Book Review: Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling

Posted April 25, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling

The Brutal Telling


Louise Penny

mystery that was published by Minotaur Books on September 22, 2009 and has 372 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Still Life, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder, The Cruelest Month, Bury Your Dead, The Hangman, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, The Long Way Home, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning

Fifth in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series and revolving around Gamache and Three Pines.

In 2010, The Brutal Telling won the Anthony Award for Best Novel and was nominated for a Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel and a Dilys Award. In 2009, it won the Agatha Award for Best Novel.

My Take

This one was confusing, convoluted, and horrible. The confusion from how Penny filled in the background on the Hermit and the “stranger’s” relationship, over the victim’s identity, the why of it, heck, the where of it, and the treasures untouched. The convoluted from all the red herrings and lies! The horrible in what we learn about a much-loved character. The greedy, grasping, selfish nature that takes such horrible advantage.

So typical of Penny’s humor, lol:

“‘Tell me she’s adopted.’

‘No, homemade.'”

The bits I treasure are the humor Penny shows throughout — only Penny, er, I mean, Ruth would take in a duck and dress it!, the camaraderie amongst the villagers and how they take in Gamache and his team. There is so much warmth, friendliness, and love here. I adored the dinner party with the police and the core characters. It’s so homey and comfortable with humor and intelligence. And such a contrast in yummy food when we get to Ruth’s dinner party, lol! There’s Clara’s art. God, I want to see these portraits.

After the second resting place is found, the Gilberts are worried that they won’t be accepted. Old puts this worry to rest. It’s such a generous and thoughtful thing to do. So typical of the people in Three Pines.

Interesting background on Olivier and Old’s working relationship, as well as on how antique dealers find their goods to sell. And very revealing. Then there’s the history on Olivier before he came to Three Pines. Oh. Boy. Between his previous job and his father. Well. Oh. Boy. How Olivier and Gabri found Three Pines.

The cabin is glorious. Inside and out. A beautiful garden and a beautiful setting in which to prepare one’s food and eat it. To live a life of quiet.

Peter is undergoing his own trials. Unable to settle to his art. Unable to hew to the artistic philosophy behind his work, that it represents “how we blow things out of all proportion, until a simple truth was no longer recognizable”.

I love the bit about chairs. That one is for solitude, two is for friendship, and three are for society, to paraphrase a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

I’m curious why Ruth keeps dropping off those lines to Jean Guy.

I think Gabri makes an excellent point about fitting in. The Gilberts are being the Ugly Americans in this, although Gabri is also missing something, that the price difference puts the inn and spa in a different bracket from their place.

The Story

A man is found dead at the bistro, murdered. But that’s not where he was killed. Then another scene is found, but that’s not where he was murdered. Then they do find it. A treasure house of blood, art, antiques, and more.

Treasures that came from history, just as another dead man returns from the past.

The Characters

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the head of the Sûreté du Québec Homicide Division. Reine-Marie is his beloved wife, a librarian. Henri is their young, rescued German shepherd. Annie is their bright, energetic daughter happily married to the easygoing, kind David. Daniel is their son who lives in Paris with his family.

Jean Guy Beauvoir is Gamache’s second-in-command with an obsession with lookin’ good and an argumentative relationship with Annie. Enid is Jean Guy’s wife. Agent Isabelle Lacoste is part of Gamache’s team. Dr. Sharon Harris is the coroner. A new agent joins the team in this, because he asked: Paul Morin. Superintendent Thérèse Brunel had been the chief of acquisitions at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montreal before she applied at the Sûreté and is now head of the property crime division. Jérôme is her husband and retired from medicine.

Three Pines
Olivier Brulé runs the bistro and B&B with his partner, Gabri Dubeau, the most marvelous cook. Gabri had been a fitness instructor. Myrna is a former psychologist who escaped her practice in Montreal and set up a used bookstore in the village. Clara and Peter Morrow are both artists with an inherited golden retriever, Lucy. Ruth Zardo is a drunken, embittered old woman with an uncanny sense about people and Gamache’s favorite poet in the world. Rosa is the duck Ruth helped birth.

Roar, a caretaker for large properties in the area, and Hanna Paar, a councillor for the township of Saint-Rémy, are a prominent Czech refugee family in the area. Havoc is their son, who works at the Bistro. Old Mundin, a crafter of the most beautiful furniture, and The Wife are a fixture along with their young son, Charlie.

Marc and Dominique Gilbert have just bought the old Hadley house to turn into a high-end B&B. Marc’s mother, Carole, has come along to help out. Unfortunately they’re not very good at making friends. Dominique has purchased some interesting horses; their names are Marcus, Buttercup, Macaroni, and Chester; they will become Thunder, Trooper, Trojan, and Lightning. Dr. Vincent Gilbert is the long-dead father who wrote Being.

Jakob the Hermit has lived concealed within the forest for years, retreating further and further within himself and his cabin of treasures.

Denis Fortin is a famous gallery owner whose acceptance can make or break an artist. And cracks are appearing. Big ones. FitzPatrick from MoMA, Allyne from the New York Times, and Vanessa Destin Browne, the chief curator at the Tate Modern in London, are said to be coming to Clara’s opening.

Old Madame Clotilde Poirier is thrilled to get rid of all her old furniture. Claude Poirier is her eldest son and so very angry with the deal Olivier made. Yves Charpentier is an executive with Banque Laurentienne in Montreal. Monsieur Jacques Brulé is Olivier’s father and knows nothing about his son. We’re lucky he knows his son’s name.

The Haida on the Queen Charlottes
RCMP Sergeant Minshall is the police on the islands. Lavina is Gamache’s pilot; her great-grandmother, Noni, a.k.a., Esther, asks Gamache to dinner. Skaay, a.k.a., Robert, is of the Eagle clan. Haawasti, a.k.a., Will Sommes, is “one of Canada’s greatest living artists”. John is the Watchman, a former Mountie, who now watches over the last of the totem poles.

The Cover and Title

The cover is perfect with its stone fireplace and burning fire, both a source of warmth and concealment.

The title is all about the events we learn of that lead up to this murder, for The Brutal Telling is devastating beyond measure. From Olivier, from Emily Carr, from the stories told the Hermit.