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Louise Penny reading by the fire.

Gary Matthews

I'm an excruciatingly slow reader. I blame a mind too full of deep thoughts. Or completely empty. Either way, it can take weeks to get through a book. I've just finished an Edmund Crispin. He was a Golden Age British mystery writer, almost forgotten today. His detective was an Oxford don named Gervase Fen. Perhaps I read it too slowly, but I was quite lost by the end.

But I've just opened Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory. I loved his other works and wanted to read this in order to understand what happens inside young men at war. And what happens when a dreadful mistake is made.

This book follows Pat Tillman, the NFL player who quit his million-dollar job to join the U.S. Army after 9/11. He was killed in Afghanistan and declared not just an American hero, but a martyr in the cause of freedom.

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And then, slowly, the truth came out. He was killed by friendly fire. His family began a torturous battle themselves into caves as labyrinthine as those their son faced in Afghanistan, but these were inside their own government.

Hidden there, they found the truth.

Krakauer writes about their real son, not the hero but the flawed man. And the flawed man who killed him, and the flawed system that covered it up.

Where better to read about such things than a place of great peace? In our settled old home in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Outside the snow is whipping the windows. Inside the book young men are fighting for their lives. And one is about to kill another.

And between the outside world and the world of Krakauer's book? I lie on the worn sofa under a blanket, the fireplace lit, a bowl of café au lait by my side. Trudy, our Golden Retriever, asleep on the rug and my husband Michael working on his book behind me.

Safe and warm. And grateful for it.

Louise Penny is the author of six novels starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, and has won the New Blood Dagger award in Britain and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada for best first crime novel, for Still Life, as well as several other awards.

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