The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #3)

The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #3)

by Louise Penny

Paperback(First Edition)

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"Many mystery buffs have credited Louise Penny with the revival of the type of traditional murder mystery made famous by Agatha Christie. . . . The book's title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache's personal and professional challenges---making this the series standout so far."
--Sarah Weinman

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 séance 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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312573508
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/12/2011
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache Series , #3
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 12,968
Product dimensions: 5.32(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.86(d)

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 (six 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.

Read an Excerpt

The Cruelest Month

By Louise Penny

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2007 Louise Penny
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3981-2


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. Wiping a strand of hair from her face, she smeared bits of grass, mud and some other brown stuff that might not be mud into her tangled hair. All around, villagers wandered with their baskets of brightly colored eggs, looking for the perfect hiding places. Ruth Zardo sat on the bench in the middle of the green tossing the eggs at random, though occasionally she'd haul off and peg someone in the back of the head or on the bottom. She had disconcertingly good aim for someone so old and so nuts, thought Clara.

'You going tonight?' Clara asked, trying to distract the old poet from taking aim at Monsieur Béliveau.

'Are you kidding? Live people are bad enough; why would I want to bring one back from the dead?'

With that Ruth whacked Monsieur Béliveau in the back of his head. Fortunately the village grocer was wearing a cloth cap. It was also fortunate he had great affection for the white-haired ramrod on the bench. Ruth chose her victims well. They were almost always people who cared for her.

Normally being pelted by a chocolate Easter egg wouldn't be a big deal, but these weren't chocolate. They'd made that mistake only once.

A few years earlier, when the village of Three Pines first decided to have an egg hunt on Easter Sunday, there'd been great excitement. The villagers met at Olivier's Bistro and over drinks and Brie they divvied up bags of chocolate eggs to be hidden the next day. 'Ooohs' and 'Aaaaahs' tinged with envy filled the air. Would that they were children again. But their pleasure would surely come from seeing the faces of the village children. Besides, the kids might not find them all, especially those hidden behind Olivier's bar.

'They're gorgeous.' Gabri picked up a tiny marzipan goose, delicately sculpted, then bit its head off.

'Gabri.' His partner Olivier yanked what was left of the goose from Gabri's massive hand. 'They're for the kids.'

'You just want it for yourself.' Gabri turned to Myrna and muttered so that everyone could hear, 'Great idea. Gay men offering chocolates to children. Let's alert the Moral Majority.'

Blond and bashful, Olivier blushed furiously.

Myrna smiled. She looked like a massive Easter egg herself, black and oval and wrapped in a brilliant purple and red caftan.

Most of the tiny village was at the bistro, crowded around the long bar of polished wood, though some had flopped down in the comfortable old armchairs scattered about. All for sale. Olivier's was also an antique shop. Discreet tags dangled from everything, including Gabri when he felt under-appreciated and under-applauded.

It was early April and fires crackled cheerily in the open grates, throwing warm light on the wideplank pine floors, stained amber by time and sunlight. Waiters moved effortlessly through the beamed room, offering drinks and soft, runny Brie from Monsieur Pagé's farm. The bistro was at the heart of the old Quebec village, sitting as it did on the edge of the green. On either side of it and attached by connecting doors were the rest of the shops, hugging the village in an aged brick embrace. Monsieur Béliveau's general store, Sarah's Boulangerie, then the bistro and finally, just off that, Myrna's Livres, Neufs et Usagés. Three craggy pine trees had stood at the far end of the green for as long as anyone remembered, like wise men who'd found what they were looking for. Outward from the village, dirt roads radiated and meandered into the mountains and forests.

But Three Pines itself was a village forgotten. Time eddied and swirled and sometimes bumped into it, but never stayed long and never left much of an impression. For hundreds of years the village had nestled in the palm of the rugged Canadian mountains, protected and hidden and rarely found except by accident. Sometimes, a weary traveler crested the hill and looking down saw, like ShangriLa, the welcoming circle of old homes. Some were weathered fieldstone built by settlers clearing the land of deeply rooted trees and back-breaking stones. Others were red brick and built by United Empire Loyalists desperate for sanctuary. And some had the swooping metal roofs of the Québécois home with their intimate gables and broad verandas. And at the far end was Olivier's Bistro, offering café au lait and fresh-baked croissants, conversation and company and kindness. Once found, Three Pines was never forgotten. But it was only ever found by people lost.

Myrna looked over at her friend Clara Morrow, who was sticking out her tongue. Myrna stuck hers out too. Clara rolled her eyes. Myrna rolled hers, taking a seat beside Clara on the soft sofa facing the fireplace.

