A stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store and all clues point to bistro owner Olivier being the killer. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets long buried--but not forgotten.
Okay. I've told everyone that I read books twice before I write a review, because it's not fair to someone who spends a year just bringing a book to market, plus who knows how long dreaming it up and committing it to paper and lovingly burnishing its prose, simply to wing off some half-baked sentences about it.
So I read this book twice, and thought about it, and examined my responses to it. I was careful to think through my strong reactions to the book.
I can now state, in all fairness, that I loathe Louise Penny from the depths of my soul. Hate her! Wish to see her tied to a stake and burnt as the ensorcelling, enticing Succubus of Fiction that she is!
*pause to put out spontaneously combusted desk blotter*
The rational reason: The murderer in this book is clearly identified early on; doubts are cast onto tthe murderer's guilt at the end of the book, but it's too little too late, as we are already eviscerated, devastated, squashed flat like a bug, by the revelation that Olivier...that's right, fearless readers, OLIVIER! as in the bistro's owner and Gabri...poor, poor Gabri!...Gabri's one true love is plain ol', flat-out nasty.
Yeup. Heard me right. OLIVIER is the bad guy. So what if maybe, just maybe, he didn't kill the victim? Big deal! He did some very very very vile stuff, and he did it in full possession of his faculties, and he...I mean, I mean, LOUISE PENNY did...made us love him and care for him like Gabri...poor, darling Gabri, such a pain he is, but such a mensch...does!
*pause to put out spontaneously combusted letter holder*
Okay, okay, I will attempt some restraint out of fear for my home furnishings.
Emily Carr, the Canadian artist whose life and career serve as one of the support rods of this perfidious, sneaky attack on the hearts of loyal fans...I mean, this narrative, was a delightful painter of the stunningly beautiful world of Canada's West. Penny doesn't need to make her more famous in Canada, but I venture to guess that most Murrikins have never heard of her. This is a shame, but not a surprise: How many who aren't serious art buffs have heard of Canada's Group of Seven anyway? So go look at Carr's bio and follow some links to her spectacular artwork: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Carr
Go Louise Penny. Rah.
And if it's possible, Armand Gamache becomes even more lovable in this instalment of the series. It's unnerving, really, how much I believe that he really exists, Three Pines really exists, the whole Pennyverse is actual not virtual. The Chief Inspector is so gentle and patient and loving in his treatment of Gabri. He grieves with him. He explains the facts as he knows them to Gabri, whose denial he fully and completely understands after the ending of The Cruelest Month. Armand Gamache makes the whole agonizing betrayal-fest that is this hot poker of a book worthwhile.
Oh, and Clara's art show is even more satisfying than it would be otherwise because of the way it all falls into place. That's all I can say. Plus Peter's come-uppance! After A Rule Against Murder, I actively dislike Peter Morrow; his complete and utter vitiation in this book felt *so* good. But, honestly, I don't expect that it'll last...Penny's proven she's a cruel and unusual punishment specialist, you just wait...she has some horrid shock awaiting us about Peter....
Recommended, Goddammit, because it's too integral to the series not to read. But it ticks me off to recommend it. Really, truly, it does.
Carefully laid out, we accompany the chief and his staff as they methodically follow the clues all the way to British Columbia. In the background, Clara is finalizing plans for her one woman art show, much to Peter’s chagrin. Top notch mystery. If you haven’t started the series yet, you really should. Really. Highly recommended.
A dead body is discovered in The Bistro at Three Pines, and the close community, which seems to have a penchant for turning up bodies, is thrown into chaos. Bistro proprietors, Gabri Dubeau and Olivier Brule, are stunned; they have put everything into their business and fear the ramifications of recent events. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, along with his team, is dispatched to Three Pines. They discover the body to be that of a recluse who lived in the woods in a quaint, hidden cabin, not far from the village. The tiny home, it is soon uncovered, is full of priceless antiques worth millions of dollars: exquisite carvings, a fabulous violin, an original music score, first edition books, priceless glassware, china, silver, inlaid wood. But even more odd than the antique collection is the well-travelled corpse: killed presumably at the cottage in the forest, the body was then deposited in the foyer of the new Auberge and Spa (the old Hadley place); from there, it was moved again to its place of discovery at the The Bistro. Bad blood (pun intended) is discovered to exist between Olivier Brule and Marc Gilbert, owner of the exquisite new spa and resort. But that’s not all: a number of the antiques are determined to be Czech in origin, and suspicion is cast on Three Pines’ Czech community, the Parras family in particular; and the priceless wood carvings are found to be carved from red cedar, native only to remote parts of British Columbia. Gamache and his team, before this crime is solved, will decipher a web of intrigue, deceit, and terror.
