawn and very relatable especially the Chief Inspector, Armand Gamache. In fact I think he could easily become my favourite fictional police officer.
The description of the village and it's' inhabitants was vivid and especially the cold and the snow, excellent descriptive writing.
The motive and suspicions went this way and that allowing the reader to enjoy the deliberations of the police as they investigated the various options.
All in all a good read, I was aiming for 4.5 stars but when writing this review I realised that I had no negative comments so it is a 5.
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Interesting characters, drawn out story

A snowy village in Quebec, it's post-pandemic, everyone has been vaccinated and all is well.... Chief Inspector Gamache is assigned to protect a guest lecturer at the local university, A murder ensues. Who did it and why?

This is the first Gamache book I've read and I felt distinctly like a latecomer to a party. I found some of the scenes involving well-established characters hard to engage with.

The main characters though we're interesting and for the most part sympathetic. The story though, oh boy, it felt very long drawn out and I became increasingly impatient.
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I think it's fair to suggest that the 17th book in a long-running series is probably not the best place to start your relationship with a new crime-solving protagonist. I also need to admit that I didn't know this was part of such a long series, and I probably would have thought twice about requesting it if I'd known there were 16 before this one.

Why do I mention this? I don't expect any regular readers of this series to agree with anything I say. If you've already read more than a dozen, then you clearly like this stuff. BUT there will be people who are wondering if you can join at this point and still enjoy this book. I'm going to stick my neck out and say "Probably not". 

I found this rather bland and disappointing. It took me a long time to drag myself through it because this was the opposite of a page-turner.

In a small-town university in Quebec, a notorious mathematician/statistician (notorious not being a typical adjective for such people) is due to give a talk between Christmas and New Year. So much, so bland, you might be thinking. The problem is that this statistician has a very unpalatable position on how to avoid future pandemics - by the involuntary euthanasia of the elderly, sick and disabled.  Her talk draws opposing crowds and leads to an attempted murder. Chief Inspector Gamache is working security during the talk and soon trying to work out how the gun got into the university hall, and how a person connected with the speaker gets murdered a couple of days later.

I found a lot to criticise about this book. I'm sure that if you've already read the first 16, my negativity will be like water off a duck's back. That's fine. Each to their own.

The premise of involuntary euthanasia is never properly explained. There's supposed to be a statistical drive that supports Professor Abigail Robinson's proposal but the author doesn't bother to make up a good story. I felt a bit cheated.  The pandemic sets the backdrop to the novel but is again handled so lightly, that it might as well not have even happened. I didn't pick up any of the sense of suffering and subsequent vaccine-based hope. This book could have been set at any time against any circumstances and still felt the same.

The book relies on a lot of coincidences. A local elderly lady has left a ton of paperwork that eventually ties into the present-day events. A woman from South Sudan who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seems to be totally adrift in the story. I can only guess that she ties in somehow to an earlier book as her presence in this one is baffling. And of course, there's the need - as in any high number serial book - to do some major data and character dumping in order to establish a cast of hundreds, many of whom are only peripherally involved in the story.

And there's the 'Ca va bien, aller' slogan that possibly means a lot if you're Canadian or Quebecois but isn't really explained. Oh, and don't get me started on the elderly poet with a pet duck.

This feels like a rag-bag of poorly developed characters that probably make sense to those familiar with the series but don't deliver to the one-off visitor dropping in for number 17 in a seemingly interminable series.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for my review copy.
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Freedom of speech. Academic integrity. The right to life. Louise Penny’s latest novel, The Madness of Crowds, seamlessly integrates these wide-ranging themes into a deftly-plotted murder mystery that reveals humanity at its best – and its worst.

Louise Penny began writing the novel, the 17th in her Chief Inspector Gamache series, shortly after Canada went into an anti-coronovirus lockdown. It was only when she was half way through the first draft that she decided to set the novel in a post pandemic world.

The Madness of Crowds isn’t about the pandemic as such but instead shows how it created an atmosphere in which a different form of contagion could take hold. It made it possible for ideas to gain traction that, at other times, would be dismissed as unthinkable and distasteful.

