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.”

and

“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.

Cheers

  • 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!

Jeers

  • 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!

Awards

  • 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

Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

a-fatal-graceA Fatal Grace
by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2
Genre: Contemporary Mystery (police procedural)
Setting: Canada–Montreal and a small village south of Montreal (Three Pines)
Published by Minotaur, 2007
E-book, purchased
311 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

And that was one of the problems they were facing. Everyone looked alike in the Quebec winter. Like colorful marshmallows. It was hard to even distinguish men from women. Faces, hair, hands, feet, bodies, all covered against the cold. Even if someone had seen the murderer, could they identify him?

and

He was frankly astonished the entire community hadn’t died of boredom. Just talking about curling was sucking the will to live right out of him. It was like some Anglo joke, an excuse to wear plaid and yell. Most Anglos, he’d noticed, didn’t like to raise their voices. Francophones were constantly gesturing and shouting and hugging. Beauvoir wasn’t sure why Anglos even had arms, except perhaps to carry all their money. Curling at least gave them an excuse to vent.

Cheers

  • Such a good series. These are more than police procedurals. We also find out about people’s lives and the village of Three Pines. Ms. Penny uses language so well which makes these books even more interesting.
  • Chief Inspector Gamache is such an interesting character. He firmly believes in justice, but he also believes in courtesy and helping and educating the people he works with.
  • Beauvoir, Gamache’s second-in-command is a very proud Francophone. He doesn’t understand Anglos and is often impatient with them. However, he’s a loyal and talented second-in-command for Gamache.
  • The way the murder happens is very unique and that is something Gamache must unravel.
  • CC de Poitiers and her family are sad, unlikeable people.
  • These books have quite a bit of atmosphere especially because of the house CC de Poitiers buys. This house also was important in the first book in the series.
  • I like that there is curling in the book and that the book takes place around the Christmas season.
  • There is a secondary plot (the Arnot case) started in the first book which affects Gamache personally. He went against the hierarchy in the Sûreté to bring down a corrupt officer. Neither his bosses nor the corrupt officer (who is in prison) can forgive this. We learn a little more about this in this book.

Jeers

  • I don’t know that it’s necessary to have the Arnot case fill such a large background role in the book.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’m so glad I finally started reading these books. I love Louise Penny’s writing and look forward to reading many more of her books.

Awards

  • Agatha Award for Best Novel (2007)

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 in August 2015. She lives in Canada in a small village south of Montreal with her husband and a golden retriever.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog

Review: Still Life by Louise Penny

still-lifeStill Life
by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1
Genre: Contemporary Mystery (police procedural)
Published by Minotaur Books, 2005
E-book, purchased
377 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

With this award-winning first novel, Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with power, ingenuity, and charm.

Every year the hunters shot cows and horses and family pets and each other. And, unbelievably, they sometimes shot themselves, perhaps in a psychotic episode where they mistook themselves for dinner. It was a wise person who knew that some hunters–not all, but some–found it a challenging to distinguish a pine from a partridge from a person.

and

It was, reflected Gamache, one of the fundamental differences between anglophone and francophone Quebecers; the English believed in individual rights and the French felt they had to protect collective rights. Protect their language and culture.

. . . . Gamache remembered reading in the Montreal Gazette a few years ago an article by a columnist who observed that Quebec worked in reality, just not on paper.

Cheers

  • I already listened to book 4, but I definitely had to go back and read book 1. I love this series!
  • I love the characterizations and the descriptions of the village and surrounding area as well as the mystery.
  • Gamache likes quotes: “When thou hast done, thou hast not done, for I have more,” quoted Gamache. “John Donne.”
  • Gamache is part of the quiet, thoughtful detective genre–something like Hercule Poirot
  • Gamache’s second-in-command. Jean Guy Beauvoir, is very different from Gamache–more a man of action, but he’s devoted to Gamache even when he thinks Gamache is wrong or making a mistake.
  • Gamache has a habit of taking young police officers under his wing. He’s very generous with his knowledge and gives them the opportunity to show they could make good homicide detectives.
  • During this case Agent Yvette Nichol is given this opportunity. Beauvoir is always against Gamache trying to bring someone new into their team. He’s always sure it’s a waste of time.
  • Even though the book takes place in Canada which doesn’t seem that exotic, the French part of Canada seems very  foreign. The author does a great job showing the differences between the English and French citizens.
  • The village of Three Pines seems almost mythical–a beautiful small village filled with distinct characters. As in all mysteries and in “real” life everyone has secrets.

Jeers

  • I wanted to know more about what happens to Agent Nichol.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’ve had several of Louise Penny’s books for a while and am so glad I’ve started reading them!

Awards

  • Barry Award for Best First Novel (2007)
  • Anthony Award for Best First Novel (2007)
  • Dilys Award (2007), Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel (2006)
  • The Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger (2006)

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 in August 2015. She lives in Canada in a small village south of Montreal with her husband and a golden retriever.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a popular author’s first book)

Review: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

a-rule-against-murderA Rule Against Murder
by Louise Penny
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #4
Genre: Mystery (police procedural)
Published by Blackstone Audio, 2009 (originally published by Minotaur Books, 2008)
Audiobook, purchased
322 pages
10 hours, 52 minutes
Grade: B
Narrator grade: B+
Synopsis: It is the height of summer, and Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse, an isolated, luxurious inn not far from the village of Three Pines. But they’re not alone. The Finney family — rich, cultured, and respectable — has also arrived for a celebration of their own.
The beautiful Manoir Bellechasse might be surrounded by nature, but there is something unnatural looming. As the heat rises and the humidity closes in, some surprising guests turn up at the family reunion, and a terrible summer storm leaves behind a dead body. It is up to Chief Inspector Gamache to unearth secrets long buried and hatreds hidden behind polite smiles. The chase takes him to Three Pines, into the dark corners of his own life, and finally to a harrowing climax.

…the most devastating thing Finney could have said. Not that Peter was hated by his father. But that he’d been loved all along. He’d interpreted kindness as cruelty, generosity as meanness, support as tethers. How horrible to have been offered love, and to have chosen hate instead. He’d turned heaven into hell.

and

Her tragedy was that she always found men to save her. She never had to save herself. She never knew she could.

Cheers

  • I liked this book a lot. The narrator is great. I have the next book in the series on audio also and look forward to listening to that when I finally get caught up in this series.
  • This is the first book I’ve read by Louise Penny even though it’s the fourth book in this series. I have to go back and read the first three books now!
  • It’s clear that if I had read the three earlier books I would know some of the characters better in this book.
  • I don’t like the Morrows very well. Especially the mother–Mrs. Finney (she has remarried) and what we hear about the deceased father. The book says she loves her kids, but it’s hard to see. And the rest of the family is pretty unlikable, too.
  • I’m intrigued by all the different ways the family see each other. In this family there is anger, jealousy and self-destructive behavior. They’re all damaged. They are successful on their own, but when they are within their family they can’t seem to cope.
  • I really like both Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache. In this book the reader sees Gamache as both the Chief Inspector and as a husband. Armand and Reine-Marie are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. It is easy to see the love and happiness they share. We also see Armand attacked by Mrs. Finney for who his father was.
  • I like the differences between French and English Canadians. And the descriptions of this beautiful area in Canada.
  • Mr. Finney is a very quiet figure, easily overlooked, but he has important insights regarding the other characters and events in the book. And he’s an important character to Gamache since he knew Gamache’s father.

Jeers

  • We are told that both the Morrow mother and father loved their children, but their actions don’t show that at all.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’m so happy to find a new police procedural series and especially one set in Quebec.
  • I’ve already read the first book in the series. It’s very good!

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 in August 2015. She lives in Canada in a small village south of Montreal with her husband and a golden retriever.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog