Review: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

the-cruelest-monthThe Cruelest Month
by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Setting: Quebec, Canada
Published by Minotaur Books, 2008
E-book, purchased
311 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a seance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil — until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the SQ (Sûreté du Québec) is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

She pointed to the eggs.

“Since when do rabbits have eggs?’ Ruth persisted, looking at the bewildered villagers. ‘Never thought of that, eh? Where did it get them? Presumably from chocolate chickens. The bunny must have stolen the eggs from candy chickens who’re searching for their babies. Frantic.”


“I prefer T. S. Eliot. The cruellest month.”

“Why do you say that?”

“All those spring flowers slaughtered. Happens almost every year. They’re tricked into blooming, into coming out, opening up. And not just the spring bulbs, but the buds on the trees. The rose bushes, everything. All out and happy. And then boom, a freak snowstorm kills them all.”

Gamache had the feeling they weren’t talking about flowers any more.


He reflected on T. S. Eliot and thought the poet had called April the cruellest month not because it killed flowers and buds on the trees, but because sometimes it didn’t. How difficult it was for those who didn’t bloom when all about was new life and hope.


  • One of my favorite mystery series.
  • Ruth Zardo, the curmudgeonly poet, continues to be one of my favorite characters in this series.
  • I really like Clara, but I’m not sure what to think about Peter. He seems very jealous.
  • I like that the characters all have their weaknesses and strengths.
  • The idea that the cruelest month is April–is it because one moment it’s sunny and warm and the next it might snow and kill all the new growth? Or is it because some don’t bloom because they’re afraid to?
  • Chief Inspector Gamache is such an interesting investigator. He has such a profound belief in right and wrong and what justice is. He talks and listens to people, to what they’re really saying and thinking. To so many his methods seem foolish, but he gets results.
  • Gamache’s second-in-command, Beauvoir respects and loves Gamache, but he doesn’t always understand him.
  • The fallout from the Arnot case (which happened before this series started) continues to plague Gamache. Though it does seem to end in this book…maybe.
  • In these books it feels like the journey is more important than the result. And I do enjoy the journey!


  • I thought the séance at the Hadley House was stupid for these people to do. Kind of like a horror movie where you know the characters are going to go into the basement . . . .

And a few thoughts . . .

  • So glad I’m reading this series. Really enjoying Chief Inspector Gamache and his team and the village of Three Pines. Though for such an idyllic village it has a high murder rate!
  • I read the fourth book first so now I’m ready to go to the fifth book which I already own!


  • Agatha Award for Best Novel (2008)
  • Barry Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
  • Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2009)
  • Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
  • Arthur Ellis Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Louise Penny is the author of the Inspector Armand Gamache series. The first book was published in 2005 and a new book, the eleventh in the series, is due out at the end of August 2015. She lives in Canada in a small village south of Montreal with her husband and a golden retriever.
  • I was excited to see she is going to be in Washington, DC during her book tour, but when I checked I discovered that it’s already sold out! I’m sad not to get to go to this, but also am happy for her that she is popular and successful.

Reading Challenges

Author: Jan

I love to read--especially mysteries, science fiction and fantasy. I also love blogging, photography, gardening, playing Mah Jonng, reading with a cat on my lap, throwing a ball for a dog, creating cards to send to family and friends, reading book blogs, using my computer.

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