The contagion in this novel begins with a seemingly innocuous research paper, authored by a little known professor of statistics, on the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

Professor Abigail Robinson’s recommendations tap into the despair of a population feeling bruised, haunted by the loss of loved ones and in fear for the future.. They’re more than receptive to the professor’s confident assertion (backed up with solid factual evidence) that things will get better, that the economy will bounce back and the health care will never again run short of beds, equipment or drugs.

Message Goes Viral
But the message behind Professor Robinson’s slogan ça va bien aller (all will be well ) is anything but innocent. For all to be well, she asserts, the population needs to make just one sacrifice: the bed-bound stroke victims, the frail and the sick, the young born with genetic illnesses should be helped to die. In essence, she is advocating for legally mandated euthanasia but hiding it behind a rational argument for better use of resources and a way to relieve suffering.

Her message goes viral but though it quickly gains momentum it also divides the nation. Some see it as a practical solution to the problem of limited resources. Others view it as an outrage.

The clash of opinions comes to a head one wintry night when Professor Robinson delivers a lecture at a Quebec University. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, pleads with university authorities to cancel the talk but is stonewalled by arguments about the principles of free speech and the need for academic institutions to accommodate dissenting voices.

Chaos ensues when someone in the audience fires a shot at the professor. Days later, Professor Robinson attends a New Year’s Eve party in Three Pines, the idyllic village which is home to the Chief Inspector. Before the night is over, the body of a woman is found in the snow.

As Gamache and his two assistants, Jean Guy and Isabelle, investigate, their personal repulsion over the Professor’s message clashes with the need to maintain an open mind on the reasons for the killing. Was it motivated by hatred towards the Professor’s ideas or by a desire to protect her from other’s hatred?

Personal In Conflict With The Professional
They have plenty of suspects: among them an esteemed medical researcher hiding his past involvement in a notorious psychological experiment; a university chancellor who acted as loco in parentis to the professor and a young female victim of atrocities in Sudan now slated to become a Nobel Laureate for her humanitarian efforts.

The setting of Three Pines with its unusual array of inhabitants is one of the pleasures of this series. Regular readers might be disappointed that there are not more scenes in the bistro and that well-established figures from past novels don’t have as much prominence in The Madness of Crowds. The award-winning poet Ruth, the respected psychologist Myrna and the acclaimed painter Clara are almost incidental in this novel.

As always however it’s the character of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache that is the strength of the novel. I think anyone who has read the earlier titles knows that he is a good judge of character, a wise man much given to quoting poetry and philosophy who is confident of his abilities but also conscious of his failings.

The Madness of Crowds sees this man of high principles confront a moral dilemma. If Professor Robinson is not stopped, her ideas,, based on half truths and distorted logic, could infect the whole country. His own grand-daughter, born with Down’s Syndrome, could be one of the innocent victims. As a police officer, Gamache knows he is duty bound to protect her from harm. But as a man, and a grandfather, he is afraid that in doing so he is letting loose a monster.

A Moral Maze
The moral maze gives an interesting dimension to what would otherwise be a very straight-forward murder mystery.

The Madness of Crowds is an entertaining novel but I don’t think it’s one of Louise Penny’s best. She makes good use of a contemporary reality – the use of social media to rapidly disseminate selective truths – and the real-life event of scandalous mind control experiments; but setting the narrative in a post-pandemic world was a risky decision. I don’t feel it paid off. At the time the novel was written, the world was still in the grip of the crisis and few people could predict the future. So her descriptions of life after restrictions are lifted, come over as charming but rather simplistic.

"When the pandemic was finally, officially, declared over, the little village of Three Pines where the Gamaches lived had gathered on the village green where the names of the dead had been read out. Loved ones had planted trees in the clearing above the chapel. Then, to great ceremony, Myrna had unlocked her bookstore. And Sarah had opened the doors to her boulangerie, Monsieur Béliveau put the Ouvert sign in front of his General Store and a cheer rose up as Olivier and Gabri unlocked their bistro."

I did enjoy the book but not to the same extent as previous novels in this series. It’s left me wondering whether the series has now run its course and its time for the Chief Inspector to hang up his hat. I hope I’ll be proved wrong by book number 18.