“In the end the answer to a murder investigation was always devastatingly simple. It was always right there, obvious. Hiding in facts and evidence and lies, and the misperceptions of the investigators.” (Ch 31)
The body is that of someone that no one seems to know. He appears to be a homeless man in his seventies, although his autopsy will show that he is a weathered--but well-kept--fifty-something. Who is he? Who hated him enough to kill him? Who even knew him at all, let alone well enough to kill him? And why does he live in a log cabin deep in the woods filled with priceless antiques and other treasure?
Chief Inspector Gamache is deep and thoughtful, and, as always, engages the puzzle at all levels. His intelligence is keen, his patience seemingly boundless. Gamache listens, he is always polite and respectful, and yet he will be forceful as needed. His power comes from within, and he's supremely confident in it (in one of the many amusing little throw away incidents Penny folds into her much grander, beautiful narrative, as they are approaching a potentially volatile interview Inspector Beauvoir asks Gamache if he has a gun, and shakes his head in exasperation when Gamache replies that he doesn't like guns because they're dangerous).
Three Pines is a village composed largely of long term residents who have come from elsewhere. Some were running, some were seeking, but all have found at least some degree of peace in their rather murder-prone little haven. There is a great poet, artists of various sorts, former financiers and ad executives and even a psychiatrist who runs a used book store.
The characters are wonderful and well-rounded, the setting is to die for, but the mystery is the best of all. It is a true whodunit, with blame bouncing around as evidence points in all different directions. When the answer finally comes it is not so much an ah ha! moment as an oh, no one, and that is one of the brilliances of Penny's fiction.
We still have the closed set of suspects, complete with local oddballs, and the village setting, here updated to a tiny village in Quebec Province. There is the brilliant detective and his devoted but less-bright assistants. And there the similarity to the classics of the thirties and forties ends.
The author incorporates poetry, puns, literary references, and a keen but subtle sense of humor into a fascinating mystery. The plot is intriguing and the characters are fully-developed, complex people; there are no cardboard cutouts here. There is much information on art and on native American cultures, all dovetailed beautifully into the storyline.
If, like me, you're on the lookout for a mystery author who can engage your intelligence as well as your pleasure in puzzles, do try this. I can assure you that you won't be disappointed.
This is an utterly appealing murder mystery. The characters of Three Pines are so real, but you must read at least some of the previous books to get the most satisfaction from meeting them again: the irascible detective and his entourage, the crazy poet and her duck, the wise bookstore keeper, the insecure artists, the suspicious newcomers, and of course Olivier and Gabri.
Three Pines, an idyllic secluded Quebec forest village, complete with its colourful characters, is an unusual place for a corpse to turn up in the bistro, but we know this village is not a stranger to murder and mystery. Inspector Gamache goes to great lengths, actually as far as Haida Gwaii, to find the solution. Along the way, the reader is treated to an intimate glimpse of village life, through unexpected humour:
His mother was staring at him as though he’d peed in the Chateau Frontenac dining room. He knew that look from when he was a boy and peed in the Chateau Frontenac dining room. P. 148
And through culinary details:
Clara chopped the ends off the fresh carrots and watched Peter toss the tiny new potatoes into boiling water. They’d have a simple dinner tonight of vegetables from the garden with herbs and sweet butter. P. 261
Surely the bistro would make a great lobster thermidor, and of course you would be served bumbleberries with Cool Whip on Queen Charlotte Island. Such details are charming, but the progess of the mystery is what really kept me reading. And I found my old copy of [Morning in the Burning House] for an enjoyable interlude. Ruth quoted from a couple of these poems to console, confuse, or who knows what, but it fit well.
I’ll be one of the first to grab Louise Penny’s next book in this series. I want to see what happens to Gabri and Olivier, how Marc and Dominque make out, if Peter ever comes to terms with Carol’s success, and what Ruth gets up to next.
