Title: The Brutal Telling
Author: Louise Penny
Release Date: October 2009
Publisher: Minotaur Books, St. Martin's Press
Genre: Crime Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Publisher: Chaos is coming, old son.
With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.
No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?
As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.
My review: Louise Perry has written a compelling tale of murder that confounds and confuses the reader until the very end. Nothing is as it seems in this story and many characters are not wholly who they purport to be.. The major themes of Louise Penny's fifth novel in her Inspector Gamache series turn the world of Three Pines on its head, revealing long held secrets and proving just how deceptive people can be. By the end of this scintillating thriller, the author leaves us wondering if we can ever truly know another person.
The Brutal Telling is set in the bucolic town of Three Pines, as are three of Ms. Penny's four previous Inspector Gamache stories. Quaint cottages with wide porches and pretty brick homes surround a common along side a small group of stores. The village green attracts resident and tourist alike with an inviting bench set beside a pond ringed with beautiful flowering plants all anchored by the three towering pines that give the town its name. But evil lurks in the far corners of Three Pines turning the idyllic haven into a dark place of murder and deceit when Inspector Gamache's investigation determines that the murderer may live among the inhabitants of Three Pines. Fear and suspicion grow and distrust sets in as tensions rise among the townspeople unsure of who can be trusted. In this pretty little town, superficialities are stripped away as the truth, hidden for years, is confronted and good and evil are juxtaposed in this captivating thriller.
Louise Penny convincingly writes characters we feel we know or wish we knew. Inspector Gamache is one of the most intelligent, gentle and well-educated investigators in crime fiction. His innate interest in people enables him to understand what makes them tick and to see who they really are. He is well aware, through his work, that good and evil co-exist in most human beings and he knows not to be deceived by appearances. Often times this seems to sadden him and I felt like he wished he didn't always understand people so well. He's very different from his right-hand man, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who expects people to lie, manipulate and cajole to get what they want. He's a fact man , unlike his boss, with no concern for the human psyche. Beauvoir is quick to judge what he sees in front of him and initially distrusts Agent Moran who appears to be bumbling and unintelligent. But Gamache understands the folly of judging people, places and things based on appearances. He recognizes Moran's willingness to work hard and take risks, qualities Beauvoir initially fails to see. Louise Penny's ability to create a variety of different characters with distinct personality traits and unique idiosyncrasies provides for a compelling and interesting story.
I enjoyed so many of the characters with which the author filled this engrossing book. But my favorite was Ruth. the older curmudgeon and poet with the strange personality who delivers wisecracks loudly and whispers intelligent comments. She intrigued me, made me laugh and I know I'll never again respond "Fine" to a question without chuckling. Ruth understands human beings almost too well and, unlike Gamache, she likes them less because of it, herself included. I thought Paul and Clara Morrow were very interesting and hope to get to know them better in future Inspector Gamache books. Clara seems friendly and extremely kind but I have an uncomfortable feeling that lurking beneath Paul's nice exterior are threads of greed and selfishness particularly in regards to his wife's talent. Louise Perry illustrates how pervasive the themes of this story are through her many and varied major and minor characters. Without all of them, The Brutal Telling wouldn't be the captivating, enjoyable read that it is.