'You weren't smoking garden mulch again while I was in Montreal, were you?'

'Not this time,' Clara laughed. 'You have something on your nose.'

Myrna felt around, found something and examined it. 'Mmm, it's either chocolate, or skin. Only one way to find out.'

She popped it in her mouth.

'God.' Clara winced. 'And you wonder why you're single.'

'I don't wonder.' Myrna smiled. 'I don't need a man to complete me.'

'Oh really? What about Raoul?'

'Ah, Raoul,' said Myrna dreamily. 'He was a sweet.'

'He was a gummy bear,' agreed Clara.

'He completed me,' said Myrna. 'And then some.' She patted her middle, large and generous, like the woman herself.

'Look at this.' A razor voice cut through conversation.

Ruth Zardo stood in the center of the bistro holding aloft a chocolate rabbit as though it were a grenade. It was made of rich dark chocolate, its long ears perky and alert, its face so real Clara half expected it to twitch its delicate candy whiskers. In its paws it held a basket woven from white and milk chocolate, and in that basket sat a dozen candy eggs, beautifully decorated. It was lovely and Clara prayed Ruth wasn't about to toss it at someone.

'It's a bunny rabbit,' snarled the elderly poet.

'I eat them too,' said Gabri to Myrna. 'It's a habit. A rabbit habit.'

Myrna laughed and immediately wished she hadn't. Ruth turned her glare on her.

'Ruth.' Clara stood up and approached cautiously, holding her husband Peter's Scotch as enticement. 'Let the bunny go.'

It was a sentence she'd never said before.

'It's a rabbit,' Ruth repeated as though to slow children. 'So what's it doing with these?'

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.'

The funny thing was, as the old poet spoke Clara could actually imagine chocolate chickens running around desperate to find their eggs. Eggs stolen by the Easter bunny.

With that Ruth dropped the chocolate bunny to the floor, shattering it.

'Oh, God,' said Gabri, running to pick it up. 'That was for Olivier.'

'Really?' said Olivier, forgetting he himself had bought it.

'This is a strange holiday,' said Ruth ominously. 'I've never liked it.'

'And now it's mutual,' said Gabri, holding the fractured rabbit as though an adored and wounded child. He's so tender, thought Clara not for the first time. Gabri was so big, so overwhelming, it was easy to forget how sensitive he was. Until moments like these when he gently held a dying chocolate bunny.

'How do we celebrate Easter?' the old poet demanded, yanking Peter's Scotch from Clara and downing it. 'We hunt eggs and eat hot cross buns.'

'Mais, we go to St Thomas's too,' said Monsieur Béliveau.

'More people go to Sarah's Boulangerie than ever show up at church,' snapped Ruth. 'They buy pastry with an instrument of torture on it. I know you think I'm crazy, but maybe I'm the only sane one here.'

And on that disconcerting note she limped to the door, then turned back.

'Don't put those chocolate eggs out for the children. Something bad will happen.'

And like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, she was right. Something bad did happen.

Next morning the eggs had vanished. All that could be found were wrappers. At first the villagers suspected older children, or perhaps even Ruth, had sabotaged the event.

'Look at this,' said Peter, holding up the shredded remains of a chocolate bunny box. 'Teeth marks. And claws.'

'So it was Ruth,' said Gabri, taking the box and examining it.

'See here.' Clara raced after a candy wrapper blowing across the village green. 'Look, it's all ripped apart as well.'

After spending the morning hunting Easter egg wrappers and cleaning up the mess, most villagers trudged back to Olivier's to warm themselves by the fire.

'Now, really,' said Ruth to Clara and Peter over lunch at the bistro. 'Couldn't you see that coming?'

'I admit it seems obvious,' Peter laughed, cutting into his golden croque-monsieur, the melted Camembert barely holding the maple-smoked ham and flaky croissant together. Around him anxious parents buzzed, trying to bribe crying children.

'Every wild animal within miles must have been in the village last night,' said Ruth, slowly swirling the ice cubes in her Scotch. 'Eating Easter eggs. Foxes, raccoons, squirrels.'

'Bears,' said Myrna, joining their table. 'Jesus, that's pretty scary. All those starving bears, rising from their dens, ravenous after hibernating all winter.'

'Imagine their surprise to find chocolate eggs and bunnies,' said Clara, between mouthfuls of creamy seafood chowder with chunks of salmon and scallops and shrimp. She took a crusty baguette and twisted off a piece, spreading it with Olivier's special sweet butter. 'The bears must have wondered what miracle had happened while they slept.'

