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Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.
No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

372 pages, Hardcover

First published September 22, 2009

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About the author

LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (seven times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,728 reviews
24 reviews19 followers
June 5, 2010
Having read all of Louise Penny's previous novels about the perfect
village of Three Pines and the amazing Chief Inspector Gamache I was
prepared to be vastly entertained by a witty, sometimes funny and
intricately plotted mystery whose solution always lies in the hearts of
men and the ability of Gamache to suss out what lies within.

I was not prepared for this compelling and unflinching look into the
heart of darkness that resides within us all. It is a universal truth
that we can never fully know another human being and many times, not
even ourselves. But Penny shows us a unique insight into the very "black
box" of her characters - the good people of Three Pines who, like the
residents of St Mary Mead, have sometimes huge contradictions and even
frightening aspects to their inner lives while outwardly are wonderful,
interesting and truly good peeople.

And in the center of all of this strides Gamache when an unknown man is
found murdered in this idyllic paradise, some modern day seer into the
soul who, like Miss Marple, not only has an intimate knowledge of human
nature, but has compassion to temper his judgment. And it is this
intimate knowledge that lets him find out how and, more importantly,
why, murder is done.

I know all these people from her previous novels and they have become
friends, people I thought I knew with all their contradictions. But here
Gamache and his team strip away veneers and shows us even more about
these people, the worm in the apple.

This is a terrific read if you like mysteries but it is also a stunning
look at our universal condition. In a brutal telling itself, Penny
connects us with our own humanity as well as others. She shows us the
fragility of our existence and that even living within the pale doesn't
exempt us and we can have everything taken away in a very short time.

Thanks so much for sending me this book which I could not put down,
could not stop thinking about after wards, and so thoroughly enjoyed.
Louise Penny's books transcends the genre of mystery like any good
literature and speaks to us.

Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,038 reviews2,573 followers
February 25, 2022
The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5)
by Louise Penny, Ralph Cosham (Narrator)

This fifth book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series has been the saddest entry for me. We've gotten to know so many of the characters and in The Brutal Telling chaos is coming for bistro owner Olivier Brulé. Olivier has always been the quiet one in his relationship with outgoing Gabriel Dubeau and now he's appearing to be not just someone who is quiet but someone who may be hiding many secrets.

Gamache is called to Three Pines to investigate the murder of an old hermit whose body is found on the floor of Olivier's bistro. When questioned, it's obvious Olivier is holding back, lying even. But Olivier isn't the only one with secrets and Gamache is stymied as to the identity of this murdered man and the motive for the murder. An ongoing fable is dispersed throughout the story and it assures us that chaos is coming. There is no sense of peace in this fable and or in the beautiful wood carvings that seem to be connected to the old man.

Published September 22, 2009 by Blackstone Audio, Inc
Profile Image for Adina.
781 reviews2,957 followers
July 24, 2019
Although Armand Gamache series is my favourite among the mystery genre The Brutal Telling is the first that got 5*. It checked all the right boxes but what finally made me to give it the top mark was the author's courage to make one of the most loved characters as top suspect .

Once again, I have to point out that this series has to be read in order so if you like crime fiction, which is a bit cosy but also dark try this series but from book 1.

I am not going to repeat the blurb, I will only write what I enjoyed about this novel. Firstly, the writing is beautiful as always. The characters are all interesting, even the secondary ones. The way the plot was waved was so intricate, I particularly enjoyed the story about the mountain and how it was mingled with the main plot. All the art talk. The way Mrs Penny writes about food makes my mouth water every time. It was almost perfect.

The next novel is connected with this one so I have to get to it soon.
Profile Image for Thomas.
691 reviews169 followers
September 14, 2020
4 stars for book 5 in the Armand Gamache mystery series. This book would work as a stand alone, but it does help to read them in order, as I am doing. In this book, a body is found in the bistro/antique store run by Olivier and Gabri, a gay couple. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the the Surete homicide squad, based in Montreal, is called in along with his team. He and his team start investigating, uncovering secrets and lies. They soon have several suspects. Gamache does solve the crime, but not until the end. I was not sure of the identity of the murderer until the end.
Louise Penny's books have to be read slowly, because she provides so much descriptive information about the places, scenery and the people in her books. My wife says that she likes to savor every word. There is only the one murder with no graphic violence. There is also very little profanity. This series would be suitable for cozy mystery fans.
This was a library book.
Two quotes:
Gamache's dog: "In the kitchen Gamache's German shepherd, Henri, sat up in his bed and cocked his head. He had huge oversized ears which made Gamache think he wasn't a purebred but a cross between a shepherd and a satellite dish."
Lies: "People lied all the time in murder investigations. If the first victim of war was the truth, some of the first victims of a murder investigation were people's lies. The lies they told themselves, the lies they told each other."
Profile Image for Matt.
3,619 reviews12.8k followers
October 24, 2018
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.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,369 reviews787 followers
June 19, 2019
“Fear more than anything was the thrust behind the knife, the fist. The blow to the head.”

This is the fifth outing of Penny’s much-loved and highly respected Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the head of homicide of Canada’s Sûreté du Québec. I’m always happy to return to Three Pines and immerse myself in village life with the characters I’ve come to know and enjoy.

