The Cruelest Month: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

by Louise Penny

Paperback, 2011

Call number





Minotaur Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages


Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate the death of a villager at an Easter séance that was held at the Old Hadley House.

User reviews

LibraryThing member brenzi
I’ve just returned from another lovely trip to Three Pines, Quebec and since it is April, the cruelest month, I was forced onto Chief Inspector Gamache’s team and, instead of relaxing during my Spring Break, I had to help solve another murder mystery. So there I was with the Surete,
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investigating the case of a woman being “scared” to death in the old Hadley place. And there I was also with the lovely village residents, quirky characters all, soaking up the coziness of the tiny community that I have come to love. Why is it that whenever I come to Three Pines (this is Book 3 in the series) I am completely absorbed into this village and the life that pulses through it to the point that I think I am really there? Maybe this passage from page 73 offers a clue:

“Three Pines lay nestled in its little valley. Wood smoke wafted from the stone chimneys, and maples and cherry and apple trees were in bud if not quite in bloom. People moved here and there, some working in gardens, some pinning up fresh laundry on their lines, some sweeping the wide and graceful verandas. Spring cleaning. Villagers walked across the green with canvas bags full of baguettes and other produce Gamache couldn’t see but could imagine. Locally made cheeses, pates, farm fresh eggs and rich aromatic coffee beans all from the shops. Gamache had been to Three Pines on previous investigations and each time he’d had the feeling he belonged. It was a powerful feeling. After all, what else did people want except to belong?”


A psychic’s come to town, or a witch, if you prefer, and while conducting a séance, one of the participants screams and dies, on the spot. Enter Gamache and his team. The ensuing investigation presents several possible suspects and most of the book is spent building a case for one or the other of these suspects. In true Penny fashion, I didn’t know right up until the end who the murderer was, and the suspect I had, um, suspected, was not guilty at all.

At the same time, a second mystery is being solved, one involving Gamache himself, and although we’re in on some of this investigation, the author still keeps you guessing as to who is trying to frame Gamache and see him removed from the Surete. For the entire book, I found myself rooting for this quiet, unassuming, intelligent, compassionate police inspector. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
Ruth Zardo comes out best in this awful, wrenching hanky-moistener of a book.

That's all I can say. Anything else is a spoiler, and if I spoil this book for anyone, that person will hunt me down and kill me.

Dead, like Madeleine Favreau! Eternal rhyming blank verse written by Odile recited in my ears
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by Rod McKuen. *shudder*

Secrets. Lies. Jealousies. Anguish. Loathing for the happiness of those close to us. If it lasted a few thousand more pages, I'd say it was a Ken Follett novel of medieval times. It was impossible to put down, as "People" magazine yodels from the cover. It was harrowing to see these characters I've invested so much in suffering from blindness of the spirit, self-inflicted, attempting to shun painful knowledge.

(Kath--re A Certain Party I indicated admitration for--you were right, ew.)

Being a murder mystery, one knows from the outset that one is being set up to sympathize with a character who later proves to be a murderer, doubtless to one's shock and horror. Strangely, this murderer left me cold, was someone I thought, "oh yeah, that's logical" about, and in whom I made not the smallest investment.

I was wretchedly, abjectly, tearfully sorry for someone else's miserable awakening, and almost...only almost!...forgave an annoying, nasty character's existence at the end of the book.

There is, about 2/3 of the way through the book, a scene of memorable power and beauty between Gamache and Beauvoir. The sex is awesome!

No, not really, but the two men confront each other honestly and unguardedly for the first time, and it adds so very much to the extant emotional resonances that Penny layers into each of her works that I can't wait to read the next installment. Next year. I need some time off, back reading about the Cathars and how the Pope and his fellow Satanic Minions tortured, murdered, and vilified their fellow beings for the greater glory of Jesus. Less emotionally draining, y'know.

Really, if you're so suspicious or so backward not to have run out and bought or checked out this entire series already, there is little point in recommending that you do so, but I must: Highly, highly recommended, and NOT just for mystery lovers, but for those who live to discover subtlety and grace in writing.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Murder visits the idyllic Quebec village of Three Pines yet again in this third book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. Several of the village residents gather for a séance in the Hadley house, believed by many to be a place of evil because of the tragedies that have occurred there. One of
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their number doesn't survive the séance, and Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are once again called upon to investigate the suspcious death. Concurrently, intrigue at the highest levels of the Sûreté intensifies and threatens Gamache's position in the organization as well as his public reputation.

Louise Penny's work is usually classified with the cozy genre, but I think it would be better classified as either a police procedural or literary mystery. Penny's text is full of subtelties, and it requires more focused reading and provokes deeper reflection than does the typical cozy mystery. Inspector Gamache and many of the Three Pines residents are well read, and literary allusions are scattered throughout the novels. Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache can stand alongside P. D. James's Adam Dalgliesh, Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn, and Christie's Hercule Poirot.

This series should be read in order since it has a plot thread that develops across the books in the series.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
The series has legs. It wasn't just a good first book followed by a bunch of inferior clones.

This third one has the obligatory decent mystery, the introduction of a few new inhabitants of Three Pines, and life continues to move forward for our old friends. What I enjoyed most about this book,
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however, were three things.

First was the handling of the subplot around the Arnot case. As I mentioned in my review of the last book, the cryptic scenes dealing with this would have become coy if they continued to be only confusing hints. They didn't. Penny fleshed them out, explained what was going on, and provided us with an interim resolution, while still leaving plenty of room for further developments in this interesting background story.

Second, the rescue of Ruth Zardo. I'm not referring to some dire event in the story from which she was saved. Rather, though she is my favorite character, she was on the road to becoming a bit of a cliché. In this story, she is made human...and is still my favorite character.

Last, the little side story about Clara and Peter introduces that little crack in the perfection of Three Pines. Up until now, only the murderers seemed to have any real warts. It's nice to know that the rest of the inhabitants are people, too.
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
There is something absolutely engaging if not mesmerizing about Gamache and his use of emotion and intuition to solve a problem. The intensity is palpable: from his connection to Beauvoir to his handle on the Arnot and Francœur situation, he is a master of the unseen and rational unknowable. This
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makes him unique in the world of detective fiction.
The mystery itself was well done - although I had figured out the murderer - but the stage setting was brilliant. Although more so, it was the side stories that I enjoyed: from Peter's jealousy of Clara's work to Gamache's political problems. A truly engrossing story.
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LibraryThing member maggie1944
I liked this third book of the Gamache series better than I liked the second one. Three Pines, an improbably perfect village hidden in the wooded mountains of Quebec, is the site of another murder associated with an old, perhaps haunted house. More than one of the characters in the investigative
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team is learning to use intuition in addition to rational investigative methods. The entire book is shot through with tantilizing clues and false leads. Who are the heroes? Who are the villians? Is everyone capable of murder? And is love always to be cruel?

The book is a good mystery. The people are not quite believable as real people but they are fascinating and complex. Gamache is the closest to a believable person and he leads his team, and the fine folks in Three Pines, through the complexities of the local murder, and the dangerous consequences of some historic battles within the Surete itself.

So, really, the reader gets two mysteries in one book. If you like mysteries, and a little bit of French flavor, good food, and lovely scenery, read this one.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
“… the answers lay in flesh and blood, not in a book and not in a report. And so often not even in things corporeal, but in something that couldn’t be held and contained and touched. The answers to his questions lay in the murky past and in the emotions hidden there.” (Ch 10)

It’s Easter
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in Three Pines and Gabri, effervescent bistro owner, has invited a host of friends to attend a séance with flamboyant Hungarian psychic, Madame Blavatsky. When Madame does not show, Gabri, loathe to have the evening’s entertainment thwarted, cajoles mousy guest Jeanne Chauvet, tarot card reader, into taking her place. The séance stirs just enough curiosity with locals that a second one is planned for the following night, this time to be held at the foreboding Hadley place. Only what the second séance stirs is not curiosity – but terror. Madeline Favreau, well-loved resident of Three Pines, is dead, literally frightened to death.