'Not everything that rises up is a miracle,' said Ruth, lifting her eyes from the amber liquid, her lunch, and looking out the mullioned windows. 'Not everything that comes back to life is meant to. This is a strange time of year. Rain one day, snow the next. Nothing's certain. It's unpredictable.'

'Every season's unpredictable,' said Peter. 'Hurricanes in fall, snowstorms in winter.'

'But you've just proved my point,' said Ruth. 'You can name the threat. We all know what to expect in other seasons. But not spring. The worst flooding happens in spring. Forest fires, killing frosts, snowstorms and mud slides. Nature's in turmoil. Anything can happen.'

'The most achingly beautiful days happen in spring too,' said Clara.

'True, the miracle of rebirth. I hear whole religions are based on the concept. But some things are better off buried.' The old poet got up and downed her Scotch. 'It's not over yet. The bears will be back.'

'I would be too,' said Myrna, 'if I'd suddenly found a village made of chocolate.'

Clara smiled, but her eyes were on Ruth, who for once didn't radiate anger or annoyance. Instead Clara caught something far more disconcerting.



Ruth had been right. The bears did come back each Easter in search of chocolate eggs. Of course, they found none and after a couple of years gave up and instead stayed in the woods surrounding Three Pines. Villagers quickly learned not to go for long walks in the woods at Easter, and to never, ever get between a newborn bear cub and its mother.

It's all part of nature, Clara told herself. But a niggling worry remained. Somehow they'd brought this on themselves.

Once again Clara found herself on her hands and knees, this time with the beautiful wooden eggs they'd substituted for the real thing. That had been Hanna and Roar Parra's idea. Coming from the Czech Republic they had no mean knack with painted eggs.

Over the winter Roar whittled the wooden eggs and Hanna handed them out to anyone interested in painting them. Soon people from all over the Cantons de l'Est were taking eggs. School kids did them as art projects, parents rediscovered latent talents, grandparents painted scenes from their youth. Over the long Quebec winter they painted and on Good Friday they started hiding them. Once found the children exchanged the wooden bounty for the real thing. Or at least, the chocolate thing.

'Hey, look at this,' Clara called from beside the pond on the green. Monsieur Béliveau and Madeleine Favreau went over. Monsieur Béliveau stooped down, his long slender body almost bending double. There in the long grass was a nest of eggs.

'They're real,' he laughed, spreading the grass to show Madeleine.

'How beautiful,' said Mad, reaching out.

'Mais, non,' he said. 'Their mother will reject them if you touch.'

Mad quickly brought back her hand and looked at Clara with a wide open smile. Clara had always liked Madeleine, though they didn't know each other well. Mad had lived in the area for only a few years. She was some years younger than Clara and full of life. She was also a natural beauty, with short dark hair and intelligent brown eyes. She always seemed to be enjoying herself. And why not, thought Clara. After what she'd been through.

'What sort of eggs are they?' Clara asked.

Madeleine made a face and put up her hands. Not a clue.

Monsieur Béliveau again folded himself in a graceful movement. 'Not chicken. Trop grand. Maybe duck, or goose.'

'That would be fun,' said Madeleine. 'A little family on the green.' She turned to Clara. 'What time's the séance?'

'You're coming?' Clara was surprised though delighted. 'Hazel too?'

'No, Hazel's refused. Sophie gets home tomorrow morning and Hazel says she has to cook and clean, mais, franchement?' Madeleine leaned in conspiratorially, 'I think she's afraid of ghosts. Monsieur Béliveau has agreed to come.'

'We must be grateful Hazel has decided to cook instead,' said Monsieur Béliveau. 'She's made us a wonderful casserole.'

It was very like Hazel, Clara thought. Always caring for others. Clara was slightly afraid people took advantage of Hazel's generosity, especially that daughter of hers, but she also realized it was none of her business.

'But we have a great deal of work to do before dinner, mon ami.' Madeleine smiled radiantly at Monsieur Béliveau and touched him lightly on the shoulder. The older man smiled. He hadn't smiled a lot since his wife died, but now he did, and Clara had another reason to like Madeleine. She watched them now holding their baskets of Easter eggs and walking through the late April sunshine, the youngest and tenderest of lights falling on a young and tender relationship. Monsieur Béliveau, tall and slim and slightly stooped, seemed to have a spring in his step.

Clara stood up and stretched her forty-eight-year-old body, then glanced around. It looked like a field of derrières. Every villager was bending over, placing eggs. Clara wished she had her sketch pad.

There was certainly nothing cool about Three Pines, nothing funky or edgy or any of the other things that had mattered to Clara when she'd graduated from art college twenty-five years ago. Nothing here was designed. Instead, the village seemed to follow the lead of the three pines on the green and simply to have grown from the earth over time.

