Book Reviews

The Brutal Telling (book #5 in the series)

Author: Louise Penny
Publish Date: September 22, 2009 by Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery
Hardcover: 372 pages
My Rating: 5 stars

In the depths of the Canadian woods, near the quaint and quirky town of Three Pines, lives The Hermit, known only to the town’s bistro proprietor, Olivier. This man, who chooses to isolate himself from the world is surrounded by priceless treasures: signed first editions of classic novels, the violin of a famous composer worth millions, and rare antiques missing for generations. In this backwoods place of serenity, a dark secret is fostered. When The Hermit’s dead body is found laying in Olivier’s bistro, the sinister secrets begin to unravel. Chief Inspector Gamache and his partner Jean Guy Beauvoir soon realize that there is more to this random murder than meets the eye. The discovery of the isolated cabin in the woods, smeared with the dead man’s blood, and a local house with further evidence, leads the inspector and crew on a wild chase that ranges back into folklore, across to the Charlotte Islands, and to the depths of the deceptive human soul.

There are readers out there who are clearly in the Louise Penny camp and will follow her anywhere, anxiously awaiting the arrival of her next book. I’ve also heard from others just starting this series that they just can’t get into it. I am in the first group – I love this series, but when I started The Brutal Telling, I could actually relate to the naysayers. There were a few moments where I was bored enough that I wanted to quit, but the fact that I really want to read this whole series kept me going, and I am glad I did. I loved this one. I’ve heard some say that the series really takes off with book 5, The Brutal Telling and I would have to agree. I gave the first book in the series 3 stars; books two through four received 4 stars from me; this book, the fifth, gets 5 stars!

These books are reminiscent of classic detective novels in that there is one main detective trying to piece together the events that took place and solve the mystery. There is a coming together of the puzzle pieces in the end, where everything is explained in detail. It usually involves the detective sitting down with the guilty party and explaining how he came to the conclusion, just like Agatha Christie did in so many of her novels. There is not blood and gore, as there is in so many of the more recent Crime Fiction books I read. There are not jaw dropping twists that are so common today. There is just good old fashion detective work.

The mystery is not this book’s only attribute. What’s impressive about this series is the author’s uncanny ability to vividly create both location and characters that are memorable. The Brutal Telling is a rare combination of a cozy mystery with writing worthy of the literary fiction genre. You know what else is interesting about this series? The books follow the rotation of the seasons. The first book takes place in the Fall around Thanksgiving; the second book takes place in the winter; the third book kicks off with an Easter egg hunt in the Spring, and so forth. It you’re going to start this series, I think it would be really cool to pick up each book during the corresponding season.

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