Gamache and his team are on the job. The dread and superstition generated by the Hadley place and the practices of séance and witchery are intensified when the coroner’s report reveals it likely that Madeline was murdered. That is to say, she had help with being frightened to death. As Gamache works to keep the investigation on track, he is betrayed by one of his own.

Penny continues to entertain with her Three Pines series. Others have said that the series gets better with each book, and it does! Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member tymfos
Oh, I love this series! I want to live in Three Pines and eat dinner every night at Olivier's, and buy my books at Myra's bookshop. But, then, I'd probably be the next suspicious death Gamache would have to investigate to see if it was a murder. As Beauvoir reflected in one of my favorite
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"Didn't anyone die a normal death in Three Pines? And even their murders wren't normal. Couldn't they just haul off and stab each other, or use a gun or a bat? No. It was always something convoluted. . . Very unQuebecois. The Quebecois were straightforward, clear. If they liked you, they hugged. When they murdered you, they just whacked you over the head. Boom, done. Convicted. Next."

Admittedly, the murders in Three Pines do seem a little over-the-top in their convolutedness sometimes. But it's fun watching Gamache put the pieces together, sniffing out the killer.

Less fun are the politics of his law enforcement agency. I know nothing about what this agency is really like in real life, but if they are half as corrupt as in the books, I'm surprised I haven't heard about it, even if they are in a whole 'nother country. And if they're not, I wonder how they feel about Penny's portrayal of them?

Despite these lingering questions, Penny's books are a delight! Her way with words astounds me. She can summon a chuckle, a shiver, and a tear in a single page. These clever, literate books are a breath of Canadian fresh air.

I personally feel that this is the best one yet in the series -- that's just my opinion, and I can't offer a clear argument why.
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LibraryThing member bell7
The third book in the Three Pines series promises to be different from the others from the very first page. As Easter approaches, the villagers are preparing for an Easter egg hunt, and a Good Friday seance that Gabri is going to spring on his unsuspecting guest, a psychic. The first seance breaks
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up rather lightly. Clara, Myrna, Monsieur Beliveau and the other participants decide to hold another at the old Hadley place because of the resident evil that seems to be in its very foundation. But when one of the participants in the second seance dies, Inspector Armand Gamache is called in to investigate.

I do not normally read books involving seances (too easily scared, I suppose), but I honestly think Louise Penny could get me to read almost anything in order to find out more about the wonderful people who live in Three Pines. Reading this series has kept me so riveted that I hardly know what to say when I've finished, except that I'm utterly satisfied. I love these characters, who seem very human to me because of the author's attention to human emotions - the best and the worst, what makes us noble and what drives us to kill. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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LibraryThing member katiekrug
Another very good entry in the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines mystery series. Penny continues her strong characterization and dry humor in this one, and the creepy suspense is well-balanced by the charm of the village and its denizens. There is a lot of depth to this series; don’t be fooled by the
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“cozy” façade.

As an aside, I own a copy of the book, but after reading so many great reviews on LT of the narration by Ralph Cosham on the audio version, I decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed and very much enjoyed listening to this one.
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LibraryThing member eas7788
I didn't enjoy this one as much -- I figured out the solution too easily, and it went very heavy handed on its themes. Still fatphobic. But also still lovely characters, lovely setting, lovely pace.
LibraryThing member mks27
I believe this third book is the best so far. The mystery offers more than one seance, more than a little fear, and multiple plausable murderers. Penny gives readers insight into Inspector Gamache's enemies and the events surrounding his fall from grace within the department.