Peter and Clara are a couple, artists who work separately, and she is on the brink of discovery and fame, which Peter envies. Gabriel and Olivier run the B&B and Bistro where we enjoy their hospitality and the camaraderie and the food. The warm baguettes with pâté and cheeses along with the wine and the desserts are enough to send you to find a little something yourself before continuing the story. It’s a warm, inviting village.

“Soft light glowed at some of the windows. Curtains were drawn in bashful old homes.”

Not everyone is warm and welcoming, though. Ruth Zardo, the cranky old poet with the active middle finger and the sharp tongue is in full flight, dropping scraps of paper with lines of her poetry in Gamache’s and Beauvoir’s pockets for them to piece together. Her opinion is never in doubt and her insight is unique. At one point, someone is asked a question.

“He looked over at her and smiled.
‘I'm fine.’
‘Ruth's FINE? F**ked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Egotistical?’
‘That's about right.’

Gamache’s offsiders are here, particularly Beauvoir, who has a hard time dealing with some of these people. He has his own insecurities and demons. Penny includes bits of information here and there to allow us some insight into how and why people are affected by what they encounter during an investigation like this.

A body has been found in the bistro. Just inside the front door. Who, what, when, where, why, how did he meet his end, Gamache wonders.

“Looking at this man's face he knew he hadn't suffered. The blow to the back of the head meant he probably hadn't even seen it coming.
Almost like dying in your sleep.
But not quite.”

During the investigation we meet some newcomers, including a small Czech family living in a very modern house and a couple and mother who have bought an old, dilapidated mansion and are turning it into accommodation and an upmarket spa that will steal customers from Gabri and Olivier. How dare they?!

The body is not identified, nor is the killer. Gamache says he thinks someone did know the man and had visited him. Someone asks if he means “one of us”?

“One of us, thought Gamache. Three short words, but potent. They more than anything had launched a thousand ships, a thousand attacks. One of us. A circle drawn. And closed. A boundary marked. Those inside and those not.

Families, clubs, gangs, cities, states, countries. A village.

What had Myrna called it? Beyond the pale.

But it went beyond simple belonging. The reason “belonging” was so potent, so attractive, so much a part of the human yearning, was that it also meant safety, and loyalty. If you were “one of us” you were protected.
. . .
Was the drawbridge up? The pale closed? Was Three Pines protecting a killer? One of them?”

The clues are complex, and the story travels across Canada and the around the world. The ever-present woods, of course, are both as inviting and scary as ever. People are advised not to venture into them alone - too easy to get lost, or . . . well, you know.

There is more than a passing nod to forest conservation and Canada’s First Nations, but just enough to give us a sense of history and atmosphere without preaching.

“Many native tribes believed evil lived in corners, which was why their traditional homes were rounded. Unlike the square homes the government had given them.”

I do love this series, and it does need to be read in order to appreciate the characters. They are as important as the plots. And they aren't all warm and wonderful, remember. There's a murder in every book! I'm looking forward to the next one now. :)
Profile Image for Sebastian.
122 reviews9 followers
August 31, 2013
Never thought I would see this day!

If someone had told me that I would be rating a Louise Penny book with two stars, I would have disregarded them as crazy. The author is such a good writer that there is no way this was even a choice. Sadly, I have to do it. In this novel pretty much goes against everything that has led me to love her work in the past. When we first met the inhabitants of Three Pines we were introduced to a fascinating group of people. At this point, we have had quite a bit of time with them and feel like we know them. It is true that as the series progressed we have discovered many faults in them, take Peter as an example and his "hidden" jealousy of his wife's success. But in this book I felt like the author went completely out of the realm of what's believable and delivered a huge change that I could really not swallow.

If this was the only fault, it would not be too bad. However, the author also decided to change up many other things for the worse. In an uncharacteristically decision, we find out about a murder being committed right away. In the past, the author has taken her time in exploring other aspects of the story before showing us "the body". I thought that jumping right into the mystery would be a good thing, but after finding out about the crime things slow down to snail pace and we find it difficult to stay engaged in the story. This goes hand in hand with the decision to make this book considerably longer than everything Penny has written so far. This did not work well, because I got the feeling the writer was just dillydallying and getting us bored in the process.

The fact that the book is so long also contributes to make the ending that much more of a letdown. I expect my mysteries to have a clear resolution. I understand that this is a series, but I still want to know who did it and to get a clear explanation of how it all happened. This is clearly lacking here and is what really pushed me over the edge. After reading over 500 pages and having to deal with all the issues pointed above, I was livid when the book ended!

So here is the crux of the problem. Those that have been reading the series will still have to read this, since there are important developments that are sure to impact what happens in the next book, but you have been warned. If you are similar to me this will not be a book you will enjoy all that much. In my case, I am emotionally attached to this series, so I am not going to stop after one bad book, especially when I know how good a product Penny can deliver. I can only hope that in the next book she returns to her usual style and gives us one great novel!
Profile Image for Paula K (on hiatus).
414 reviews428 followers
March 19, 2016
Louise Penny's Inspector Armand Gamache series is my favorite series in the mystery genre. The 5th book is back again at Three Pines introducing new unwanted owners of the haunting Hadley house. An unknown hermit is murdered, a treasure is found, and we witness the worst traits of the book's characters. This is a story of greed, jealousy, resentment, and lies.

