Book Review: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

Posted April 25, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Brutal Telling by Louise PennyThe Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Genres: Mystery, YA
Published by Minotaur Books on September 22, 2009
Pages: 372
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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.

Also by this author: Still Life, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder, The Cruelest Month, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning, Still Life, Kingdom of the Blind, A Better Man, Bury Your Dead , The Beautiful Mystery , How the Light Gets In , The Long Way Home , The Nature of the Beast , A Great Reckoning , Glass Houses , All The Devils are Here

Fifth in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series and revolving around Gamache and Three Pines.

The Brutal Telling won the Agatha Award for Best Novel in 2009 and the Anthony Award for Best Novel in 2010 and was nominated for a Dilys Award and the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel in 2010.

My Take
This one was confusing, convoluted, and horrible. The confusion from how Penny filled in the background on the Hermit and the “stranger’s” relationship, over the victim’s identity, the why of it, heck, the where of it, and the treasures untouched. The convoluted from all the red herrings and lies! The horrible in what we learn about a much-loved character. The greedy, grasping, selfish nature that takes such horrible advantage.

So typical of Penny’s humor, lol:

“‘Tell me she’s adopted.’

‘No, homemade.'”

The bits I treasure are the humor Penny shows throughout — only Penny, er, I mean, Ruth would take in a duck and dress it!, the camaraderie amongst the villagers and how they take in Gamache and his team. There is so much warmth, friendliness, and love here. I adored the dinner party with the police and the core characters. It’s so homey and comfortable with humor and intelligence. And such a contrast in yummy food when we get to Ruth’s dinner party, lol! There’s Clara’s art. God, I want to see these portraits.

After the second resting place is found, the Gilberts are worried that they won’t be accepted. Old puts this worry to rest. It’s such a generous and thoughtful thing to do. So typical of the people in Three Pines.

Interesting background on Olivier and Old’s working relationship, as well as on how antique dealers find their goods to sell. And very revealing. Then there’s the history on Olivier before he came to Three Pines. Oh. Boy. Between his previous job and his father. Well. Oh. Boy. How Olivier and Gabri found Three Pines.

The cabin is glorious. Inside and out. A beautiful garden and a beautiful setting in which to prepare one’s food and eat it. To live a life of quiet.

Peter is undergoing his own trials. Unable to settle to his art. Unable to hew to the artistic philosophy behind his work, that it represents “how we blow things out of all proportion, until a simple truth was no longer recognizable”.

I love the bit about chairs. That one is for solitude, two is for friendship, and three are for society, to paraphrase a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

I’m curious why Ruth keeps dropping off those lines to Jean Guy.

I think Gabri makes an excellent point about fitting in. The Gilberts are being the Ugly Americans in this, although Gabri is also missing something, that the price difference puts the inn and spa in a different bracket from their place.

The Story
A man is found dead at the bistro, murdered. But that’s not where he was killed. Then another scene is found, but that’s not where he was murdered. Then they do find it. A treasure house of blood, art, antiques, and more.

Treasures that came from history, just as another dead man returns from the past.

The Characters
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the head of the Sûreté du Québec Homicide Division.  Reine-Marie is his beloved wife, a librarian. Henri is their young, rescued German shepherd. Annie is their bright, energetic daughter happily married to the easygoing, kind David. Daniel is their son who lives in Paris with his family.

Jean Guy Beauvoir is Gamache’s second-in-command with an obsession with lookin’ good and an argumentative relationship with Annie. Enid is Jean Guy’s wife. Agent Isabelle Lacoste is part of Gamache’s team. Dr. Sharon Harris is the coroner. A new agent joins the team in this, because he asked: Paul Morin. Superintendent Thérèse Brunel had been the chief of acquisitions at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montreal before she applied at the Sûreté and is now head of the property crime division. Jérôme is her husband and retired from medicine.

Three Pines
Olivier Brulé runs the bistro and B&B with his partner, Gabri Dubeau, the most marvelous cook. Gabri had been a fitness instructor. Myrna is a former psychologist who escaped her practice in Montreal and set up a used bookstore in the village. Clara and Peter Morrow are both artists with an inherited golden retriever, Lucy. Ruth Zardo is a drunken, embittered old woman with an uncanny sense about people and Gamache’s favorite poet in the world. Rosa is the duck Ruth helped birth.

Roar, a caretaker for large properties in the area, and Hanna Paar, a councillor for the township of Saint-Rémy, are a prominent Czech refugee family in the area. Havoc is their son, who works at the Bistro. Old Mundin, a crafter of the most beautiful furniture, and The Wife are a fixture along with their young son, Charlie.

Marc and Dominique Gilbert have just bought the old Hadley house to turn into a high-end B&B. Marc’s mother, Carole, has come along to help out. Unfortunately they’re not very good at making friends. Dominique has purchased some interesting horses; their names are Marcus, Buttercup, Macaroni, and Chester; they will become Thunder, Trooper, Trojan, and Lightning. Dr. Vincent Gilbert is the long-dead father who wrote Being.

Jakob the Hermit has lived concealed within the forest for years, retreating further and further within himself and his cabin of treasures.

Denis Fortin is a famous gallery owner whose acceptance can make or break an artist. And cracks are appearing. Big ones. FitzPatrick from MoMA, Allyne from the New York Times, and Vanessa Destin Browne, the chief curator at the Tate Modern in London, are said to be coming to Clara’s opening.

Old Madame Clotilde Poirier is thrilled to get rid of all her old furniture. Claude Poirier is her eldest son and so very angry with the deal Olivier made. Yves Charpentier is an executive with Banque Laurentienne in Montreal. Monsieur Jacques Brulé is Olivier’s father and knows nothing about his son. We’re lucky he knows his son’s name.

The Haida on the Queen Charlottes
RCMP Sergeant Minshall is the police on the islands. Lavina is Gamache’s pilot; her great-grandmother, Noni, a.k.a., Esther, asks Gamache to dinner. Skaay, a.k.a., Robert, is of the Eagle clan. Haawasti, a.k.a., Will Sommes, is “one of Canada’s greatest living artists”. John is the Watchman, a former Mountie, who now watches over the last of the totem poles.

The Cover
The cover is perfect with its stone fireplace and burning fire, both a source of warmth and concealment.

The title is all about the events we learn of that lead up to this murder, for The Brutal Telling is devastating beyond measure. From Olivier, from Emily Carr, from the stories told the Hermit.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie, who is fast gaining followers in Goodreads and Amazon for her honest book reviews. Passionate about reading, writing, and editing, she searches the Internet for tips, tricks, and warnings with a keen interest in ideas that will foster reading in children as well as adults while aiding writers in their craft. Kathy blogs daily at KD Did It Takes on Books.

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