The Cruelest Month (Inspector Gamache #3)

The Cruelest Month – Louise Penny

Welcome back to Three Pines – a small village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.  It’s Easter weekend and a few residents decide to tempt the spirits by holding a series of seances.  While eerie, all seems to be going smoothly until one of the party members dies suddenly.

Once again, Detective Inspector Armand Gamache is on the case.  Already familiar with the town and its inhabitants, Gamache must dig through the plethora of interpersonal relationships and uncover the secrets of the few if he is to bring about a reason behind the death.

I think Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir said it best when he said, “Didn’t anyone die a normal death in Three Pines? And even their murders weren’t normal. Couldn’t they just haul off and stab each other, or use a gun or a bat? No. It was always something convoluted. Complicated.”

Louise Penny’s titular series is more about the journey than the destination.  Of course finding out the “why” behind the murder is important, but it’s the characters and the town of Three Pines itself that breathe life into her novels.  How else do you expect an author to have written sixteen books (as of this writing) without the familiarity of setting that brings about comfort for their audience.

I both enjoyed and was frustrated by the subplot of Gamache’s struggle with his own employer, The Surete du Quebec.  The Inspector becomes embroiled in a tabloid controversy surrounding his part in bringing down a corrupt high-ranking officer some time ago.  There are few who believed Gamache did the right thing, but there are many feeding lies to the press in an effort to have Gamache resign.  The way in which Penny unveiled the circumstances surrounding the events in question left me frustrated as I thought maybe it had been alluded to in a past book, but I had forgotten about it.  I felt completely lost.  That being said, once Gamache opens up and explains the situation, it adds a whole new layer of integrity to an already seemingly incorruptible man.

The mystery that was central to the story was well paced and offered up enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the end.  Gamache’s big scene at the end where he uncovers the guilty party was very much Poirot-esque, which I enjoyed.  I love how Gamache deliberately misled people into thinking they knew where he was going with the accusation, but in doing so, allowed the townsfolk to entrap themselves.  Great stuff.

Another strong entry that helps lay the bedrock of a wildly successful – commercially and critically – series.  I’ve now read the first three books coinciding with their setting (completely by mistake, mind you), so I guess I’ll have to wait until the summer months to read book four?

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