The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

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The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Book 5 of the Inspector Gamache crime series can be read as a stand-alone. It's an excellent plot with a thought-provoking ending and - unusually for a police procedural - will stand an early rereading. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Headline
ISBN: 978-0755341030

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Early one morning, in the village of Three Pines, the local restaurateur is woken by the ringing of the telephone. There is a body in the bistro and Olivier is stunned. The man has been bludgeoned to death, but there's no sign of a weapon, no obvious reason for the killing and no clues as to the identity of the victim. Meanwhile, in Montreal, Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec is called into investigate, along with his colleagues, Inspector Beauvoir and Agent Isabelle Lacoste. They've been to Three Pines before, but this time the village is in chaos.

Olivier and his partner, Gabri, are well-liked, even loved, in the village, where the two men have made a real impact. Olivier's Bistro is enjoyed not just for the good food he serves, but for his company too. His antiques business is well-respected and even gives employment to others in the village. Gabri runs the local B&B. It's a tightly knit village, where eccentrics such as the acerbic poet and her pet duck, are not just tolerated, but included. Violent death is harder in such places than in anonymous cities.

Inspector Gamache had the advantage of me in that he had been to Three Pines before and I'll confess that I found it a little difficult to sort out who was who, but once I did I felt a part of the village. There are the rivalries – the new spa can't be anything other than a threat to Gabri's B&B or Olivier's Bistro – and even within a good marriage it's possible for the artist husband to feel just a twinge of jealousy when his artist wife seems to be surpassing him. That's life, even in the midst of the beautiful Canadian countryside.

On the other hand we have the advantage of Inspector Gamache and his team in that the reader is aware, if not of the precise identity of the dead man, then at least of where he has come from. He was a hermit living in the depths of the woods and we also know that when Olivier says that he doesn't know him he's being more than a little disingenuous.

It's a story of greed and betrayal and a surprising number of people of secrets which they'd rather keep to themselves. But they're no match for Gamache with a brain that puts you in mind of Poirot or Adamsberg. He's a well-balanced man – happily married and respected by most people. This is the fifth book in which he features, but once you come to grips with the who's who of the village there's no problem at all in reading this as a stand-alone, although I suspect that the temptation to go back and find the earlier books might prove well-nigh irresistible.

The plot is good, although the ending is a touch contentious. I was surprised and initially perhaps a little disappointed, but when I thought about it there was a rightness. I'm not going to explain – read the book and see what you think!

It's Louise Penny's writing which adds a glow to this book. It's not just the skill of the plot, but the way that words are never wasted and that so few of them can produce a vivid picture. Dialogue is perfect and there's a real talent for capturing the one-liners which make you laugh out loud.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more books which evoke the real Canada we can recommend The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, Alligator by Lisa Moore, Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay and The Outlander by Gil Adamson.

Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache Novels in Chronological Order

Booklists.jpg The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.

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