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The Cruellest Month (2007)

by Louise Penny

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (3)

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2,3731444,533 (4)393
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate the death of a villager at an Easter séance that was held at the Old Hadley House.

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English (141)  French (2)  All languages (143)
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
Summary: Gamache returns to Three Pines to solve a murder during a seance at the old Hadley House while forces within the Surete’ (and on his team) plot his downfall to avenge the Arnot case.

It’s April and Three Pines is coming to life. It seems that the greatest danger is getting between a mother bear and her cubs in the nearby woods. Then Jeanne Chauvet arrives at Gabri and Olivier’s bed and breakfast. She is a Wiccan and Gabri and Olivier convince her to hold a séance on Good Friday evening. Not much happens except that Monsieur Beliveau, the grocer, proposes doing a second séance at the old Hadley House, empty since the last murder associated with the house. Among those present are Odile Montmagny, Gilles Sandon, Monsieur Beliveau, Jeanne Chauvet, Hazel Smythe and her daughter Sophie, and Madeleine Favreau. Madeleine has only lived in Three Pines a few years, coming to stay with her schoolmate Hazel who always adored her after a divorce and a cancer diagnosis. Really, just about everyone seemed to adore her, save Odile who is jealous of her husband’s attraction to her. During the séance, there is a sudden thump, and when the light go on, Madeleine is dead with a look of terror on her face. Apparently not everyone adored Madeleine. Subsequent tests find a lethal dose of ephedra in her bloodstream. And gradually as the case unfolds, it emerges that all the above named had motive to wish her dead.

Gamache and his team are assigned the case. And despite her attitudes and suspicion that she is part of the conspiracy to bring down Gamache, he takes her on his team. Before his departure is good friend Michel Brebeuf warns him of the growing storm of the allies of Inspector Arnot, who Gamache pursued because of his corruption, violating the codes of loyalty in the Sûreté. About the time of a late winter storm in Three Pines, the storm breaks in the form of a series of news articles casting suspicions on Gamache and his children. In one of the more exciting finishes of a mystery, the two plots collide at the old Hadley House as Gamache’s revelation of Madeleine’s murderer is interrupted with the revelation of those conspiring against Gamache.

Penny continues to develop Peter and Clara Morrow and Ruth Zardo. Clara is absorbed in her painting, preparing for the visit of an art dealer. Peter, also an artist, helps her break through a “block” and the result is so stunning that he realizes that she has surpasses him, sowing a seed of jealousy. It will be interesting to see where Penny takes this. Zardo features principally as the guardian of two goslings, one she helped hatch, only to discover that she sealed its death by not allowing it to struggle out of its shell, a parable of loving too well.

Gamache’s self-possession (except for when his children are attacked), his lack of overweening ambition, and the affection he has not only for his wife but his team make him a study in leadership. Penny’s ability to continue to develop her characters and maintain a sense of suspense, even while continuing to unfold the beauties of Three Pines evidences her skill as a writer. I only wonder why they don’t tear down the old Hadley house. All this leaves me looking forward to the next…and the next. What a delightful thought to realize I have thirteen to go (and Louise Penny might right some more before I get there)! ( )
  BobonBooks | Dec 1, 2020 |
Louise Penny in "The Cruelest Month" tells us that "Armand Gamache found murderers by following the trail of rancid emotions." The novel, set during spring in the village of Three Pines, a time of struggling rebirth after a long cold death, revels in emotions, not all rancid. Gamache is faced with two mysteries, who killed Madeleine Favreau and who was smearing his reputation in the press. To discover these requires an examination into "The near enemy. ...a psychological concept. Two emotions that look the same but are actually opposites. ...one is healthy the the other's sick, twisted." The novel's resolution reveals "near enemies" but there is a thread of hope and love running through the life of Three Pines that is a refreshing anodyne to all the darkness.
  RonWelton | Nov 18, 2020 |
3 stars is a bit mean--really, it's 3.5 stars, she's a very good writer. But she's made some choices that annoyed the heck out of me.

