The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

Louise Penny’s The Madness of Crowds, Book 17 in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, takes us to a post-Covid Quebec. Armand is looking forward to spending the Christmas holidays with his family in the quaint village of Three Pines. But an unusual request to work security at a speaking event at a local university draws Armand away from hot chocolate, skating, and pleasant times at the local bistro.

The event features a controversial speaker, Professor Abigail Robinson, and a polarized audience—a powder keg waiting to explode. And explosions of sorts do occur, along with what appears to be an attempt on the life of the speaker.

In some mysteries, detectives struggle to identify suspects. But in the case of Professor Robinson, whose views are abhorrent to many, there’s plenty of motive to go around—and even more is revealed as Armand and his team begin to dig into the facts.

The Madness of Crowds is more than a gripping mystery.”

Fans of Penny’s Gamache series will find plenty to like in The Madness of Crowds. The familiar cast of characters, including the eccentric Ruth Zardo, Armand’s right-hand person Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and the residents of Three Pines are all there, and Penny’s trademark subtle humour is on display throughout the book, providing a neat counterpoint to the suspense. Penny keeps the reader guessing until the end as to the actual perpetrator and their motivation. The Madness of Crowds moves at a brisk pace, with each chapter drawing the reader forward into the next.

But The Madness of Crowds is more than a gripping mystery. Throughout the book, characters struggle with Professor Robinson’s premise that society’s economic well-being justifies certain sacrifices. Many have their own personal reasons for finding Robinson’s proclamations untenable. Woven into the story are insights into crowd behaviour and the hundredth monkey theory, and references to the infamous psychological experiments of Ewen Cameron, which took place at the Allan Memorial Institute at McGill University.

As was the case in State of Terror, the book she co-wrote with Hilary Clinton, Penny makes between-the-lines allusions to recent or ongoing world events. Included within The Madness of Crowds are references to Covid’s effect on society, and groups co-opting cherished symbols for their own purposes. A page-turner with thematic depth, The Madness of Crowds is well worth a look.

LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York TimesUSA Today, and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels, and coauthor with Hillary Rodham Clinton of the #1 New York Times bestselling thriller State of Terror. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (seven times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (May 24 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 448 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1250145279
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1250145277

Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at