All of these are
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enticements, but where Penny shines is in her examination of our human weaknesses and fears. She discusses two different personalities types that appear, on the surface, identical, but are opposites and incorporates this in the mystery.

She puts words to feelings, those we have all experienced, but can't explain. One example comes from Clara, who offers that she often feels "foolish and ill constructed" around others, but feels whole when she is with Gamache. Are not those the people we all strive to be around? O. K., Louise Penny, you write them and I will read them, enough said.
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LibraryThing member mccin68
Wonderful murder mystery. Police inspector Armand Gamache is drawn back to Three Pines to investigate a murder which occurs during a séance at the sinister Hadley house. The tight knit, cozy village is again dealing with a murder of one of their most sunny and delightful residents and Gamache is
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dealing with continued political repercussions from the Arnot case involving corruption at the highest levels of the Surete. The Arnot business, which in this story begins to attack not just Gamache but his family as well created quite a bit of drama and tension, especially as it becomes clear that some team members have a very different agenda.

I love Three Pines and listening to the stories of Peter, Clara, Ruth, Gabri, Olivier and Myrna, a murder to be solved, is simply a bonus in my book. I could hear all day long about Peter and Clara and their every evolving relationship and art careers, the sharp wit of rancorous Ruth Zardo and ever present drama at the B&B with Olivier and Gabri. I agree with previous reviewers, I'd consider moving there myself-although truth be told their murder rate is a bit of a turn off.

I started listening to Louise Penny's audiobooks out of sequence, I started with Beautiful Mystery, based in a monastery outside of Three Pines from this book I was drawn in by the deep characters and relationships and looked for more by this author. I decided to pick up Still Life, the first in the Gamache series and fell in love. I think what I like the best about these books are they speak the truth. The characters feel human, the dialogue and motivations are true to life. I swear I've worked and befriended people just like them, Ruth Zardo especially reminds me of an old battle axe of a co-workers, who upon getting to know, was a bottled up care and love.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
This is the third book in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache delightful series. This time, there are witches and seances, and of course, murder.

It does help to read or listen to these books in order because there is backstory that is helpful to know, or at least, makes the books more
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interesting. I've listened to these first three books, and because I am woefully ignorant of French pronunciation, it takes me awhile to figure out the names and who is who. The narrator though, is excellent.

Gamache has enemies, nothing new there. There are ongoing characters in the series, as well as the introduction of new ones. I especially like curmudgeonly ol' Ruth.

For those who like mysteries that aren't overly grisly, this is a fun series.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
This is a difficult book for me to review. I almost quit reading it when I saw that the main theme of the book was the occult -- seances, witches, etc. I kept reading it only because the subplot that was developing made me realize that if I did not finish the book that I would probably not be able
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to follow book four in the series which a friend who has already read it assured me has a more acceptable plot. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is once again called back to the village of Three Pines for yet another murder at the Hadley Mansion. The death occurred during a seance being held at that dark house. At the same time, forces in the surete are trying to bring down Gamache for his role in bringing down Arnot. Louise Penny knows how to craft a mystery. Once I got further into the book where the focus was less on the event that precipitated the death and more into the investigation of the murder, I began to enjoy it more. I just wished that she had chosen a different theme and left the Occult out of her book.
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LibraryThing member cameling
I found this to be the most thrilling of the Three Pines series thus far.
Can someone actually die of fright during a seance held at the old Hadley house? Were ghosts in the bleak house responsible? If not, who had it in for Madeline to want her dead? Everyone Chief Inspector Gamache and his team
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spoke with had nothing but good to say about her.

There's also tension in the homicide team, brought on by the divisive Agent Nicole, who is back on the team again, who seems to relish particularly annoying the new agent Robert Lemieux. And who has it in for Gamache at the Surete? Scandalous articles start appearing in the newspapers about him and his family.

