Monday, September 21, 2009

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

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, and her website is

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312377038 (hardcover), 384p.


Kaye Barley said...

Lisa - what a great post! A great post for a great book. You've said all the things I felt about the book, but just could not say near as perfectly as you have.

"Penny rips you apart, and then patches you up with poetry and Gamache's kindness."

This was beautiful.

Thank you!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Kaye! That really makes me feel good coming from you.

I deliberately didn't read anyone's review of this book before reading The Brutal Telling myself. I didn't want to know what anyone else had said. Now, I can go back and read your review!

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Lesa (and Kaye),

Oh, phew! I agree with Kaye, Lesa, that line is magnificent. And I love that you noticed that something was happening between Beauvoir and Annie.

And I am so relieved with this review - when I hadn't heard anything from you I immediately thought, 'Dear Lord, she hates it so much she can't even write!!!'

A writer's insecurities. Brought on, I think, by the fact I care so greatly about this book, and characters who are no longer so fictional to me.

Thank you, Lesa.

Lesa said...

Oh, Louise!

You would ALWAYS hear what I thought, even if I didn't like it. I saved your book so I could read and review it just before release date. It was magnificent.

I can see why you cared about all of the elements of this book. And, your characters are no longer fictional to your readers either. That's why this one hurts, but moves us on at the same time.

I'll see you in November, my friend.


Kaye said...

I recently read this one too and thoroughly enjoyed it. I told my hubby he might like it and so he read it also and liked the book. I read one of your other reviews about inspector Gamache and Louise Penny, so that is why I was curious about this book. Thanks for introducing me to a wonderful writer and the The Three Pines community. It won't be the last Penny book we read.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kaye. I couldn't be any happier that you and your husband discovered Louise Penny and Three Pines. One of my favorite authors, and a place I wish I could live (despite the death count!).

Kaye Barley said...

Lesa, I misspelled your name and I KNOW better. You know I do.
apologies, my friend!!!!!!!

Lesa said...


Of course I know you know how to spell my name. That's why I didn't slap your hand, and say, bad, bad!

I do love my name, but I'll take a wrong spelling if someone cares enough to comment about a book.

Hugs, Kaye!

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read any of Penny's work, but boy, do you make it sound good! I'm going to have to give it a try.

Lesa said...


Her books are rich in characters, and setting and language. Just beautiful books.

Diane said...

Great review. This will be coming up soon for me as well. So happy you liked it.

Lesa said...

Loved it, Diane. Enjoy!