Sunday, October 04, 2009
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Protagonist: Chief Insp. Armand Gamache
Setting: Three Pines, Canada
Three Pines must be the most pleasant place to live – with its cozy bistro, its bakery and used book store, tight-knit friends and wonderful views. Perfect, except for the murders. After yet another one in Three Pines, even the residents notice, joking: “Every Quebec village has a vocation. Some make cheese, some wine, some pots. We produce bodies.”
With that out of the way early in the book, we readers suspend disbelief and continue on with the story: a man who lived as a hermit deep in the woods has been murdered. Even stranger, his body has been found in the bistro owned by Gabri and Olivier. And even stranger than that, the hermit’s log cabin was filled with treasures: tapestries, first edition books, a priceless violin.
Who would want to kill this man? Could it have been the new owners of the Hadley House, who have turned the old, haunted house into a beautiful new hotel and spa (and whose property holds the log cabin)? Could it have been someone in the Czech community, since the hermit was thought to be Czech? Or even someone closer to home?
While all of Penny’s books are beautifully written and take us to this heart-wrenchingly lovely town, this book also has an undercurrent of fear and suspicion running through it. And it is heart-wrenching in a way not expected. As usual in a Penny book, we still have questions unanswered in the end. And maybe even a seed of doubt.
This is the fifth in the Gamache series. Up to now, I’ve rated all her books near-perfect. This one slips a few points for two reasons: her previous book (A Rule Against Murder) was perfection. Comparing the two, this one falls short. Second, much of the book is repetitive – series readers already know a lot about the village and the characters. While the characters have always made the books come alive, here they detract from the mysteries – because much of what we’re told has already been revealed in earlier books. But those are small quibbles in a series that has become my favorite.
This is a series that needs to be read in order, and it is:
A Fatal Grace
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder
The Brutal Telling