Everything comes to a screeching climax in the last few pages of the book.
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LibraryThing member stephaniechase
I so enjoy the Three Pines series of mysteries. They are good, old-fashioned mysteries, which are less about the actual crime and more about the people involved. Penny also writes about the Eastern Townships with such a wonderful hand, creating a town and a place where I as a reader want to go and
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live. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is a wonderful character, full of faults and insight, and very real.
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LibraryThing member ccayne
This is my second read in the series and I am a fan of Gamache and Three Pines. Inspector Gamache is his own man even if his principles make it difficult for him to operate in the Surete. This time out, he returns to the town of Three Pines, a peaceful place that has a dark side, as all peaceful
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places must. He uses his intuition and trust in his officers to solve the death of a woman at a seance. Was she just scared to death or more? In the course of the investigation, we learn about continuing unrest and deceit in the surete over Gamache's outing of criminal behavior a high ranking officer years ago. We also learn about the residents of Three Pines; what can be seen and what lurks beneath. I liked Gamache's credo of patience and listening and waiting for the unpleasant underside that comes with keeping secrets to surface. I suspect the relationship between Peter and Clara, two artist residents will be featured in this series.
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LibraryThing member bookappeal
I adore this series on audio. The 3rd book does tie up loose ends but there is another book coming out in January 2009 and I'm happy to see that Armand Gamache continues on, though not in charming Three Pines. I will miss Ruth and the B&B boys. Penny's writing is beautifully descriptive and sets a
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wonderful atmosphere without interfering with the story. The Chief Inspector is a quiet and insightful man but his bold streak and personal strength emerge at just the right time in this story.
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LibraryThing member smik
Easter, the time of rebirth, is being celebrated in the small Canadian village of Three Pines in ways that have become part of village tradition. There are dinner parties among friends, and the hiding of Easter eggs for the young to find.
On this Good Friday at the end of April Three Pines smells of
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fresh earth and the promise of spring. Clara Morrow is finishing an important painting and Hazel Smyth is getting ready for the weekend visit of her daughter Sophie. A witch has come to stay at the B&B and Gabri has invited everyone to a seance. And overlooking the village the Hadley house broods.

When Friday night's seance yields no satisfactory results the witch suggests a seance in the Hadley house on Easter Sunday. As the participants sit in a sacred circle and the witch calls on the house to yield up its wickedness and hatred, death arrives with a scream.

THE CRUELLEST MONTH is the third in Louise Penny's series featuring Chief Inspector Armande Gamache of the Quebec Surete. In his own words he is a prideful, stubborn and arrogant man, with enemies among the highest in the police service. He is known as a whistle blower in a matter that has not yet run its course, and even in his own team there are spies and traitors. Gamache's need to help people often borders on the self-destructive and his inability to abandon a soul in need carries the seeds of his own downfall.

When the death at the seance turns out to be murder Gamache and his team descend once again on Three Pines, renewing acquaintance and friendship with the villagers. But even among friends motives for murder exist, and the investigation is played out against real threats to Gamache's own career, his family and his very existence.

For her first novel STILL LIFE Louise Penny was the recipient of the CWA New Blood Dagger, and the CWC Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her second novel was DEAD COLD aka A FATAL GRACE. Readers new to her novels would probably do best to read them in order, to allow the characters of Gamache and his team, and those of the residents in the village of Three Pines to develop.