1. If you want to try withholding information from your reader, there are ways to do it that don't antagonize them. For instance, I don't expect to know how the murderer is until near the end. But I do expect to be given some indication as to why ostensibly intelligent characters are behaving like godawful morons. I almost abandoned the book midway because Gamache was making such insane choices--it's explained later, but the writer wants us to think he's an idiot, and why? It's so easy to toss in a "Gamache wished he could share his reasons with his second-in-command, but knew it was safer to keep them a secret" or something like that.

2. I don't buy the relationships in town. Everyone's friends with Ruth, not because they're impressed she's a world-famous poet, but despite her being singular unpleasant to everyone, all the time, constantly. It makes no sense. Clara's married to Peter, who's 100% a total a**hole. Yes, she gets a hug and some encouragement later, but that's like the wife-beater giving a bracelet--it doesn't make up for the wife beating. And so on and so forth.

3. Maybe this is just me (my friends were appalled that I thought the books would be better without it) but I can't stand evil government conspiracy stuff, and every time the book veered from murder/clues/suspects over to in-fighting within the Surete, I cringed. I don't read fantasies hoping for western shootouts, I don't read science fiction in case it incudes shenanigans at boarding school, and I don't read mysteries so I can get cop conspiracies. An-Noy-Ing.

4. Everyone seems pretty jolly considering the murder rate in this small "idyllic" town. Even Miss Marple solved mysteries outside of St. Mary's Mead. And it becomes pretty obvious pretty fast that the murderer's unlikely to be Clara, Peter, Ruth, Myrtle, Olivier, etc., because their agents have negotiated they have to be in each episode of the series, apparently.

Otherwise she writes well, the sentences flow, I want to know what happens next (vis-a-vis the actual mystery), and I've heard the books improve so I'm in for the next one, sigh.

(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s). I feel a lot of readers automatically render any book they enjoy 5, but I grade on a curve! ( )
  ashleytylerjohn | Oct 13, 2020 |
It's a shame that I didn't write about this book right after reading it. I recall bits and pieces and a general feeling but that is all. I like Gamache and I liked this investigation into the death of a woman during a seance. In a small town. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Three Pines gets creepy. This definitely had an Agatha Christie feel to it, right down to the seance scenes. Gamache's challenges are doubled in this book as there are multiple cases intertwined together - he has to figure out the murder that happened in Three Pines under spooky circumstances and addressing the maliciousness of co-workers holding loyalties to a former leader whom Gamache arrested. I think after the first three books in the series, I'm finally used to Penny's staccato story-telling method, that of the third person, switching heads, but always clear, easy to follow because everyone has distinct personalities and the switches are smoothly defined. ( )
  jonathanpapz | Jul 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Louise Pennyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chabalier, LouiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nagano, KiyomiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saint-Germain, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stumpf, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werbeck, GabrieleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire . . .
- T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
For my brother Rob and his wonderful family, Audi, Kim, Adam and Sarah, with love
First words
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate the death of a villager at an Easter séance that was held at the Old Hadley House.

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Book description
Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his team investigate another bizarre crime in the tiny Québec village of Three Pines in Penny's expertly plotted third cozy (after 2007's A Fatal Grace). As the townspeople gather in the abandoned and perhaps haunted Hadley house for a séance with a visiting psychic, Madeleine Favreau collapses, apparently dead of fright. No one has a harsh word to say about Madeleine, but Gamache knows there's more to the case than meets the eye. Complicating his inquiry are the repercussions of Gamache having accused his popular superior at the Sûreté du Québec of heinous crimes in a previous case. Fearing there might be a mole on his team, Gamache works not only to solve the murder but to clear his name. Arthur Ellis Award–winner Penny paints a vivid picture of the French-Canadian village, its inhabitants and a determined detective who will strike many Agatha Christie fans as a 21st-century version of Hercule Poirot. (Mar.)

When C.I. Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec is called to the village the next morning he faces an unusual crime scene. A séance in an old, abandoned house has gone horrifically wrong and a villager lies still, spirited away - apparently frightened to death.
Gamache soon discovers that in idyllic Three Pines not all is as it should be. Toxic secrets lie buried, and something fetid and festering has clawed its way out. And even Gamache has something to hide. He is shielding his team from a terrible truth. A powerful enemy within the Sûreté has planted a traitor amongst them. Who will betray him? And how far will they go to ensure Gamache's downfall?
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