I’m sad that I’ve read all of Louise Penny’s Gamache stories that are currently published; it’s going to be a long year until the next one. I am glad however that the final one I read was The Hangman as it kind of gave me a bit of what I was missing with The Beautiful Mystery.

The Hangman is not a full-fledged Gamache mystery. It’s a stand-alone novella set in Three Pines featuring Gamache, but it was written as part of GoodReads Canada, a literacy program, so it’s on a 3rd grade level aimed at adults, adults who are “emerging readers” primarily. It’s clear and simple and the plot and writing are understandably not as complex as her usual novels.

The story takes place in fall, November actually, and opens with a jogger discovering a dead man hanging in a tree, presumably a suicide. The dead man was a guest at the local inn and spa and has left a suicide note, but things don’t add up. The dead man’s hands and pants are clean, suprising if he did indead climb the tree. Gamache suspects murder and soon the dead man’s secrets are dug up. As often happens, the man’s past has led to this killing.

Because of the style and length of the book, we don’t get to know Armand Gamache or his second-in-command Beauvoir very well, but we do know that they are skilled investigators. Their styles obviously differ though. Beauvoir searches for clues while Gamache contemplates the crime. The other characters have personalities, interests, secrets, but we are only given what we need to know for this story, whereas usually in Penny’s books the characters are so fully three-dimensional you feel like you could meet if you could ever actually find Three Pines.

The plot is not complicated but there are a few red herrings and overall it kept me involved. There aren’t mutliple plotlines going, but I was happy to be back in Three Pines with a couple of the regulars. I’m not sure when exactly in the series this novella takes place, but certainly before The Beautiful Mystery, probably before Bury Your Dead. There is no tension in Gamache and Beauvoir’s relationship. It was a nice, gentle book, at least for one that starts off with a dead man in a tree. I guess it was kinder to the characters than the last couple in the series have been, which I appreciated.

I thought the grand denouement at the end was a nice touch, very typical “detective novel” ending. Gather all the suspects, make a few suggestions, then announce the killer.

I think anyone who reads Penny series will enjoy this brief visit. Would I recommend it to those who haven’t read the series? Yes, as a quick short read, a brief introduction into the her world. Remember though, that it is written simply for a reason, it’s not a full representation of her style.

4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery & Detective- Police Procedural

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Inspector Armand Gamache Novella
Published 2010 by Grass Roots Press
96 pages

Book source: Library

Chief Inspector Gamache Series

  1. Still Life
  2. A Fatal Grace
  3. The Cruelest Month
  4. A Rule Against Murder
  5. The Brutal Telling
  6. Bury Your Dead
  7. A Trick of the Light
  8. The Beautiful Mystery


This was my seventh read for R.I.P. VII, a reading event embracing the ghastly and ghostly, mysterious and grim. R.I.P. VII is hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.


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