Tag Archives: Cozy Murder Mysteries

THE BRUTAL TELLING: Inspector Gamache Series #5


Still Life paperback book cover.jpgFifteen years ago, Louise Penny published Still Life, the first book in a new cozy murder mystery series. Still Life introduced readers to a mystical Québec village called Three Pines and to a cast of quirky characters. Each book can be read independently and enjoyed but to fully understand the main characters, I encourage reading the series in order.

THE BRUTAL TELLING: Inspector Gamache Series #5

It’s midnight. Olivier Brulé leaves The Bistro, but instead of turning toward home, he slips up the hill turning onto a hidden trail leading deep into the forest. He spots a faint light in the distance. He has arrived, as he does every two weeks in the dark of night, with a load of groceries, at the Hermit’s hidden cabin.

“They sipped Orange Pekoe tea. A treat, Olivier knew, reserved for the Hermit’s honored guest. His only guest.”  After sharing a familiar and terrifying story together, Olivier heads home with an object the Hermit has given him to cover the cost of the supplies. He has been careful, as always to avoid detection. He doesn’t want anyone, especially Gabri, to know about the Hermit.

Early the next morning the phone rings at Olivier’s home. A passerby has spotted a body on the floor in the Bistro!

Mon Dieu, Olivier, the man’s been murdered!
But who is he?, Gabri whispered.

It was the Hermit. Dead. Murdered. In the bistro.
I don’t know, said Olivier.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team, once again, arrive in Three Pines. Who was this stranger? Where did he come from? How did he get in the Bistro? Everyone hopes the murderer is also someone unknown; it is unthinkable that someone in this tight-nit village is capable of such violence.

The townsfolk wonder about the newcomers that have purchased an old rundown estate overlooking the village. Their plans to create an upscale resort has upset the village and threatens the future of the Bistro and Gabri’s Bed and Breakfast. The discovery of the body in Olivier’s Bistro only intensifies the unrest and distrust. It is obvious the murder occurred elsewhere and someone deliberately staged the body.

The resort’s groundskeeper, clearing overgrown horse paths, leads to the discovery of the Hermit’s cabin and the bloody scene of the crime. What they find inside the cabin is even more baffling than the murder and again raises questions about Olivier’s honesty and character. Could this beloved resident of Three Pines have a dark side? Gamache struggles to separate his deep feelings for Olivier with his uncanny ability to recognize when someone is not telling the truth or withholding information. He so very much wants to exonerate Olivier but every new clue in someway implicates him.

The atmosphere of Brutal Telling has a markedly different feel than previous books in the series. There’s the usual engaging dialogue tucked here and there but we begin to realize we don’t know our lovable characters as well as we thought. It is as though, the author, allows us to learn everyone’s inner thoughts. Sometimes, it doesn’t reflect the happy-go-lucky exterior we have come to know and love. Other times we see that the characters we thought were curmudgeons are really caring and thoughtful people. Could a Saint also be a Sinner?  You will be forced to reflect on those times when you have done or said something you would rather the world didn’t know about.

The ending will shock you. Major hint. Read the next book, Bury Your Dead.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

AN UNWANTED GUEST

Gwen has never been so frightened in her life . . .
Is someone else dead?
She wonders if soon there will be no one left at all.
She wants to live, but she hopes that if she has to die, she isn’t the last one.

Outside Mitchell Inn, high up a remote mountain road in the N.Y. Catskills, the blizzard is intensifying. Snow pelts the windows like bullets and the wind howls angrily. Inside, the fireplace crackles and snaps throwing welcoming heat around the lobby. The weekend is about to begin and the mystery awaits.

The family-owned upscale  hotel normally fills all twelves rooms on a winter weekend. This weekend, the forecast of a snowstorm brought cancellations. Just as well, as non-resident staff are unavailable. James, the owner and the house chef, and his son, Bradley are not worried. There are only six reservations and everything has been prepared in advance.

As the Friday afternoon light begins to fade, the sounds of tires crunching on fallen snow fills the parking lot. The guests are looking forward to a respite from their hectic lives totally disconnected from clamor of city life. Mitchell Inn advertises they are completely off grid. Other than electricity and a single landline, guests will find no internet or cell service.

Our cast of  quirky Agatha Christie-lite characters arrive, stomping off snow in the entrance way and shivering from the arctic cold. Ian and Lauren, a newly dating couple hope for privacy to deepen their relationship. They bring with them Gwen and Riley, old college friends, rescued from their disabled vehicle on the trip up the mountain. Gwen, living with the stain of a bad decision from long ago hopes to help Riley suffering from PTSD after years as a war correspondent in Afghanistan. David, a criminal defense attorney, needs the quiet solitude to recharge his mental batteries. Beverly, a middle-aged housewife, has booked a quiet get-away hoping to recharge her failing marriage. Her husband, Henry, reluctantly has agreed to come with her. Candice is looking for a quiet place to put the finishing touches on her debut fiction novel. The wealthy Matthew and his fiance Dana, take a needed break from planning their high society wedding.

