Penny takes the traditional English cozy mystery, moves it to the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines, and provides us with the intelligent and thoughtful character of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec to solve the crimes. She also seasons it lightly with something akin to magic realism. Three Pines can’t be found on a map, and its bucolic setting, while wonderful, warps reality just slightly with its very perfection, and the village seems to cast a spell on all its visitors. Readers will be seduced by the backdrop – the village green, the charming old homes, the skating pond and nearby bistro – and the wise, witty, and creative denizens of the village.
Being a mystery, Dead Cold is also peopled with the mean and venal. Two people are murdered. The first is a homeless woman in Montreal. Gamache is given her file in error and continues to work on the case even when he is called to investigate the death of one C.C. de Poitiers outside of Three Pines. De Poitiers has been electrocuted in her lawn chair on Boxing Day while watching an outdoor curling match on frozen Lac Brume.
De Poitiers had a deserved reputation for being cruel and selfish, and not even her own husband and daughter mourn her passing. This makes her murder understandable, but no easier to solve.
The villagers we meet are all strong characters, and there is enough complexity to each, and enough circumstantial evidence, to cast some suspicion on every one of them. In addition, Gamache has problems within the Sûreté because of his actions on a case involving high-ranking colleagues.
The journey to the end of this mystery satisfies more than the solution itself, but no mystery reader will regret the time they spend in the snowy village of Three Pines.