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The Brutal Telling (An Armand Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny
Cover Artist: Photo: M. Gibson/Robertstock
Review by Lynne LeGrow
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312377038
Date: 22 September 2009 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

It seems so unfair that the reddest, juiciest apples are oftentimes the ones in which a worm is concealed. The picture perfect, idyllic town of Three Pines proves this true when a stranger's body is found in the town's bistro on the village green.

The bistro is run by Olivier, a gay man who moved to Three Pines with his partner Gabriel who runs the local Bread and Breakfast. The two men are now village fixtures and have befriended one and all. Why would anyone leave a dead body in the bistro? When Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec returns to the village to investigate the murder, he is pleased to see his old friends again.

Gamache has invaded their territory before, always on business, but the village has become a favorite of his on a personal level. He suspects that his friend Olivier is not being completely truthful with him, but cannot imagine why. He along with his hand-picked murder team examine the circumstances of the crime as only they can. In addition Gamache has chosen a new member of the team, a young constable who at first seems to have little to offer, but since Inspector Gamache has chosen him we trust he has hidden depths. He teaches him the same lesson that he has taught the others: "What kills can't be seen. That's what makes it so dangerous. It's not a gun or a knife or a fist. It's not anything you can see coming. It's an emotion. Rancid, spoiled. And waiting for a chance to strike."

The villagers want desperately for the murderer to be not one of them. It would be much easier to comprehend if a stranger had committed the crime. There are newcomers who have renovated an old house and turned it into a luxury spa who are disliked by some of the villagers. How convenient if they were the murderers....

When the police find the woodland cabin where the murder took place, they are dumbfounded to learn that the cabin is filled with priceless antiques and other treasures. Gamache wonders how this new revelation will impact on his inquiries. Why didn't the murderer also steal the valuables? How did an old hermit come to have these items?

We know from the outset of the novel that the secret Olivier has been keeping from Gamache is that he knew the murder victim. He took provisions up to his cabin and shared stories and tea with him on a regular basis. Why then doesn't Olivier just let the police know this?

The Brutal Telling is the fifth book in this series. All superb examples of what mystery fiction should be. The first book in the series, Still life, deservedly won five prestigious literary awards.

The setting, a picturesque village in Quebec's Eastern Townships is a place that is hard to leave when the last page is reached. Louise Penny's characters are so well drawn that over the course of five books they have become my friends. With this latest novel, Gamache has become my very favorite fictional detective. Interspersed with poetry and art, these are literary mysteries for the discerning reader. If you haven't yet had the pleasure to read Louise Penny you are in for a real treat. When I finished The Brutal Telling my only disappointment was that I have to wait at least a year for another book in the series.

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