Yes, I'm a fully committed fan and I can't really tell you ANYTHING about this book or it will spoil the wonder for you.
If Still LIfe doesn't hook you, you have no soul. Sorry, but that's just the way it is LOL.
One of the most amazing things about Louise Penny's writing is that she allows even her favorite characters to have flaws that remind us what it is to be human. From the husband who can't help his jealousy when his wife's talent soars, to the woman who seems all flaws but has more heart than any three others you can name. No cardboard characters here.
Louise Penny's novel takes a master sleuth, Inspector Gamache (cast in the mould of Hercule Poirot with Quebecois clay), and drops him into Three Pines, a charming village with an alarming murder rate. The villagers are a close-knit group of people who all seem to have escaped high-powered life for the tranquility of rural Quebec. Of course, village life comes with pesky little irritants like dead bodies, secrets, and past lives that just won't stay hidden. But, that's the fun part!
In The Brutal Telling, the pesky corpse is found in in the village bistro owned by two of the most-beloved citizens. From there, Penny walks us through mystery, mirth, priceless treasures, and the small town mentality. She often takes a sideways turn to show us events unfolding in her characters' lives, and I occasionally forgot I was reading a murder mystery. A couple of the numerous characters are unidimensional, which gets 1 star knocked off, but the rest of the book is an all-around fun read.
PS - if the horses don't make you laugh, your soul is dead. :)
A warm and cozy Thank You to Minotaur Books and the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to review this book!
My biggest problem with the book? Penny tries to portray characters with depth, but they just come across to me as maudlin. Also, it's inconceivable to me that someone who's supposed to be the best homicide investigator in all of Canada would do things like attend dinner parties with the primary suspects, even if Penny explains this by off-hand comments like one gets more information from parties than from interrogations. Meh. This isn't how I see police investigations going.
Given that The Brutal Telling is so popular, there must be something there people find attractive. I'll chalk this one up as one that just didn't work for me and recommend that if it piques your interest, check it out. You might be better suited for it than me.
I expected a straight forward mystery with a dead body, intrigue, an investigation and then the big reveal. But this novel provided much more. As the mystery unfolds, you suspect a variety of people, you are sure your are right and then something happens that makes you realize otherwise. At the heart of this murder is obsession, greed and running from the past. As the lies and half truths that many of the characters tell begins to unfold and engulf them, the truth begins to emerge. When you finally discover who committed the crime, you cannot help but feel a bit sad and sorry because this person has grown on you. But as sorry as you may feel for the villain of this piece you cannot believe the depths and cruelty that this person sunk to in order to fulfill their aim. Its like having two people inhabiting one body, one kind and loving, the other greedy and avaricious.
The author is able to brilliantly transport the reader to Three Pines village with her beautifully descriptive passages. Despite the murder, you want to visit this place and eat at the bistro and see the odd poet and her well dressed duck that waddles alongside her as she walks the streets. As I read I sometimes felt that the book ran a bit too long and could have been cropped a bit shorter. But if it had been shorter I suspect that some of the details that did not necessarily add anything to the story but were interesting non the less may have been lost. I will definitely seek out more from Chief Inspector Gamache as he is a fascinating man and a great detective.
The characters that Louise Penny has brought to life in all the previous installments of this series are front and center in this book. However, the characterizations are deepened and broadened until at some point we're not sure if they're the same person or have been transfigured by events past and present.
This is a magnificent story of love and friendship, greed and treachery, and final deliverance.
The village setting, inhabitants and daily rituals all succeed to pull in the reader and hold us tight as the plot unravels.
I will save the details for the reader-- you won't be disappointed and you'll want to return to Three Pines very soon.
I completely disagree! I enjoyed this.
Trying to avoid spoilers here but, as far back as Book #1, I felt "that part" of Three Pines didn't fit into the town, though the other half did. Was that cryptic enough?
1. Watching Gamache sort through clues and put the story together is fascinating. Penny is a master of the misdirect. She introduces suspects and clues that complicate the story until I wonder how Gamache will ever piece it all together. And then he does, and it seems so obvious that I wonder how I didn't see the solution from the beginning.
2. I love these characters. In this book, we learn a lot more about Olivier, the owner of the bistro. He is complex and interesting. Penny is a master of both plot and character development.