Clara took a deep breath of the fragrant spring air and looked over at the home she shared with Peter. It was brick with a wooden porch and a fieldstone wall fronting the Commons. A path wound from their gate through some apple trees about to bloom to their front door. From there Clara's eyes wandered around the houses surrounding the Commons. Like their inhabitants, the homes of Three Pines were sturdy and shaped by their environment. They'd withstood storms and wars, loss and sorrow. And emerging from that was a community of great kindness and compassion.

Clara loved it. The houses, the shops, the village green, the perennial gardens and even the washboard roads. She loved the fact that Montreal was less than a two-hour drive away, and the American border was just down the road. But more than all of that, she loved the people who now spent this and every Good Friday hiding wooden eggs for children.

It was a late Easter, near the end of April. They weren't always so lucky with the elements. At least once the village had awoken on Easter Sunday to find a fresh dumping of heavy spring snow, burying the tender buds and painted eggs. It had often been bitterly cold and the villagers had had to duck into Olivier's Bistro every now and then for a hot cider or hot chocolate, wrapping trembling and frozen fingers around the warm and welcoming mugs.


Excerpted from The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny. Copyright © 2007 Louise Penny. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

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 séance 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 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.

Discussion questions for The Three Pines Mysteries, by Louise Penny
1. How important is the use of humor in this book?

2. Which Three Pines villager would you most like to have cafe au lait with at the bistro?

3. Why is Ruth a villager?

4 Louise Penny says her books are about murder, but at their heart they're about other things. What else is this book about? What are some other themes?

5. Agent Nichol is an extremely controversial character in the books. What do you think of her? What purpose does she serve?

Discussion questions for The Cruelest Month
1. We're told that Three Pines is "only ever found by people lost." In what way are Peter and Clara, Ruth, Myrna, Gabri and Olivier, and even Gamache and his team of investigators, lost people?
2. Early in the story, when Peter is looking at Clara's unfinished painting: "He suddenly felt something grab him. From behind. It reached forward and right into him….Tears came to his eyes as he was overcome by this wraith that had threatened all his life. That he'd hidden from as a child, that he'd run from and buried and denied. It had stalked him and finally found him. Here, in his beloved wife's studio. Standing in front of this creation of hers the terrible monster had found him. And devoured him." What do you think Peter's "monster" is? How does it manifest itself throughout the story? What becomes of the monster in the end?

3. Peter, Ruth and Olivier stay behind when the group heads to the Hadley house for the séance. Discuss these characters and their various reasons for avoiding the house and/or the ritual.

4. What do you think is the difference between magic and miracles?

5. How does the novel's epigraph, from T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land," resonate with the story? What do you think of Peter's interpretation of April's cruelty: "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 bulbs on the trees….All out and happy. And then boom, a freak snowstorm kills them all."

6. As the plot proceeds, is it possible to guess or deduce the killer? If so, at what point, and on what grounds?

7. Louise Penny is unusually sensitive to the difficulties of finding love and the struggle to champion it in a harsh world. In The Cruelest Month, the relationships between Odile and Gilles, Hazel and Madeleine, and Clara and Peter, are very different. What does each relationship say about love? Are there any common elements shared by all?

8. How does Gamache's trusting nature, seen by many as his greatest failing, ultimately serve him?

9. "How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes," wrote Shakespeare in As You Like It. Discuss the various manifestations of jealousy in The Cruelest Month. What makes Gamache so much happier than his seemingly more fortunate best friend, Brébeuf?

