Summary: Gamache, now head of the Sûreté du Québec gambles.
The Chief Inspector Gamache series has been consistently the best mystery series I have read. It is rare series, 13 books in, that still keeps me engaged. And I think the last two books, while a bit unbelievable as mysteries, are probably the best two books of the series.
Armond Gamache has been a career homicide detective. The past several books he has been in an out of the Sûreté. Two books ago he took down the corrupt head of the Sûreté. The last book he was the head of the training academy where he again rooted out corruption. Now he is the head of the whole Sûreté and he turns his attention to the drug trade.
What I have loved about the series is the characters. I am not particularly interesting in the actual mysteries except as a means to see the characters. Penny falls into the common mystery series trap of thinking that she needs to make each successive crime bigger to keep the attention of the reader. (I think this is a false trap. Crimes do not need to be bigger, but the growth of the characters needs to be bigger.)
While I am not particularly interested massive governmental corruption or international terrorism plots or organized crime, I am interested in how those challenges impact Gamache. One of his faults is keeping the responsibility and information too close to his vest. This is a book where he is forced to plan with others a little bit. But because of previous corruption he keeps that circle very small.
In Glass Houses, ethical lines are crossed as a police officer because he does not trust the system enough to do what he feels like he needs to do legally. It is not clear if Gamache is lying to put someone in jail for a crime they may not have committed in order to get to someone more important. At the very least he is using his discretion to act as an incompetent, to draw criminals and drug operations out to cut off the head.
This story is told in a current and flashback method. Gamache is on the witness stand recounting a crime from a year earlier. That crime helped to reveal a weakness in a drug trade that started the current action. The story telling method is not my favorite, but it works in Glass Houses to keep the reader relatively in the dark until the information needs to be revealed.
The ethical struggle between his desire to solve a real problem and his willingness to bend rules to accomplish the solving of that real problem is the heart of the book. At the end of the book I really have no idea where the series will go. Maybe this is the end of the series. And if so I will miss the series, but I would love to see a series end well.