What I enjoyed most was the wonderful poetic nature of The Brutal Telling. Listening to quotes narrated by the late Ralph Cosham is such a joy. What a voice. What a beautiful French Canadian accent.

4.5 rounded up to 5 stars due to the outstanding audio book and Ralph Cosham.

Don't miss this series.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,116 reviews1,979 followers
August 10, 2017
Another excellent book in this great series. This is book five and I am becoming quite attached to all the characters, especially Armand Gamache himself of course. He always moves so quietly through each story, absorbing all the facts, gently managing his colleagues and eventually solving the crimes.
All our favourite residents of Three Pines popped up along the way and one featured in the worst possible manner. I cannot help thinking that something will happen in the next book to help this character redeem himself. Oh and I really hope Rosa the duck returns. What will Three Pines be without her?
This was a real pleasure to read and I am very happy that I have Bury Your Dead ready to read any day now:)
August 15, 2022
Several considered this novel dark. It is light! The mystery is identifying a victim. A resident knew the recluse and visited him on the key night. He was moved a couple of times but families under suspicion are new to readers. There is no emotional attachment, except a fantastic story with rescued horses. This is an interesting puzzle, dipping into famous treasures. Some must be gloomy about “The Brutal Telling” because a regular Three Pines resident was accused. So what? I wish one of my three least favourites would leave. Implicating someone familiar, who is not as in Star Trek lore, “an expendable crewman”; makes this a grownup, standard adult mystery!

I for one, love a mystery taken seriously and give this novel five full stars. It took risks, it remained intriguing because readers are not privy to everything until Armand reached his conclusions, and I could not stop reading it. I love his artifacts expert friend, a grande dame like Reine-Marie. Even the duck flying south, which disappointed others, was all right with me. She can easily come back in the spring. Sometimes animals experiment and that duck certainly should go south with her kind.

We are worried about our precious cat, whose siblings celebrated their eight birthday the day I finished this novel. Nonetheless, we are sure of his love for us and that he will be home with us soon. Finishing this book on September 4, is part of a wonderful day I shared with Conan's sisters, in the meantime. I will celebrate with him too, when he is home. We never forget their brother, Love: the gorgeous, loving beige cat in my photograph with me.

I look excitedly forward to the three-hundred year-old mystery in “Bury Your Dead”. That is much more my kind of mystery!
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,033 reviews361 followers
January 26, 2023
Ahhh, Louise Penny you have broken my heart! Generally I read Penney's novels because I adore her mysteries but even more so because I have come to think of Inspector Gamache, his team and the marvelous people of Three Pines as literary friends. Penny does this to you with her incredible writing, in-depth character development and her beautiful story telling. The mystery is there but it is the people that you come back time and to visit time and again.

So I blindly walked into this story believing I would visit old friends but just as with real life a curve ball was thrown my way. Suspicions are cast at one of the main residents in the village, secrets are uncovered and darkness is revealed. What once seemed seemed so ideal and perfect in the tiny village, never can be so again. Not even Rosa the duck will be waiting. 😞

If you read this series then this one is a MUST READ. If you love mysteries or good story-telling then start at the beginning and read up to this one. It's not a stand alone. Well done Ms. Penny!
Profile Image for Jim.
542 reviews78 followers
June 26, 2017
Chaos is coming, old son.

Having been introduced to Three Pines, the fictional Quebec village close to the Vermont border, I have fallen in love with it and it's quirky residents. But as I read my way through the series their flaws and imperfections are being revealed. Like layers on an onion slowly being peeled back one layer at a time. In A Rule Against Murder we learned a bit more about Peter Morrow. In this fifth installment in the series we learn more about Olivier Brulé, the gay man who along with his partner Gabriel Dubeau, run the bistro and the Bed and Breakfast. Everyone has their secrets. Things even their closet friends are not aware of.

A body is found in the bistro. A stranger. Who is he and what was he doing in the bistro? The residents of Three Pines want desperately for the murderer to be a stranger too. Not one of them. The Old Hadley house, that curse which looks down on the village, has been purchased by Marc and Dominique Gilbert and is being renovated into an Inn and Spa. Maybe it was one of them. They are new in Three Pines and besides they will be competition for Olivier and Gabri. Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, and his team, return to the village to investigate. From the start it is clear that Olivier is not being truthful and Gamache cannot understand why. Like the other residents he doesn't want the murderer to be one of the friends he has made in Three Pines.

Although the body was found in the bistro it is clear that he was killed elsewhere and his body moved. A cabin is found in the woods. The cabin is filled with priceless antiques and other treasures. First editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre, a rare violin, silverware and glassware. As each clue is discovered and as each lie is revealed Olivier grows more frantic. What past did he leave behind? How did he make his money to buy the bistro? Why did he come to Three Pines? Why does everything point back to Olivier? Everyone has their secrets but could Olivier be a murderer?

In many ways this was a dark book. We learn some things about the residents of Three Pines that we may not like. But there are also lighthearted moments from Ruth's duck, Rosa, wearing sweaters and a rain coat to Jean Guy Beauvoir riding a horse through the woods to the cabin. Can you say "Giddy up"? The ending leaves you wondering. There is an arrest and conviction but is it over? I am looking forward to reading Bury Your Dead to find out more.
Profile Image for Kelly H. (Maybedog).
2,307 reviews219 followers
January 1, 2010
My first book of the new year!

I'd really like to give this book 2.5 stars. The ending really irritated me but the rest was pretty good. I'm going to start of the new year with kindness and give it three stars.

This book is interesting and well written for the most part. It has a few slow spots but it's hard to put down once you reach the half way point. I'm sure it will be appealing to fans of this series. I haven't read any of Penny's books before so there have been a few moments when I've wondered if I am missing something because I'm not familiar with previous books, but I don't think I am. In some ways it's a blessing because, not being positive about which characters have been in previous novels, I have more suspects to choose from.

My biggest beefs:

--I kept waiting for a big twist at the end, something that surprised me and there was nothing. The mystery wasn't very mysterious and that really bothered me. There were some bits that I was enthralled with but was disappointed with the solutions.
--There was a sub-story about a couple of villagers that was completely irrelevant and distracting.
--The point of view jumps from person to person, sometimes several times on one page. I hate that. It's very jarring.
--I don't live in Canada but I find it hard to believe an inspector could get a warrant to search every single house in the village just because someone was killed there. I know we American's take our right to privacy to the extreme, but that's a bit ridiculous.
--The ending left me feeling unsure and while that may be reality, I don't like it in mystery novels.
--There was nothing even remotely thrilling. I like a bit of danger and excitement but there wasn't even a smidgen.
--A Caesar code is extremely easy to decode and you don't need the number or word to decode it. There are only 26 possibilities. It took me about 5 minutes.
--People jumped to conclusions and those conclusions turned out to be right even when there were lots of other possible reasons for something. I think those other reasons should have at least been brought up.
--Almost everyone is supposedly talking in French but the author has them say French words and then switch to English. It's weird to only translate part of what they are saying and makes it sound like that's the only part that's French and the rest really is English.
--There's a big cheese art dealer/manager who is really homophobic which is just plain bizarre to me. What world has more gay people than the arts?

Things I like:
--One character rescues old horses.
--There are gay main characters and she handles it just right--not making it a major issue but not pretending that it's completely accepted either.
--I learned a lot about Emily Carr.
--I've never read a mystery series from the Quebecois perspective which is fresh and exciting.
--There is a crazy old poet with a duck who wears clothes. How can you go wrong with that?

I really liked the following passage about an emotionally abused boy:
...the boy grew an outer hull to withstand assault. But while those skins saved tender young souls, Gamache knew, they soon stopped protecting and became the problem. Because while the hard outer shell kept the hurt at bay, it also kept out the light. And inside the frightened little soul became something else entirely, nurtured only in darkness. --pg. 154

So, if you like this series already, or have a thing for Quebec or Emily Carr, read it. Otherwise, there are lots of other great mysteries that you might enjoy more, perhaps one of the earlier ones in the series.
July 8, 2019
EXCERPT: "All of them? Even the children?' The fireplace sputtered and crackled and swallowed his gasp. 'Slaughtered?'


There was silence then. And in that hush lived all the things that could be worse than slaughter.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Chaos is coming, old son.
With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

MY THOUGHTS: Three Pines is another place in which I will never settle nor, for that matter, visit. For the size of the village, it has an inordinate amount of murders! The chances of coming out alive are not good.

Louise Penny is an amazing author. Her books are never predictable, her characters well crafted if sometimes a little bizarre (Ruth and her Duck), the plots elaborately constructed without being confusing. In Armand Gamache she has created a quietly thoughtful man, a man who is considerate of others, with a sharp mind and strong moral values. The sort of man I would like for a friend.

And although this is a detective series, the crimes are never without mystery. Good solid mysteries that have me trying to puzzle it out as I read. And no, I never get it right!

This series is a keeper for me. One that I dip into regularly, and know that I will reread.


THE AUTHOR: LOUISE PENNY, a former CBC radio journalist, is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of fourteen Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has been awarded the John Creasey Dagger, Nero, Macavity and Barry Awards, as well as two each of the Arthur Ellis and Dilys Awards. Additionally, Penny has won six Agatha Awards and five Anthony Awards, and has been a finalist for an Edgar Award. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.

Her first Armand Gamache novel, "Still Life" won the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony and Dilys Awards.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny, narrated by Adam Sims, published by MacMillan Audio, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the 'about' page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my webpage sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,142 reviews491 followers
February 28, 2015
Three Pines welcomed Marc and Dominique Gilbert as the new owners of Hadley house on the hill. For once, this sad, violated, derelict house got a second chance. It never belonged to the village, according to inspector Armand Gamache. It seemed the accusation, the voyeur on the hill, that looked down on them. Judged them. Preyed on them. And sometimes took one of the villagers, and killed them.

Three Pines was not like any other village. "Every Quebec village has a vocation", said Clara. “Some make cheese, some wine, some pots. We produce bodies.”

And so it was. One early Spring evening, the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend, another body was found, this time around, in the bistro. All the previous deceased had names. But this one fell from the sky.

The inner circle of friends became involved again when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir, and agent Isabelle Lacoste of the Sûreté du Québec’s homicide division, turned up to investigate the murder. For, a murder it undoubtedly was.

The much-loved owner of the much-loved bistro, thirty-eight-year-old Olivier Brulé, with his life partner, Gabi, had no words to describe the horror of the event.

But Gamache believed that no murder happened in the spur of the moment. It could have started many years before. This event, he knew, will have a story to tell, with the clues spread all over the quiet village and beyond.

Yes, Queen Charlotte Islands - Haida Hwaii, where the ancient totem poles of hundreds of years ago, was made by whittlers from redwood cedar trees. Each carving was a sequel of a previous totem pole. They were all connected, and whispered clues to Chief Inspector Gamache in Three Pines village, thousand of miles away.
There came a time when it seemed a howl, as though they had hold of something wild that screamed clues at them. It was, Gamache knew, the shriek of something cornered and frightened.
The town, where nobody was a stranger, seemed to bristle with art and artists. Peter and Clara Murrow were still enchanting the world with their paintings. Peter, still the conniving, envious husband of the upcoming, just-discovered Clara, who were preparing for her first international art exhibition, had his own revenge up his paint-covered sleeves.

Ruth, with her pet duck, named Rose, did not beat around the forest when she dissects the characters assembled for apple and cheddar soup in the bistro: Ruth leaned over and took Olivier’s hand. “It’s all right, dear, we all know you’re greedy.” Then she looked at Clara. “And we all know you’re needy, and Peter’s petty and Clouseau here,” she turned to Gamache, “is arrogant..."

Myrna still sold new- and secondhand books to the villagers. She remembered which book was sold to whom. Gamache believed in books. There was a connection, he knew. This murder was about fear and the lies it produced. But, more subtly, it was about stories. The tales people told the world, and told themselves. The Mythtime and the totems, that uneasy frontier between fable and fact.

Somewhere deep in the woods, another artist, a hermit, lived in a remote log cabin, where the fire in his hearth had been burning for more than ten years. Nobody was aware of his existence, except someone in the village of Three Pines ...

The deceased was an artist himself. His carvings told a tale of hubris, of punishment and love. And betrayal. Of a mountain of Despair and Rage. And Chaos. And something else ...

Gamache also knew that anything in life, including art, was motivated by something more than art. There are currencies such as jealousy, rage, revenge. Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir knew that lies annoyed Gamache, but the truth seemed to piss him off even more, especially when it was inconvenient.

In the heart of this tale, Gamache now knew, a brutal telling was waiting.

Comment: A multi-leveled tale of love, loyalty,friendship, community, culture, bonding, and history captured in a brilliant suspense thriller, cemented in outstanding prose.

Louise Penny has become my ultimate favorite in crime writing. She captures the heart of a village. The good, bad and evil and presents the inhabitants with grace and empathy.

PS. I scrambled everything up in the hope of confusing everyone who wants to find a clue in my review :-))
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,184 reviews126 followers
January 11, 2023
“ … a dead stranger was way better than a dead friend.”

Three Pines is in a bit of a dither when Chief Inspector Gamache arrives to investigate a rather bizarre murder. Nobody has any idea of the identity of the murder victim or how the body might have come to arrive at its final resting place in the local bistro!

The New York Times suggested, “Louise Penny applies her magic touch, giving the village mystery an elegance and depth not often seen in this traditional genre” and the Toronto Globe and Mail rather quietly opines, “Penny relies more on depth of character than formula”. It’s not often that one can say the back cover marketing blurbs on today’s novels are masterpieces of elegant understatement as opposed to outrageous shouts of all too frequently undeserved hyperbole. This is one of those rare cases.

The comedic description of Ruth Zardo’s cantankerous, homophobic bitchiness, for example, is laugh-out-loud hilarious. An octogenarian poet of no small international renown, her behaviour is so outré that one is left wondering whether she is perhaps putting on an act to such perfection that she has almost forgotten whether she believes what she is saying herself.

Penny’s descriptions of art works and their interpretation are so gorgeous, so mellifluous and so eloquent that I lost track of how many times I forced myself to stop reading to simply soak up their warmth and beauty.

Why only four stars?? Unfortunately, I think that the final unraveling of the mystery and the identification of the culprit simply didn’t live up to the quality of the description of Gamache’s investigations and his interactions with the good folks of Three Pines. Plus the code used to hide a couple of the clues was so ridiculously simply to break (I didn’t even have to resort to using a pencil) that it actually amounted to an insult to the intelligence of Gamache and his Sûrete colleagues.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,477 followers
February 7, 2017
Penny is at the top of her form with this 5th installment of the “cosy” mystery series set in the fictional rural Quebec village of Three Pines. A strange turns up dead in the bistro run by a gay couple, and Instpector Armand Gamache of the provincial homicide division come to town with his team to solve it. In the process, he digs up many secrets and suspects in this tight-knit community, mostly achieved through his special talent at listening and being able to garner subtle clues and detect lies. As usual, the origin of the crime is not from exceptional evil or madness, but an extension of more mundane human emotions of greed, jealousy, or fears of exposure among the members of the village. Soon the victim is determined to have been a hermit living quietly in the woods. Among his possessions are art treasures, and pieces of his own woodworking artistry that seems to tell some form of allegorical story. Some special leaps of insight leads Gamache to seek more clues among a community of a First Nations tribe on a remote island in British Columbia.