The guests arrive for Friday’s evening meal, each surreptitiously scanning the room, checking each other out as they gathered. The stunningly beautiful Dana, now shed of her winter cloaks, strode elegantly into the room flashing the fist-sized diamond on her left hand. The men sat taller and the women groaned. After dinner and cocktails, everyone headed to their rooms feeling safe and comfortable as the raging storm outside screamed and threw its fists at the windows.

The peace and calm inside ended early Saturday morning with the sound of a hysterical scream.The beautiful Dana was discovered bloody and broken at the bottom of the first floor stairs. Was it a terrible accident or was she murdered? As the crowd gathered around her dead body, each reeling at the discovery, Mitchell Inn went dark from downed power and telephone lines.

With her death, the game is afoot. Upon closer examination it was determined she was murdered! The perfect weekend has ended as they stand in the dark, the temperature in the Inn falling rapidly without a functioning furnace. The atmosphere darkens hour by hour as they realize they have no way to notify the authorities. Some one is a murderer in their group! Accusations fly, more bodies are found, and each person reveals their true self under pressure.

What? Did you expect me to tell you what happens next? Nada gonna happen. This short novel is the perfect anecdote to stave off the anxiety of staying confined in your home during this nation wide crisis. Not exactly a cozy mystery offering on par with Ruth Rendell or Agatha Christie but none-the-less entertaining. Having been born and raised around winter blizzards, I can still hear the wind howling and the bite of snow on my face. Thought the setting heightened the stories tension well.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my review and opinion.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews

STILL LIFE: Chief Inspector Gamache series #1

THREE PINES, Quebec

Three Pines is a village that isn’t on any maps. There is a sense that it’s only ever found by people lost. No one goes there on purpose. They sort of bumble into it. But the people who do find it were meant to find it. -Louise Penny, Author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Penny began her career as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After years struggling with personal issues and with the support of her husband, she found her literary voice at age 46.  It was difficult at first. Her first cozy murder mystery, Still Life, was rejected or ignored 50 times before Minotaur Press opened the door to the enchanting world of Three Pines, Quebec.

Still Life, with its the eclectic cast of lovable characters and down-home setting, was inspired by Quebecois places and people. The book garnered immediate popularity and received numerous awards. With the success of her first book, Penny began writing a murder mystery a year for the past thirteen years. Each new book returns readers to Three Pines where we step back into the lives of the core characters much like returning home for an annual family reunion. The characters have become our neighbors and friends. The town has become real. So much so, that ardent fans travel to Quebec to visit the area just north of the Vermont border to capture the feel of the Eastern Townships for themselves.

Dunne/Minotour published her 15th novel in the Chief Inspector Gamache Series entitled,  The Better Man, on Aug 27, 2019. Like all of her previous books in the series, the newest book can be read and very much enjoyed as a stand-alone-mystery.

If you have not read any of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, I recommend  you begin at the beginning with Still Life.  Join the highly decorated Inspector Gamache as he investigates a death occurring in a middle-of-nowhere place called Three Pines; a cluster of homes and a few small businesses. A place known to only a few; stumbled upon rarely, but a place, once discovered is never forgotten.

The First Book – Still Life

Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning miss of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round… She’d fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright brittle leaves… Chief Inspector Armand Gamache… knelt down [near her body.] Jane’s gentle and kindly eyes stared as though surprised to see him… Shot through the heart by an arrow.

The Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force located in Montreal, taps the infamous Chief Inspector to investigate the death or identity the death as a hunting accident. He heads out of Montreal, crossing the Champlain Bridge, heading into the Eastern Townships.  The scenery changes from congested urban environment transitioning to pastoral greenery and suburban villages. Suddenly, off to the side, is a pockmarked metal sign pointing down a rough-and-tumble dirt road. The road dead ends revealing a charming magical scene – a “Thomas Kinkade” village that exudes peace and calm. A most unlikely setting for a violent murder. A place one resident told Gamache she doesn’t remember a crime of any kind during the twenty-five years she has lived there.

Gamache begins his trademark style of investigation – patient observation; patiently letting the story  begin to unfold itself. He parks himself on a bench in the town square and casually watches. We dine at the Bistro, brush off crumbs from croissants purchased at the boulangerie, browse the bookshelves of the retired psychologist turned bookstore owner, rein in the crusty feisty septuagenarian who happens to write popular poetry and discover the home-life secrets each resident disguises in public.

As the misdirection proceeds, Gamache must deal with an arrogant Agent trainee who repeatedly upends his investigation plans. He learns that the victim, a beloved retired schoolteacher and reclusive artist, has submitted her first publicly viewed art work at a local gallery just days before her death, and the murderer, once revealed stuns Three Pines.

The victim, Jane, was prescient, when she quoted the British poet W. A. Auden in a flashback moment,

Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.

Reflection

Be warned! Three Pines is addictive. Each succeeding book gets better and better. The central characters in Still Life  return in every future book, growing older, experiencing life as we all do with its up and downs. But always, Gamache and Three Pines meet to solve another sudden mystery and we drive down that dirt road to join old friends.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews