Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny

Louise Penny’s 2009 novel The Brutal Telling is the fifth in her popular sixteen-book Inspector Gamache series. And precisely because I’ve already read what are currently the last seven books in the series, The Brutal Telling is the one that has most surprised me. Readers who are reading the Gamache series in the order in which it is being published will not experience that level of surprise. Nor will they have to reconsider their understanding of a major series character they probably thought they knew well. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. What I do know, is that The Brutal Telling is a different novel for readers who are reading the series the way I am than it is for readers who are reading the books in order. 


     “For Armand Gamache knew what not-nice was. He knew what cruelty, despair, horror were. And he knew what a forgotten, and precious, quality “nice” was.”


It is the end of summer, and the permanent residents in the little village of Three Pines are looking forward to the end of the tourist season. They are down to the final weekend of the season now, and a few of the families with school-aged children are already packing up to get an early start back to the city. And then it happens: a dead body is found inside the little bistro that is really the beating heart of Three Pines, the one owned and run by Gabri and Olivier. 


After Inspector Gamache and his team, all of them well-familiar with Three Pines and its core residents, are called in to investigate the victim’s murder, the first thing they learn is that no one seems to know who the dead man is. He is a stranger to all of them, and what he may have been doing inside the bistro after it was locked up for the night is as big a part of the mystery as who he is. So, Gamache - being Gamache - starts asking questions…lots of questions. And the answers he gets all seem to point the finger at one man. As potential suspects are eliminated one-by-one, only one suspect is left standing: Olivier. But could the beloved bistro owner, a personal friend of Gamache’s, really be capable of a crime like this one?


Bottom Line: The Brutal Telling is, as is every book in the Gamache series, a well-planned and well-executed mystery. The Three Pines setting is as much fun as ever, and the main characters are beginning to feel like old friends by this point in the series, but Penny still has some surprises for readers starting to feel too comfortable with it all. One of those surprises takes place on the book’s next-to-last page, and while it has nothing at all to do with the mystery and Olivier’s predicament, it packs quite the punch. The title of this one is prophetic. 


Louise Penny (Book Jacket Photo)


8 comments:

  1. Sam, this is one author that I've read out of sequence and, one of my goals this year might be playing catch-up. I did make a list of the ones I still need to read and this is one of them. I do like the sound of it.

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    1. Diane, this one really caught me by surprise as it reshaped my concept of Olivier - and one other character I can't reveal. I have two more to go from the middle books before I'm completely caught up, but that might well happen before the end of the year.

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  2. I am definitely going to read the first book in this series this year! (And probably all the other books in this series after that.) :D

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    1. You are in for a treat, Lark...I don't know anyone who dislikes this series.

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  3. I did read them in sequence and was still shocked! And continued to be shocked as I read the next four books as well. The end of The Beautiful Mystery really knocked me for six for instance.

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    1. This one was really something, Cath. I kept expecting it to end differently...and it never happened. Still am amazed.

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  4. Yep! I titled my review of this book "The Brutal Telling is, well, Brutal." Penny is a master. I love her!

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    1. Pretty accurate title, for sure, Susan. Even what happened on the next-to-last page caught be off-guard...and that was brutal, too.

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