T
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The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny
I have somehow managed to miss all of the previous books featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache so therefore the characters were new to me as were the relationships which have obviously been developed over these books.  I must admit I found some of the unusual characters annoying in particular the f***ing duck and its owner who seemed ever present.   
The plot revolved around the aftermath of Covid and a controversial professor of statistics who seemed to have gained a great following for her theory that the elderly and those who were incapacitated in some way should be removed in order to release precious resources for the able bodied; as had occurred naturally during the worst of the pandemic.  
Gamache is tasked with protecting the speaker and, as he is the grandfather of a child with Downs Syndrome,  he finds this a particularly difficult role to perform.  Professor Abigail Robinson’s appearance in Three Pines stirs up submerged emotions and also brings back memories of the terrors perpetrated by others in the name of science. The shamed McGill psychiatry professor who carried out unethical, devastating experiments that destroyed the lives of countless ordinary people enters into the story and demonstrates how apparently normal some of the monsters in our society can appear to be. 
Many thanks to the author the publishers and Net Galley for a chance to read the book in return for an honest review.
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Never having read any of this series, I was very confused with the characters for quite some time. Sometimes they are referred to by their Christian names, other times by their surnames. However, once I had worked them out it was a thoroughly enjoyable story. In places it was quite harrowing, just how easily people are lead.
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‘ My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Madness of Crowds’ by Louise Penny in exchange for an honest review.

My thanks also to The Pigeonhole for hosting an online advance group read in conjunction with the publishers. 

This is Book 17 in Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series of police procedurals set mainly in Quebec. Last summer I had read Book 16: ‘All the Devils Are Here’, so I had some familiarity with the premise and characters. However, that book was set in France and here Armand Gamache and his wife, Renee, are back home in the community of Three Pines, Quebec. Still, Penny does provide some background for new readers to the series.  

Given that I don’t want to enter spoiler territory, I will just give brief plot details. 

At the beginning of the novel Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has been asked to provide crowd control at a statistics lecture given at the Université de l'Estrie in Quebec. He wonders why security is needed at what seems a rather dull lecture.  Yet he learns that the visiting lecturer, Professor Abigail Robinson, is promoting controversial ideas about who deserves to live in order for society to thrive. 

Since the end of the pandemic, Robinson’s ideas have been rapidly gaining popularity with some, while others are horrified by them. Again, no spoilers but it is not long before Gamache and his team have a murder to solve. 

The novel’s title comes from a collection of essays published in 1841, ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ by Charles Mackay. Its essays cover topics such as Tulipmania and the South Sea Bubble, examples of how extraordinary delusions can become popular.

I found this quite a philosophical crime novel that explores the line between good and evil, right and wrong. The investigation is quite complex and as such ‘The Madness of Crowds’ required a closer reading than most crime novels. Still, I am fine with that and enjoyed Louise Penny’s intricate plotting and her characterisations. She also creates a vivid sense of Québécois culture and the beauty of the Canadian landscape. 
 
Before Book 18 appears, I hope to read earlier titles in the series and get to know the inhabitants of Three Pines from the beginning.
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In a small town in Quebec a renowned lecturer (Abigail Robinson) is booked to make a controversial speech. Because of the nature of the topic (Euthanasia ) security is tightened and Chief Inspector Gamache is in charge . An attempt is made on Abigail's life and a suspect is arrested but what is the motive and did he have an accomplice . Gamache follows up all leads and appears to get bogged down and goes off in various directions with many people in the village becoming suspects for some reason . Researching family histories for clues it turns out Abigail had a severely disabled sister who died in suspicious circumstances , and her father took the blame , later committing suicide and leaving a note with a friend of Abigail's . At a New years eve party another victim is found killed and more suspicions are raised . There becomes a common link to a number of suspects leading back to a professor who had supposedly treated them or their relations for psychiatric problems but had in fact been conducting experiments on them . Many clues and twists along the way .
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5 stars

I enjoyed this mystery.  The author is new to me and it seems a bit of shame I've jumped into this series at Book 17.  

Written in the lockdown and with themes of isolation and psychological torture, it includes ideas on statistics and maniplulation.  I don't there's many people who haven't thought cynically about the Covid situation.  

There's several puzzles to be solved and I was pleased that my ideas about the earliest one came right.  I'd definitely look out for more of this author's work.

 voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own..
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