I totally love the cast of characters in this rural microcosm, the eccentric craftsmen, artists, and writers who take refuge here among the long-term working class residents and their intersections with Gamache and his team, detective Jean Guy Beauvoir and technical specialist Isabelle Lacoste. The tale fulfills my vision of the murder mystery as means to discover and point the way to healing the problems of our human condition and the ills of our civilization. It is my fourth and best of the ten in the series I’ve enjoyed so far. I haven’t suffered much from reading them out of order. For a most delightful review, I refer you to one by Margitte.
Profile Image for Brenda.
3,978 reviews2,591 followers
February 9, 2019
The discovery of the body on the floor of Gabri and Olivier’s bistro was a dreadful shock to them, and the townsfolk of Three Pines. But when they realized he’d been murdered, they called the police. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team once again arrived in Three Pines to investigate a murder.

Secrets, lies, confusion, puzzles and treasure – all have Gamache scratching his head and trying to find the answers. But worse was to come before the final curtain – what would he find among the people he called friends?

The Brutal Telling is the 5th in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny and it’s another fascinating, convoluted and well woven tale. I’m thoroughly enjoying the series, and especially like the character of Gamache. Recommended.
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,270 reviews
January 2, 2022
4 brutal stars

This book #5 in the series returns us to Three Pines as Gamache investigates a murder. A mysterious stranger is found dead at Olivier's bistro and the whole town is under suspicion.

I have always liked the Olivier and Gabriel couple, but it becomes clear that Olivier is keeping a lot of secrets. Who was this old man and what is his connection to Gabriel?

The Old Hadley House has been transformed into a spa and B&B and it will be competition for Olivier and Gabriel's business. How does that figure into the plot?

I kept waiting for one final twist in this one, but it never happened. This one was quite dark so it will be interesting to see how I fare with #6. Thanks to Marilyn for continuing our buddy reads with this series.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,855 reviews1,891 followers
September 9, 2010

Okay. I've told everyone that I read books twice before I write a review, because it's not fair to someone who spends a year just bringing a book to market, plus who knows how long dreaming it up and committing it to paper and lovingly burnishing its prose, simply to wing off some half-baked sentences about it.

So I read this book twice, and thought about it, and examined my responses to it. I was careful to think through my strong reactions to the book.

I can now state, in all fairness, that I loathe Louise Penny from the depths of my soul. Hate her! Wish to see her tied to a stake and burnt as the ensorcelling, enticing Succubus of Fiction that she is!

*pause to put out spontaneously combusted desk blotter*

The rational reason: The murderer in this book is clearly identified early on; doubts are cast onto tthe murderer's guilt at the end of the book, but it's too little too late, as we are already eviscerated, devastated, squashed flat like a bug, by the revelation that Olivier...that's right, fearless readers, OLIVIER! as in the bistro's owner and Gabri...poor, poor Gabri!...Gabri's one true love is plain ol', flat-out nasty.

Yeup. Heard me right. OLIVIER is the bad guy. So what if maybe, just maybe, he didn't kill the victim? Big deal! He did some very very very vile stuff, and he did it in full possession of his faculties, and he...I mean, I mean, LOUISE PENNY did...made us love him and care for him like Gabri...poor, darling Gabri, such a pain he is, but such a mensch...does!

*pause to put out spontaneously combusted letter holder*

Okay, okay, I will attempt some restraint out of fear for my home furnishings.

Emily Carr, the Canadian artist whose life and career serve as one of the support rods of this perfidious, sneaky attack on the hearts of loyal fans...I mean, this narrative, was a delightful painter of the stunningly beautiful world of Canada's West. Penny doesn't need to make her more famous in Canada, but I venture to guess that most Murrikins have never heard of her. This is a shame, but not a surprise: How many who aren't serious art buffs have heard of Canada's Group of Seven anyway? So go look at Carr's bio and follow some links to her spectacular artwork: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Carr

Go Louise Penny. Rah.

And if it's possible, Armand Gamache becomes even more lovable in this instalment of the series. It's unnerving, really, how much I believe that he really exists, Three Pines really exists, the whole Pennyverse is actual not virtual. The Chief Inspector is so gentle and patient and loving in his treatment of Gabri. He grieves with him. He explains the facts as he knows them to Gabri, whose denial he fully and completely understands after the ending of The Cruelest Month. Armand Gamache makes the whole agonizing betrayal-fest that is this hot poker of a book worthwhile.

Oh, and Clara's art show is even more satisfying than it would be otherwise because of the way it all falls into place. That's all I can say. Plus Peter's come-uppance! After A Rule Against Murder, I actively dislike Peter Morrow; his complete and utter vitiation in this book felt *so* good. But, honestly, I don't expect that it'll last...Penny's proven she's a cruel and unusual punishment specialist, you just wait...she has some horrid shock awaiting us about Peter....