3. The writing is clever, sometimes even funny. These books are a joy to read. The fact that I sunk into this one every night this week, despite the beginning of school and lots of other distractions running through my head, is a testament to Penny's writing.
I know that I'm preaching to the choir, but I highly recommend this series!
A body is found in Olivier's bistro and antiques store. As the story begins, only Olivier and the reader know that Olivier spent time with the murdered man the night before, and was angry with him. But did he kill him? It's up to Chief Inspector Gamache to find the killer, whoever he or she may be.
As the story progresses and the cast of characters is introduced and developed, a list of other possible suspects emerges and lengthens, the plot twists and turns, and before long the reader begins to believe that nothing is quite as it seems in the village of Three Pines.
This book drew me in almost immediately. The characters are well-drawn and interesting (some bordering on the bizarre), and I enjoyed Penny's writing style. This writer can definitely turn a clever phrase. Early on, the dialogue was often wtty and some situations were humorous, though I would not consider this a "cozy." There are serious issues explored in this book; a dark side exists amidst the beauty of Three Pines.
As the story progressed, the plot thickened, and the web of relationships in Three Pines became more enigmatic. The atmosphere darkened, there was less humor, but Penny could still blow me away with an unexpected and delightful phrasing. Some of the plot turns might seem a little implausible (especially in retrospect), but the book carried me along because Penny had creaated characters that seemed so real, I wanted to know what happened to them.
There were also several sub-plots. These, like much of this book, tended to deal with issues of friendship, loyalty and greed. The author also did a good job of bringing in elements of Three Pines' history (the earlier volumes of the series) in a way that was natural and did not share too much information; it made me want to explore that history via those earlier books.
The ending, like much of real life, is not as tidy and neat as some readers might like. This is a book that leaves the reader thinking. I definitely want to read other books in this series!
While the fictional Three Pines may be inviting, Louise Penny makes me want to be in Haida Gwaii, a place I knew nothing about before reading her book.
Fans of Penny will find this her best yet. New readers will find a new author to explore, always a delight.
As far as I'm concerned, this is a masterpiece in the contemporary mystery field. With most mysteries, I want to gulp them down, find out whodunnit. However, this mystery is meant to be savored, every page, every paragraph, every word.
In the past 30+ years, I've read almost 1,700 mysteries and I'd put The Brutal Telling in the top 10. Easily my favorite mystery of this year or from many recent years.
It's got elegance, it's got depth. Stunning!! Truly magnificent.
So, if that's your cup of tea, this is a good novel for you to try. You'll never feel like you can't put it down, but you'll never feel overwhelmed, either.
The cast of characters is big, and, at first, I wished there were fewer, though I had caught up by the end. As I said, some of the characters seem just plain mean, and it's hard to get a connection with them.
My major complaint (possible spoiler here, so don't read on if you don't want to see) is that the murderer is so shockingly obvious. From the very get-go, you pretty much have to know whodunit.
Overall, a restful, if not suspenseful or particularly page-turner-ful mystery.
Characters that seemed mildly quirky in the earlier novels are now horribly annoying. Ruth and her duck are just beyond the pale. Celery sticks and peanut butter are not a funny quirk. And not a single one of her friends would think so.
Clara and Peter--competing married artists--turn into cardboard figures here. Peter's jealousy at Clara's soon to be success is no longer an eccentricity--it is now a telling tale of his shallowness, and a reader can't help but wonder what Clara ever saw in him. And Clara's own "moment of truth" is so twenty years behind the times that a reader feels sorry not so much for Clara as for Louise Penny.
Essentially what this fifth in the series does is alert all readers to the shallowness of all the characters and the unsustainability of this series. Penny's many attempts at subtitles is a clue, but the plodding nature of this tale about a dead hermit is tell tale enough. Louise Penny, at least in this "series" is off my list.
I think Penny might be a gifted writer, but she will need a new tale to tell. I do, however, highly recommend the first in the series, and possibly even the second. After that, move along to something else.
The mystery kept me guessing and I definitely didn't see the end coming. Louise Penny has plot points that sometimes make a difference to the ending and sometimes don't. Nothing is obvious but everything is precious and interesting.
There are some plot issues from previous books that I would like tidied up and finished but, as a stand alone book, The Brutal Telling, was a good mystery in a favorite place, and I look forward to the next visit with Chief Inspector Gamache, his team and the good people of Three Pines.