Welcome to the Bury Your Dead mini tour of Québec City.
“As Québec City shivers in the grip of winter, its ancient stone walls cracking in the cold, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache plunges into the most unusual case of his celebrated career. A man has been brutally murdered in one of the city’s oldest buildings—a library where the English citizens of Québec safeguard their history. And the death opens a door into the past, exposing a mystery that has lain dormant for centuries…a mystery Gamache must solve if he’s to apprehend a present-day killer.”
Hi, my name is Alex, and I’ll be your tour guide for the remained of this post.
Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny‘s six book in her Gamache series is set here in Québec City, in the dead of winter. Which, I might add, are several months long and reach temperatures even your long johns are not prepared for! But I digress.
The book opens with Gamache thinking deeply about the terrible events of a raid gone wrong, as he sits across from his former mentor, Émile Comeau. They’re in a small cafe eating croissants. In the book the cafe is called Chez Temporal, on the rue Couillard. But in real life, it’s Le Petit Coin Latin on the rue Sainte-Ursule. And to prove its authenticity as the place Penny was writing about, proudly displays a poster of the author in the entrance. [Note: click on the images for full size.]
As it so happens, this lovely little vibrant cafe is just a couple of streets over from the Morrin Centre—that houses the English Literary and Historical society—and the location of not only of a murder, which becomes the focus of the story, but also where Gamache has been spending some of his time reading and recuperating. He’s been pondering one of Québec City’s real-life mysteries: where the body of Samuel de Champlain—the founding Father of Québec—might be buried [side note: no one knows].
Of course, anyone who has read the book knows, Gamache manages to solve one mystery but not the one he would like too. And while a murder and a mystery appear to be the main premise of Bury Your Dead, I’d like to think they are both secondary to what Gamache is going through. And the way Penny puts Gamache in the dead of winter, removed from Montreal, his wife, colleagues and friends, to explore the depths of the man’s grief and loss, and second-guessing his decisions that have resulted in the death of a number of men and women under his command.
This is an exploration into the heart and soul of the man, more than any other book Penny has written in the series. And, for that alone, never mind being set here, in QC, it’s my favourite. Poignant, heartbreak, and enlightening, Penny really is a master storyteller.
Should you ever make it up here to Québec City for a visit, you can also take the ‘official’ Bury Your Dead walking tour, which also showcases the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica and where General Montcalm died after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Personally, I would take you to see where General James Wolfe fell, and was buried. But that’s a whole other post for another day.
And that, dear reader, concludes this virtual tour and blog post. I hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of Québec City.