Recommended, Goddammit, because it's too integral to the series not to read. But it ticks me off to recommend it. Really, truly, it does.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Patcee .
296 reviews109 followers
July 22, 2022
When Louise Penny came to speak at our community Writers’ Festival, after completing Book 5 of her catalogue, our book club invited her and husband, Michael for lunch. It was a bold move and to our surprise, they accepted. The reward was a spontaneous, open 2 1/2 to 3 hour presentation and discussion. Of course, Three Pines, her series’ characters, their backstories, and her inspiration came first. But the mood was perfect and unbelievably, Michael at her side, Louise spoke to us from the heart about her struggles and her adoring Michael. She is a deep thinker, profoundly philosophical, and immersed in arts and culture. It was an unbelievably moving experience.

The Three Pines murder in The Brutal Telling surrounds the horrific discovery of a dead hermit on the floor of the bistro/b&b operated by Gabri and Olivier. As before, Chief Inspector Gamache arrives with his team to investigate. In time, they realize the corpse had been moved not just twice but three times by two different people after the crime was committed in his hidden cabin in the woods. Oddly, the home was filled with books and WWll memorabilia. Olivier had been providing him supplies of food so suspicion falls fast in his direction. It’s up to Gamache to sort out that sad notion.

There are other side stories as newcomers convert the old Hatley House (site of two murders) into a spa. A father declared dead twenty years earlier returns to Twin Pines. An intriguing sidebar involves wood carvings that prompts a BC trip by Gamache to investigate totem poles.

There is a lot of filler in Louise Penny’s work, some with designated purpose, some for interest, and some that for me don’t do anything but confuse or irritate. One thing for certain is that readers will do themselves a favour by taking it slow to savour the humour, the subtle details and the nuances of Penny’s research. i.e. Ruth dressing the duck, the spirit in the bistro, the warmth between the townsfolk and Gamache.

This is the book where I notice the creeping misuse of sentence construction that Penny has made part of her unique prose. If you noticed, you’ll understand. If you didn’t, no worries. Her stories are unique and fans love this woman from a small town in Quebec. I do, too and look forward to her next one.

BONUS quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden:
Chairs: One is for solitude; two is for friendship; three for society.
Profile Image for Carol.
822 reviews477 followers
October 25, 2015
The Hook Needed a comfort read after reading several brutal thrillers. Strange that this one has Brutal in the title but it was much less violent even with a murder in the plot.

The Line “Funny how imperfections on the outside mean something splendid beneath.”

The Sinker – I was probably half way through this 5th Chief Inspector Armand Gamache
in the series before I became interested in the mystery. It didn’t grab me right away. As more and more was revealed about the murder victim I began to enjoy myself. What really caught my interest were the things the murdered man possessed. You’ll have to read the book to discover what these treasures were. The Brutal Telling may not be my favorite of the series but it was good just the same. I certainly will be continuing to listen to these by author Louise Penny, narrated by the late Ralph Cosham.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,393 reviews928 followers
May 30, 2018
4.5 stars

If there is only one mystery series you read, this should be it - that's how much I adore this series. This installment was the best one so far! And yet it was so sad at the end that I almost feel bad loving this book so much. I think the next book is almost a continuation of this one, so I will be picking it up sooner than later.
Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books487 followers
February 2, 2018
Louise Penny provides everything a fine detective story should have and much much more. This book breaks the bounds of the genre, as Inspector Gamache conducts a marvelous exploration of the mind of the criminal and the victim. There is also a serious break with the eclectic cast of the village of Three Pines that has fascinating implications for subsequent books in this series. Overall a great read.
Profile Image for ✨Susan✨.
859 reviews173 followers
September 2, 2018
Appropriate October read, this being the darkest of the series for me thus far. We find our group of regulars battling some of their own inner demons, while at the same time trying to come to grips with the arrival of some unwanted outsiders. Even the landscapes in this addition were described more gloomy, remote and shadowy than usual.

Inspector Gamache is back in Three Pines again surrounded by his friends and a mysterious death. The body of an unknown homeless man is found in the local Bistro without any signs of him dying there. On top of that oddity the body possesses some very strange physical attributes, that have Gamache, his team, and the coroner at a loss. As the investigation progresses it takes us deeper into the surprising backgrounds of several long time residents. Some old dark secrets and unfortunate events are uncovered that will change many lives in the sleepy little town of Three Pines.

A wonderful mystery with the perfect amount of humor and beautiful snippets of philosophy woven throughout. Gamache would not be the same without Ralph Cosham's narration. Looking forward to the next in the series.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,811 reviews348 followers
October 8, 2021
Halloween Bingo 2021

I have to say that as a Canadian, I have always loved the Canadian-ness of this series. This volume steps it up a notch, involving Emily Carr and Haida Gwaii. I think perhaps there was a bit more French spoken by the characters here, too.

Penny doesn't coddle her characters. She puts them through the wringer, aided and abetted by Armand Gamache. Not that he goes untested either--it's not easy to have your friends as suspects. Even the brand new characters, Marc and Dominique, are tested in ways they never suspected possible. Clara has her loyalties come into conflict with her ambition. Her husband, Peter, is tortured by his own feelings of competitiveness with his wife. Some of these situations are resolved more pleasantly than others.

