The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5), by Louise Penny

Eight stars

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache makes another appearance in Louise Penny’s ongoing Canadian police procedural series. Things continue to get better as I binge my way through the well-developed novels, losing myself in the powerful narrative and peaceful setting. The calm nature of Three Pines is disrupted when a body is found within the town’s bistro. The owner, Olivier Brulé, is fingered as a potential suspect, but the evidence soon points in another direction. There’s no time to waste and the Homicide squad of the Sûreté du Québec is summoned, headed up by Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, familiar with this bucolic community. Surveying the scene, Gamache discovers that the victim is unknown to the locals and appears to be a vagrant, but one who takes care of himself. Unsure where to begin, Gamache and the squad take in the town’s changes since last they spent time there, including the Hadley House, once deemed haunted but now being renovated into a spa and retreat centre. When clues around the body point to it being moved, Gamache looks to some of the newer inhabitants of this community in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. There’s something just not right about them and Gamache is determined to get all the facts before he makes a final judgment. When a cottage is discovered in the woods, full of primitive living accommodations and with a significant amount of blood, all eyes turn to that discrete location as being the crime scene. It’s only then that Olivier begins acting strange again, as though there is more to the story than he is willing to share. While Olivier’s secret past begins to drown out the persona everyone knows, a killer lurks in the shadows, waiting to be found. Gamache cannot let this case slip through his fingers, even if it means alienating himself from some of his friends to turn over ever rock! Penny keeps the intensity high in this fifth novel, sure to shake the reader to the core. Recommended for series fans and those who enjoy Canadian mysteries full of national symbols.

Louise Penny continues to impress me with her writing style and unique plotlines. Chief Inspector Gamache remains a highly interesting character, whose development does not seem to take a break, even when new and exciting characters cross the page. His meticulous nature and attention to the crime scene keeps the reader connected to the protagonist, whose witty repartee offsets a dedication to police work. There is no apparent letting up of his dedication or leadership, even with strong supporting members of the Homicide squad. Said individuals prove great contrasts to their boss, each with their own stories that emerge slowly throughout. After a break from the residents of Three Pines, they are back as key members of this story, including the quirky poet, Ruth, whose duck left me shaking my head throughout this novel. As Penny has done before, we learn more about another of the residents, this time in the form of Olivier, who owns the bistro and is in a relationship with Gabri, the other half of a somewhat confident gay couple. The backstory and hidden traits that Olivier reveals throughout will fuel some interesting storylines into the future, though Penny’s focus here may create degrees of alienation by the other Three Pines folks. That said, if Ruth is still able to lure people for the oddest dinner party ever, surely Olivier will not become too much of a pariah in the short term. I felt that the story lagged at times, the first time I express this sentiment, but Penny did have to focus her attention on a subplot that builds as the novel progresses. It seemed as though much attention was paid to the many new characters, though they did not distract from the serious crime at hand. Penny foists the reader into the middle of the investigation, honing the many layers of the investigation before reaching the core standoff and discovery of the killer. I continue to love all the Canadian references, even if some non-Canadians will miss them in passing. I continue to enjoy this binge and will push onwards, as I have only a few weeks until the newest book lands on booksellers’ shelves.

Kudos, Madam Penny, for keeping me fully committed. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for Gamache and those who surround him on a regular basis.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: