66 pages 2 hours read

Louise Penny

Bury Your Dead

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2010

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Bury Your Dead is a 2010 mystery novel in Louise Penny’s long-running Inspector Gamache series, the immediate sequel to 2009’s The Brutal Telling. The Gamache novels of Penny, a former broadcast journalist, have received critical acclaim, including multiple Agatha Awards for Best Mystery Novel of the Year and the Anthony Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. The most recent installment in the series, A World of Curiosities, was published in 2022.

Content Warning: The source material features depictions of traumatic injury, gun violence, and use of opioids.

Plot Summary

The work opens with a flashback to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache leading an armed team in a mission to rescue an agent taken hostage, who is speaking to him over a headset. It is revealed later in the book that the agent, Gamache’s beloved protégé, Paul Morin, is killed as part of a larger terrorist plot; Gamache’s team thwarts the plot, but he remains haunted throughout the book by not being able to save Morin and is still recovering from injuries and a stroke sustained in a deadly firefight with the terrorists.

In the present, Gamache is in Québec City, staying with his mentor, Émile Comeau, and researching the Battle of Québec at the Literary and Historical Society’s library, which holds priceless material concerning the city’s increasingly small Anglophone community. In addition to recovering from the as-yet unspecified trauma, Gamache is confronting his own doubts about his previous case, the subject of the prior book, The Brutal Telling, in which he arrested Three Pines local Olivier Brulé for the murder of an elderly man known as the Hermit. Olivier, an antiques dealer, had been trading the Hermit basic necessities for priceless antiques and keeping his existence secret from the community; it is believed he murdered the Hermit to gain possession of his treasures. Olivier’s partner, Gabri Dubeau, asks Gamache every day to reopen the case.

When amateur archeologist and historian Augustin Renaud, renowned for his obsessive search for the burial site of Québec’s founder, Samuel de Champlain, is found dead in the basement of the historical society, Gamache is reluctantly drawn into the case. All the while, he is haunted by the voice of Paul Morin.

The narrative switches between Gamache’s point of view and that of his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, also recuperating from firefight injuries, who is secretly reinvestigating the Hermit murder case, at Gamache’s request, in Three Pines.

The board of the historical society informs Gamache that the murderer must have close ties to the building: The basement was about to be recoated in concrete, permanently hiding the body. The city’s media is in uproar over Renaud’s death, as it revives rumors about Champlain’s burial site. The board’s young Presbyterian minister, Tom Hancock, is especially anxious about the murder’s consequences for his English community. Gamache, at Émile’s invitation, visits the Société Champlain, a group of Francophone amateur historians devoted to early Québec. They tell him Champlain’s likely burial place is nowhere near the library.

Beauvoir visits Olivier in jail, learning that the Hermit may have been local rather than foreign, as they previously believed. Despite his wariness of the community, Beauvoir enlists Clara Morrow, the village’s portraitist, as an amateur investigative partner and finds himself confiding in the village’s misanthropic poet, Ruth Zardo. He tells her about the day of Morin’s kidnapping and Gamache’s nearly 24 hours on the phone with the young man, at the orders of his captors—finally explaining why Gamache is haunted by the agent’s voice.

Gamache learns that while little is known for certain about Samuel de Champlain’s origins and life, he remains a potent historical symbol of Québec, its status as a “New World” apart from Europe, and the ongoing tension between its Anglophile and Francophile citizens. Gamache talks the case over with Émile, who admits to his own hopes for an independent Québec. Searching Renaud’s archives, Gamache discovers references to mysterious numbers and a meeting between four people referred to as JD, O’Mara, Chin, and Patrick, whose descendant, Sean Patrick, lives nearby. The numbers turn out to be catalog numbers for books that belonged to a temperance activist and former priest, Charles Chiniquy, who was close friends with the Literary and Historical Society’s founder, James Douglas. Gamache begins to believe Renaud acquired the missing books in a recent, controversial sale of library holdings. Gamache has more flashbacks to his efforts to rescue Morin, as well as to his first clashes with his superior, Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, and his struggle to convince Francoeur of the terrorist plot.

In Sean Patrick’s home, Gamache notices a photograph of the man’s Irish grandfather smiling above a recently dug pit. The photograph is dated 1869, a date Gamache recognizes from Renaud’s diary, leading him to realize Renaud was interested in a meeting in the past, not the present. Gamache asks the city’s chief archeologist, Serge Croix, to find out where the 1869 dig took place.

Beauvoir realizes Olivier’s sales of the Hermit’s antiques led the real killer to his location, while Clara learns that Old Mundin, the village carpenter, still grieves deeply for the loss of his father. Confiding in Ruth, Gamache recalls how Morin’s kidnapping turned out to be a distraction from plans to destroy a hydroelectric dam powering much of Canada and the US.

Gamache discovers that two of Renaud’s important books are missing, including Chiniquy’s diary from the year of the dig in the photograph. Gamache and Émile visit a restaurant believed to be the site of the 1869 dig, learning that Renaud too visited it before his death. Gamache also learns that Old Mundin’s father died by suicide, walking out onto the river ice.

Gamache searches the historical society’s library, suspecting the killer hid the missing volumes in plain sight there. Gamache finds the books and takes them to his meeting with the Société Champlain, revealing his solution to the case.

Gamache explains that Chiniquy overheard two Irish laborers discussing their recent discovery of a lead-lined coffin containing a Bible. Chiniquy summoned his friend James Douglas to examine the coffin with him. The men were paid handsomely for their total silence about the discovery and placed the coffin in the basement of the Literary and Historical Society. Gamache shows Émile the key evidence: the Huguenot Bible, belonging to Samuel de Champlain, proving that the founder of the province was Protestant.

Émile explains that Renaud was extorting the Société Champlain, offering to conceal his find in exchange for membership. Gamache reassembles the archeology team in the Literary and Historical Society basement. They find Champlain’s coffin with a woman’s remains inside. The society members are dismayed that they inadvertently sold Champlain’s Bible and that their founder hid his body from the public for centuries.

Gamache then learns that a video of the rescue attempt and shootout between his team and the terrorists has been leaked online. The video is spliced from the officers’ own body cameras.

In Three Pines, Beauvoir assembles the suspects, explaining that the killer had come to Three Pines for revenge against the Hermit. He lures Old Mundin into confessing that he believed the Hermit killed his father for his father’s priceless antiques. He traced the Hermit to Three Pines through Olivier’s sales of the antiques, which he recognized, and killed the Hermit in revenge. Beauvoir shocks him by explaining that the Hermit was his father—the old man had faked his own death.

Gamache and Beauvoir watch the videos in their respective locations, Gamache with Émile and Beauvoir with Ruth. The reader learns that Morin was killed by his captors as Gamache took the wrong turn trying to reach him. The dam was spared thanks to Gamache’s hunches and connections. Gamache suspects the video was leaked to torment him personally—its origins are a major plot point in later installments in the series.

Before leaving Québec City, Gamache extracts a confession from Tom Hancock, who admits to killing Renaud to protect his community. Hancock tells Gamache he must live and move beyond his grief.

Gamache and Beauvoir go to Three Pines together, to return Olivier home. Olivier tells Gamache he cannot forgive him yet, which Gamache accepts. Gamache, finally, hears silence, after he apologizes to Paul Morin and imagines them embracing a final time.

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