The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny is a traditional mystery - a charming whodunit starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Although it is the fifth book in her Three Pines mystery series, it's the first one I've read. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy. The likeable and realistic Gamache hooked me and Penny has a new and enthusiastic fan. She offers much more than an absorbing mystery. Her colorful descriptions and quirky characters bring the small Quebec village of Three Pines alive.
The book opens with a conversation in a cabin located deep in a forest. Two men, Olivier and a hermit discuss some primeval mythology and eminent chaos. Shortly after, a strange man is found murdered in the village bistro owned by gay partners, Olivier and Gabi. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his homicide team are called in to investigate. Evidently there have been other murders in Three Pines and the locals are familiar with the team but no one admits to knowing the victim, or so they say, which adds to the mystery. Olivier seems to be the prime suspect until the inspector ferrets out more and more secrets. Suddenly anyone of the villagers could be the guilty party.
It's great fun and an entertaining ride for those who love a good whodunit. There are lots of twists and turns to fool the reader but not the inspector who is relentless in his introspective manner. The author kept me guessing for most of the book. I enjoyed the characterizations, the references to food, antiques, art and literature and the charming setting. And Ms Penny has a wonderfully dry sense of humor that makes her voice a joy to read. As I mentioned I haven't read the previous books but I found this one worked well as a standalone. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'll be looking for the previous books in the series as well as any to come.
Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 22, 2009)
Hardcover: 384 Pages