Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny

Title: The Cruellest Month
Author: Louise Penny
ISBN: 9780755328956, Headline, 2007
Genre: Police Procedural, #3 Inspector Armand Gamache mystery
Rating: B+

First Line: Kneeling in the fragrant moist grass of the village green, Clara Morrow carefully hid the Easter egg and thought about raising the dead, which she planned to do right after supper.

It is Easter time in the small Quebec village of Three Pines, and the earth is beginning to come out of winter's long shadow. As a lark, several villagers enlist the aid of a visitor to hold a seance. The results are less than satisfactory, so they plan a second one-- to be held in the creepy old Hadley house. The second seance has deadly consequences. Madeleine Favreau is frightened to death, and many people feel that the Hadley house has claimed yet another victim. Forensics prove otherwise, and it's not long before Inspector Armand Gamache and his team are in Three Pines to solve the murder. Unfortunately Gamache has more on his plate than finding a killer. Five years before he put a bad cop behind bars, and there are members of the Surete du Quebec who want to make sure he pays for this.

It is always a pleasure to visit this small village in Quebec. It has some of the best characters in crime fiction living there. The old Hadley house ranks high on my list of creepy, spooky places that I wouldn't spend the night in-- a French Canadian version of Shirley Jackson's Hill House:

As he approached he was surprised to see peeling paint and jagged, broken windows. The 'For Sale' sign had fallen over and tiles were missing from the roof and even some bricks from the chimney. It was almost as though the house was casting parts of itself away.

Something in him felt the need to seal away whatever was in that room. He'd never admit it, of course, but Jean Guy Beauvoir had felt something growing. The longer he stayed the more it grew. Foreboding. No, not foreboding. Something else.

Even Gamache has a problem with the Hadley house:

What does that house want? Gamache wondered. Anything that went in alive came out either dead or different.

Mix a creepy old house with a group of marvelous characters, and you have the ingredients for an excellent read. The only part of this book that palled a bit for me was the secondary story line about the police officers in the Surete who were out to get Gamache. I was hopeful that Gamache would just round them all up and brick them in the basement of the Hadley house, but he's just too nice to do something like that!

If you like reading about a wonderful cast of characters, life in a Shangri-La-like village, and mysteries where the killers always have interesting motivations, Louise Penny's series is the one for you. I would suggest, however, that you do read the series in order because of the characters and their inter-relatedness.

I recently received the fourth book in the series, A Rule Against Murder, from a fellow Paperback Swap member. It won't be long before I read it because today I received an ARC of the fifth book, The Brutal Telling, in the mail. It's always good to know I have reading gems awaiting me!


  1. I want to read A RULE AGAINST MURDER too Cathy. I think the series is wonderful. My review for THE CRUELLEST MONTH is here

  2. How fun! I am reading The Cruellest Month right now. I won´t review it immediately, however, as I have 4-5 other reviews ready after my holiday.

  3. Great review! And I have an AWARD for you! You probably have one already, but I wanted to acknowledge you! Come by....


  4. I have the first in this series . . . Just haven't gotten to it yet. I'd better nudge it closer to the top.

  5. Great review.
    What you said about a shangri-la like village peeked my interest

  6. Cathy, Great Review! I actually have this series in my TBR pile. I bought them after meeting Louise. She is a fantastic Canadian (Local) author. The area she is using is roughly about an hour or so away from here. Its around the area she lives in.

  7. There is an award waiting for you at my blog:

  8. I have one of her books in my TBR pile - glad to see her books are good.

  9. Oh no, I'm falling behind on the series. I didn't realize she had a fifth book coming out soon.

    I loved the first two books but for some reason I couldn't get into the third book. I think it was just a timing issue so I'm definitely going to try it again. Inspector Gamache is a wonderful character and Three Pines just sounds lovely, well, murder aside :)

  10. I've only read one in this series, but I do intend to read them all! Thanks, Cathy!

  11. Kerrie--I'll have to read A Rule Against Murder within the next couple of months so I can review The Brutal Telling on time. I read your review of The Cruellest Month. I'm glad we both enjoy this series!

    Dorte--Interesting that we've read the same book at about the same time!
    I'll look forward to your review.

    Suzanne--Thank you so much! Duplicates of awards don't bother me. I have a whole flock of zombie chickens, for example. They keep each other company and scare away the pesky neighbor kids. ;)

    Beth--Please do!

    Blodeuedd--The village does seem like a picture postcard village... one that you'd daydream about living in. And then all these awful things happen. Kinda like the village I grew up in! LOL

    Cindy--Louise seems to come down here in winter and spring. Probably escaping the weather up there! ;)

    Missy--Thank you, darlin'! Much appreciated!

    Kathy--They are VERY good!

    Iliana--Three Pines would be perfect... except for those pesky little murders!

    Jenclair--You're welcome!


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