Within the last week, I've read two of the most powerful books I've read this year; first, Nevada Barr's 13 1/2, and, now, The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny. How do I describe the latest Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel? Penny rips you apart, and then patches you up with poetry and Gamache's kindness.
Once again, Gamache, the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Quebec brings his team back to Three Pines when a body is found in the bistro, and no one knows the man's name. Clara, the artist who serves as the conscience of the village says, "Every Quebec village has a vocation. Some make cheese, some wine, some pots. We produce bodies." But, where did the body come from? Gamache knows there are secrets hidden, and lies told by some of his old friends. His friend, Myrna, owner of the bookstore found the body in the bistro owned by Olivier and Gabri. Is one of these friends capable of murder? Are those clues the poet, Ruth, leaves for Inspector Beauvoir, or poetry scraps? Is the killer one of the close-knit group of villagers, or the threatening strangers opening an inn and spa in the old Hadley house? What about the other strangers, Czech immigrants, or the man seen in the forest? Until someone identifies the body, Gamache has to suspect everyone. And, there, deep in the heart of the forest surrounding Three Pines, Gamache discovers contradictions - the horrifying cruelty man is capable of, along with beauty and peace.
The Brutal Telling is a complex puzzle of storytelling, history, art, and lies. Penny tears apart everything readers have found for comfort in Three Pines, yet leaves the reader with hope for the future. And, she does this with Clara's art, with the story of the murder, and the repercussions in Three Pines. As in previous books, she also leaves the reader wondering about future stories. Tell us more about Annie, Gamache's daughter, and Beauvoir. Tell us more about Clara and Peter, the couple that often reflects the truth of the puzzle. Tell us once more about Three Pines, a village that will suffer loss, and pain, and shock, but will still draw us back.
It's autumn in Three Pines in The Brutal Telling, a time of beauty, change, and death. Those elements merge to make this the most powerful book yet in the Chief Inspector Gamache series.
Louise Penny's blog is at www.louisepenny.blogspot.com, and her website is www.louisepenny.com.
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312377038 (hardcover), 384p.
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