Debt collectors are known to be aggressive and sometimes violent, but what happens with a black-clad hooded figure does nothing but follow a defaulter around and stare at him (or her)? The shame of being singled out like this can be more effective than any other method. In Louise Penny’s Glass Houses, a cobrador (debt collector) unnerves not just an entire village, but the police chief of Quebec.
In Louise Penny’s bestselling Armand Gamache series, the Canadian village of Three Pines, outside Montreal seems like heaven on earth. The tiny village that does not even appear on most maps, is where Chief Superintendent of the Surete du Quebec, comes home for warmth and peace after the chaos of his days dealing with crime in the city.
His loving wife Reine-Marie, his friends, his daughter and son-in-law, have the village’s charming bistro sun by Gabri and Olivier at the centre of their lives in Three Pines. In the thirteen book of the series, Glass Houses, one Halloween night, when they have guess from Montreal, a dark, hooded figure appears on the village green. It just stands there, doing nothing, but the tranquility of the village is shattered. Everybody expects top cop Gamache to do something, but since no crime has been committed he is unable to get rid of the spooky character.
One of the guests, a journalist, recalls a story he did on an old Spanish tradition, of the cobrador or “debt collector” who is hired to just follow a debtor or stare at him, so that he is scared into paying up. Gamache’s son-in-law and second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir does some research and finds the story of the origins of the cobrador, which was like a conscience calling out not a financial but a moral debt. Gamache realizes that “someone in the village had done something so horrific that a Conscience had been called.”
Then a murder is committed, the cobrador vanishes, and Armand Gamache is called upon to testify in court. Oddly enough, the prosecuting lawyer, Barry Zalmanowitz grills his own witness so vicously, that the judge Mauteen Corriveau suspects that there is something more to it that meets the eye, and she is right.
Gamache’s career and several lives are at stake, and the outcome of the case is crucial to a plan the Chief Superintendent, Beauvoir, and their Surete colleagues have been working on secretly for months, to fight the drug trade in Canada.
The suspense builds up as slowly as the heat in the courtroom becomes stifling. The case tests the nerve and loyalty of everyone in Gamache’s circle, and they all rally around wonderfully.
Conscience, duty, and love of family and friends are always underlining these books about Armand Gamache and Three Pines. Glass Houses is one of Louise Penny’s finest.
By Louise Penny
Published by: Hachette