The village of Three Pines in Quebec, close to the Vermont border, often seems lost in time. Even with an occasional murder investigated by Inspector Armand Gamache and his team from the Quebec Surete in Montreal, the basic fabric of life remains intact.
The bistro, with its wonderful food, is the center of communal life. The used bookstore is filled with good books, advice, and the large presence of its owner, former psychologist Myrna Landers. The artists Peter and Clara Morrow continue to produce wonderful art, and Clara is anticipating her first major show. The eccentric and often vulgar poet Ruth Zardo maintains her policy of offending everyone while she dresses her duck Rosa in sweaters and coats.
Yes, murders happen, but the fabric of life in Three Pines continues.
But not this time. Not in the fifth of the Inspector Gamache mystery novels by Canadian writer Louise Penny, The Brutal Telling. This time, the world of Three Pines will be upended.
A body is found early one morning in the bistro. It appears to be an elderly man who’s had his head bashed in. But there’s no blood, indicating the man was killed elsewhere.
What the reader knows from the beginning is that Olivier Brule, the owner of the bistro, knows the murdered man’s identity, and has been visiting him at the man’s cabin deep in the nearby woods.
The mystery of the man’s identity is compounded when the cabin is eventually discovered. Inside the cabin are priceless antiques, signed first editions of books, artifacts that went missing during World War II, and other treasures. Among all of these are small, exquisitely carved pieces of redwood, found only in British Columbia.
Solving this mystery will indeed change Three Pines and the lives of the people who live there.
A Brutal Telling is the fifth mystery in Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. The amazing thing is that, despite many of the same characters and same setting, each story is new, fresh, and different. And so far in the series, the stories are becoming better, more nuanced, and deeper. This story at times threatens to break out from the mystery genre and become serious literary fiction.
Now I can’t wait to read the next in the series.