Dangers of the Madding Crowd


Canadian author Louise Penny has written an intriguing series of novels that feature main character Armand Gamache. The series has eighteen books so far, and though I would really like to read them sequentially, I have thus far had to take whatever the public library has on the shelf. By reading them out of sequence, I have had to guess at some of the out-of-chronology plot developments. I finally yielded to my obsession and ordered the complete set from the online used book vendor Abesbook.com so I can read them sequentially.

I love mystery and crime novels but had never read any from Canada until I met Louise Penny. Extremely knowledgeable about Canadian history and police procedures, the author seamlessly weaves Canadian history and culture into each novel to make them both entertaining and educational. I might also add the adjective “inspiring” to those other descriptors.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force for Quebec, is the main character of all the novels. He exemplifies integrity and wisdom as he leads his team of detectives.

I recently completed one of her novels written after Covid. I enjoy and appreciate how she uses contemporary social events to make her stories timely and relevant. This particular novel, The Madness of Crowds, uses as a backdrop the social climate left by Covid’s disastrous impact on the world. She may have gotten her idea for the title from British author Thomas Hardy who wrote a novel entitled Far from the Madding Crowd.

At the beginning of the story, the dean of a nearby university asks Inspector Gamache to provide security for a visiting professor of statistics scheduled to speak at the university. When Gamache researches Professor Abigail Robinson’s background, he recoils when discovering that she promotes an agenda that he finds immoral and disgusting. 

Through her study of statistics, Professor Robinson has deduced a theory to save the world’s populations as well as preserving its resources. On the surface, this sounds harmless enough until one understands that to accomplish this, society should begin practicing euthanasia. Robinson suggests that the elderly consume too much of society’s medical and financial resources, and they no longer contribute to society.

She also proposes a requirement that pregnant women have an amniocentesis test to discover if their fetuses have any genetic defects. Her theory proposes that abortions of defective fetuses will relieve the personal and financial burden that special needs children impose on their families and society.

Though some reviewers write that Penny’s purpose in the novel has no political agenda,  I could not help but think of the many tragedies around the world as Covid ravaged the old, infirm, and economically deprived populations. Television news showed large numbers of nursing home deaths—so many deaths that temporary morgues provided refrigeration for the myriad bodies.

People everywhere experienced fear as some panicked. Panic mentality provoked massive hoarding of products people feared would be in short supply. People’s fear caused them to judge others who did or did not follow all the protocols the CDC suggested. Medical supplies and hospital beds were depleted as the pandemic swept every population in the world.

Crowd mentality encouraged illogical thinking. Desperation caused some to buy into dangerous theories about Covid’s origin and possible treatments. Government leaders with no medical training disagreed with medical doctors about treatments and behaviors. Fear produces anger because we fear lack of control, and no one could control Covid for a long time.

Fear that causes inhumane behavior such as mass killing of innocents creates a society lacking humanity, self-sacrifice, humility, love, generosity, integrity, and empathy. Without those qualities, society would devolve into a dismal, cruel, and unfeeling entity.

When we think of those Professor Robinson classified as useless, and therefore expendable, we should remember that the elderly and infirm have a right to live out their lives just as the young and fit. All of us who have lived through our own parents’ declines and deaths can affirm that those lives still had meaning. 

Many who have raised special needs children will tell you that they are (in Inspector Gamache’s words), “kind. Content. They don’t judge. They don’t hide their feelings. There’s no hidden agenda. Complete acceptance. If that isn’t grace, I don’t know what is…What I am saying is that in my experience they make better humans than most” (The Madness of Crowds). We can learn from an older generation as well as those with fewer cognitive/social abilities than we have. 

Inspector Gamache, in explaining the theory of the “hundredth monkey,” says that in life, people sometimes collect their pains, trials, and frustrations until they reach a tipping point where they cross over the line between logical and sane into the territory of the madness of crowds. I pray that we will carefully consider the dangerous rhetoric and behavior that pervades our culture and use our God-gifted spiritual discernment to stand strong against the madness of crowds.  

Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing


  • Love this❤️


    • Sandra Tompkins

      I love this article Nancy! Full of Truth which is kind of scary in these days. There are many people that feel like euthanasia is the way to go but I am not one of them. It’s up to God who lives who dies and when that happens. Thank you for another great article! Love you cousin!


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