However, there is some humour and lots of compassion. Penny seems to inhabit the characters, feeling things along with them. I have a hunch there are more turbulent waters in the future of Three Pines. I found it amusing that the people of the village also feel they are a murder vortex. Using small communities for murder mysteries makes the plot easier for the author, but they rarely let their characters realize that their community produces bodies, as Gamache's friends put it.

I look forward to the next installment.

Profile Image for Gary .
200 reviews182 followers
September 24, 2020
This book was a decent read. I liked stories that focus on characterization. The author does this, but it is more the town I like that the main character. Not that there is anything wrong with Gamache- t's just that I see Hercule Poirot in my mind every time I read his description. I like Poirot, but Louise Penny is not Agatha Christie
For me, the magic in this series has always been the town itself. I love the setting of deeply frozen Canadian winters and murders among people that have known one another for generations. The likelihood of continual murder in this setting stretched verisimilitude a bit, but I don't care. It's still fun. there is a tongue and cheek moment when the lead investigator responds to a comment about violence not happening very often in that setting and says "you'd be surprised". I felt like it was the author winking at the reader.
Four stars because itis a good escape into a town I wish I could visit.
Profile Image for Jonas.
170 reviews13 followers
December 16, 2020
My first Inspector Gamache mystery by Louise Penny and I am hooked. I understand why so many readers have fallen in love with this series. I love the setting. I love the cast of characters. But above all, I love the writing. Penny has a gift for words. I love the stories within the story. I loved how phrases, such as beyond the pale, Hungry Ghost, and brutal telling, were threaded throughout the narrative. I equally loved the prominence of poetry and art. I found the Cesar cipher fascinating. This is a story of secrets and relationships and how they impact the quiet community of Three Pines.
Profile Image for Ian M. Pyatt.
358 reviews
April 15, 2022
Well, I certainly did not see that ending coming!

I really enjoyed Ms. Penny using the historical references to Emily Carr and the Indigenous peoples are their ways of life on the island, the spiritual beliefs and the history of the totem poles and carvings and how it lead Gamache to Olivier.

I liked the introduction of the Parra family and the fact that they too have opened up a new and somewhat competing business to the bistro and hopefully this will follow in the next few books in this series. And, how Gamache thought they might be involved in the murder of The Hermit.

Once again, Ms. Penny further develops the characters of the Three Pine residents and we can fit ourselves into one or more of their personas.

Recommend for Louise Penny fans and those of the mystery/thriller genre

Profile Image for Mona.
461 reviews283 followers
October 26, 2015

Forest British Columbia, by Emily Carr, Image source digitaljournal.com

As much as it pains me to say this, I'm finding that the appeal of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series is diminishing as I get further into it.

As I said in my review of the fourth (and preceding) book, A Rule Against Murder (see the review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), the series is starting to get a bit stale, formulaic and repetitive.

Unfortunately, this often seems to happen with series, especially mystery or crime novel series. The author hits on a winning formula that sells a lot of books, and then repeats it and repeats it until it loses its freshness (this definitely seems to have occurred with Patricia Cornwell 's Dr. Kay Scarpetta books, for example).

And it's not that I don't feel a genuine fondness for the characters, including Gamache, and the lovely rural Quebec town of Three Pines. As well as for beloved Canadian author Louise Penny.

The series just no longer has the impact it had in the first couple of books. It's lost something, become a bit routine.

In fact, I was going to give the series a very long (maybe indefinite) hiatus after "A Rule Against Murder", but some Goodreaders talked me into reading "A Brutal Telling".

The title apparently comes from something that famous Canadian painter Emily Carr said. She was very close with her father. Then they had an unspecified argument? fight? that lead her to break off all further interaction with her dad for the rest of her life.

The reference here is to a "brutal telling" between the murderer and the victim.

There are some flaws that are very specific to this particular book, too, above and beyond it being part of a series that's becoming a bit "meh" for me.

For one thing, (and I've noticed this is becoming fashionable lately) the author practically broadcasts the identity of the murderer pretty early on in the novel. So much of the surprise of discovering the criminal is taken away.

For another thing, the victim is off stage for the entire book. We never meet him when he's alive, only when he's already a corpse. And not only that, he's a recluse, so the murderer is the only person in the entire novel who's met him (or who remembers him). Since the victim was an artist, we do learn something about him through his art. It's an interesting device to have a major character we never encounter, and I don't think it really works here. There's something unsatisfying about it. We never really learn who he was.

In addition, many of the loose ends are not tied up in a satisfactory way.

That said, fans of these books will find plenty to enjoy here, although some of it's in a minor key. Elderly lunatic poetess Ruth Zardo walks around with Rosa the duck in baby clothes and leaves verses for people (like poetry attacks). She insults and curses everyone, as usual. Artist Clara stands up to art dealer Denis Fortin when he insults her gay friends. Myrna's bookstore always has just the right book and she wears electric yellow boots with a pink track suit or other such colorful attire. "She was a woman of color, in every sense." Gamache gets into the suspects' minds. Etc.

The audio is perfectly read by the late great Ralph Cosham, who personified the voice of this series.

Now I really think it's high time for me to bid this series adieu for a very long time.
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