It is Good Friday in the small village of Three Pines, Quebec. After a dinner, the people at the table decide to do a séance; one the current visitors at the bed-and-breakfast inn is, supposedly, a medium. The séance is held; nothing much happens, so someone suggests holding another one, up the hill at the old, abandoned Hadley place, the scene of crimes the villagers would rather forget. But they follow through, hold their séance, but instead of an other-worldly visitor, one of the participants dies, apparently of fright.
But that’s not what really happened. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Montreal Surete is called in with his team. And that they find is not death by fright, but murder.
And behind Gamache’s back, a plan has been hatched at the Surete to destroy him, revenge for his relentless investigation into crooked cops five years earlier. The plot involves members of his team on the ground in Three Pines.
April is, indeed, The Cruelest Month, the third of the Inspector Gamache mystery novels by Louise Penny. It’s a story of treachery, love, revenge, and desperation. As for the murder, there are more than enough suspects to go around, each with a motive and the opportunity.
Penny used similar elements in her first two mysteries, Still Life and A Fatal Grace, balancing Surete politics with the murder investigation. In this one, the police corruption story at times becomes more powerful than the murder story, likely because so much of the story and the details of what happened in Gamache’s corruption probe become known. But this latest plot to destroy Gamache or force his resignation involves his closest friend on the force. April is, indeed, the cruelest month.
Penny brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion, although any of five people could easily have been the guilty party. But what focuses the novel, perhaps even more than the first two, is Gamache, and, specifically, his character. The author has a great love for her detective, and that love communicates itself across the story.
Photograph by Claudette Gallant via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission, It’s an antique shop in Ormstown, Quebec, but it could easily be the bed-and-breakfast in three Pines.