THE CRUELLEST MONTH has been sitting on my "to be read" pile for some time now and I regret not tackling it earlier. The Three Pines series are sometimes labelled cozies, but really there is little that is cozy about this village except perhaps its name originally signifying safety to United Empire Loyalists over 200 years before. Under its calm exterior lie tensions between strong, even quirky, characters.
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LibraryThing member whimsicalkitten
The Cruelest Month is the 3rd in Louise Penny's delightful Three Pines Mysteries series, featuring Quebecois detective Armand Gamache. Gamache and his team are called to investigate a murder at the much feared Hadley House, which played a role in the 1st book in the series (reading the books in
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this series in order most definitely increases one's appreciation of them). A secondary theme running through each of the books in the series is delved into much more deeply in this book. Gamache has been an outcast among higher ups at the Surete because of his outing of a very corrupt superior several years earlier. This conflict gives Penny an opportunity to develop the characters of Gamache and his colleagues and members of his team more deeply, and there are some surprises. While the resolution of this conflict stretches believabilty a little bit, the back story does add another level of interest to the book. I highly recommend this series to anyone who appreciates police procedurals set in lovely villages, whose inhabitants revel in their eccentricity.
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LibraryThing member m4marya
This is the third book in the Three Pines series, and in it, we see more of the continuing plot go on. I happen to love one of the sub characters more than the main ones, and learning more about Clara's life was a pleasure.

This book classifies as a cozy mystery, but I hesitate to lump it in with
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all those others that match that genre. It is very well written with turns of phrase to be jealous of. I have to admit too, that one loves a writer that can make characters loathsome and loveable at the same time.

I thoroughly enjoy these books and I am glad that I discovered the series when 5 books had already been written. I would have not had the patience to find out more about the charaters that live in Three Pines.
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LibraryThing member Marlyn
This is the third book of the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines mystery series. In this installment, with a psychic staying at the bed and breakfast, some of the residents of Three Pines decide to hold a seance -- at the spooky old Hadley house. When one of the participants appears to have been
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frightened to death, Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to investigate.

But are things as they really seem? Did the psychic just happen to choose Three Pines for a vacation? Did the victim's housemate really think of her as a dear friend? Is the Hadley house really haunted, or is that just local superstition?

Unfortunately, the controversy over Gamache's arrest of a crooked colleague years earlier also reaches a peak at the same time as this case, and the poor Inspector appears to be over his head. Thankfully, his team is very supportive, and with help from some surprising sources, he not only survives the "coup" attempt, he solves the case of the frightented female.

I didn't enjoy this book as much as the two previous ones in the series, not due to a decrease in quality, but because I found the story line about Surete politics difficult to read as a result of some past experiences. I'm looking forward to the next book, A Rule Against Murder, though it will have to wait until after I read and prepare the discussion for The Ivy Tree, which is the DorothyL Book Discussion title for October.
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LibraryThing member cyderry
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to the village of Three Pines when Madeleine Favreau apparently dies of fright during a séance at the old Hadley house. The psychic holding the séance was on vacation in the small village but was that a coincidence or planned?
As Gamache gets deeper into the
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search for Madeleine's killer (she had been given poison) he must also face the consequences of his actions in his previous case against the popular head of the Sûreté du Québec for heinous crimes. His family is attacked in the newspapers and his son arrested in Paris as he works to clear not only his name but also solve the murder.
The book is filled with descriptions that draw you in and characters that make you want to meet them in reality with deeper and deeper characterizations. Subtly Penny weaves the details and grabs you by the throat until you can't put down the book until you know the answers to the questions that have you on the edge of your seat.
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LibraryThing member tututhefirst
Another day in Three Pine, another murder. For a quiet peaceful village in Quebec, this town certainly has its share of mysterious deaths. In this episode of the ongoing saga of Chief Inspector Armand Gamage, a death occurs during a seance at the old Hadley Mansion. During the time that the Surete
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is investigating, Gamage is publicly attacked in the media and accused of being a crooked copy. In the meantime, the town poet Ruth Zardo continues her erratic and lovingly obnoxious behaviour, Olivier and Gabrie continue to provide elegant and lush accommodations both at the B&B and at the bistro, Clara works feverishly on her painting, the story, like all of Penny's comes to a surprising resolution.
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Anthony Award (Nominee — Novel — 2009)
Macavity Award (Nominee — Novel — 2009)
Barry Award (Nominee — Novel — 2009)
Agatha Award (Nominee — Novel — 2008)
RUSA CODES Reading List (Shortlist — Mystery — 2009)




0312573502 / 9780312573508
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