Customer Reviews

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Cruelest Month (Armand Gamache Series #3) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 163 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read every Louise Penny novel in this series, and I'm delighted to have found a grand story teller and good writer in this new mystery novelist. I think Ms. Penny is excellent at both character development as well as the intricate weaving of plot strands that develop within the book and from book to book. I found The Cruelest Month to be the most engaging in the series to date. I realized that near the book's end, I was slowing down in my reading to extend the time I had with the characters I now know and love. I hope another story about Inspector Gamache and the folk of Three Pines will come our way before long.
edofarrell More than 1 year ago
This series could be described as 'Lake Woebegon' with murders. The writing is sharp with effective dialog. The reader is transported to Three Pines and becomes immersed in the idylic life of the village. The mysteries are believable, the tension builds nicely and the endings are realistic and satisfying. If you're looking for several hours of enjoyment, these books are well worth the investment.
SJN1950 More than 1 year ago
It's all about father-son relationships and the hidden side of our character--and how we are shaped by these relationships. This book features Peter's family, but also Armand's history and his relationship to Daniel. And even a father-son type relationship between a senior employer and a wait staff is included. The contrast in the Morrow and Gamache family is striking and as interesting as the murder mystery-how and who dunnit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the characters, the plot and the writing. I find myself using Penny's quotes and poetry and I am always sorry when her books are finished. I hate to say goodbye until the next book.
StonehamMary More than 1 year ago
While I enjoy this series I find it hard to believe that so many diverse characters live in this town with such evil thoughts. As the reader, we can hear the jealousies which makes you suspect the motives of everyone. My favorite character, Ruth is not likeable in the least but I find her loveable in a prickly way. Her scenes with the goslings in this story are unforgetable. My least favorite characters are Beauvoir and Peter, who I think must do something really devastating in later books. The author does a good job taking the reader from the small town atmosphere of Three Pines to the Judiciary in Montreal. Having driven in the northern areas of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine I found that the description of the potholes actually made my kidneys hurt. I recommend this one for a day when you have several hours to read. It easily will fill your afternoon.
carol68 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book
lb7 More than 1 year ago
I began reading Louise Penny's Gamache series with the 1st book and have read and enjoyed every one. Her writing is more akin to english writers with attention to details and the 'every day' in people's lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"...a walk solves everything." This and many other gems are waiting to be found in this surprising novel about so much more than crime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been reading the series, and am hooked! This is the best, and they keep getting better! I love THREE PINES and ARMAND GAMACHE. They are lovely read. penrob
Loyzee More than 1 year ago
I have read all ot the Armand Gamache series and hope Louise Penny writes many more like these.
Anonymous 12 days ago
I am in Love with this series!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Again, the characters come to life. What a gift Louise has. I'm so glad she shares it with us.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Again Excellent
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a series that both Jim and I enjoy so we use them as car books when we drive north and then finish them in the evenings since we have no TV up there (hallelujah!).We enjoyed visiting 3 Pines once again and found the mystery compelling, with an unusual motive for murder. We have the next book ready for when we go up again in May. The suspense of what will happen with Gamache as pressure increases on his career prospects tend to make these mysteries ones that you don't want to wait long between books. It's nice that we waited to start them after there were several already published.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I adore this series on audio. The 3rd book does tie up loose ends but there is another book coming out in January 2009 and I'm happy to see that Armand Gamache continues on, though not in charming Three Pines. I will miss Ruth and the B&B boys. Penny's writing is beautifully descriptive and sets a wonderful atmosphere without interfering with the story. The Chief Inspector is a quiet and insightful man but his bold streak and personal strength emerge at just the right time in this story.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars-- best book in the series so far!
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to the village of Three Pines when Madeleine Favreau apparently dies of fright during a séance at the old Hadley house. The psychic holding the séance was on vacation in the small village but was that a coincidence or planned?As Gamache gets deeper into the search for Madeleine's killer (she had been given poison) he must also face the consequences of his actions in his previous case against the popular head of the Sûreté du Québec for heinous crimes. His family is attacked in the newspapers and his son arrested in Paris as he works to clear not only his name but also solve the murder.The book is filled with descriptions that draw you in and characters that make you want to meet them in reality with deeper and deeper characterizations. Subtly Penny weaves the details and grabs you by the throat until you can't put down the book until you know the answers to the questions that have you on the edge of your seat.
lit_chick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿¿ the answers lay in flesh and blood, not in a book and not in a report. And so often not even in things corporeal, but in something that couldn¿t be held and contained and touched. The answers to his questions lay in the murky past and in the emotions hidden there.¿ (Ch 10)It¿s Easter in Three Pines and Gabri, effervescent bistro owner, has invited a host of friends to attend a séance with flamboyant Hungarian psychic, Madame Blavatsky. When Madame does not show, Gabri, loathe to have the evening¿s entertainment thwarted, cajoles mousy guest Jeanne Chauvet, tarot card reader, into taking her place. The séance stirs just enough curiosity with locals that a second one is planned for the following night, this time to be held at the foreboding Hadley place. Only what the second séance stirs is not curiosity ¿ but terror. Madeline Favreau, well-loved resident of Three Pines, is dead, literally frightened to death. Gamache and his team are on the job. The dread and superstition generated by the Hadley place and the practices of séance and witchery are intensified when the coroner¿s report reveals it likely that Madeline was murdered. That is to say, she had help with being frightened to death. As Gamache works to keep the investigation on track, he is betrayed by one of his own. Penny continues to entertain with her Three Pines series. Others have said that the series gets better with each book, and it does! Highly recommended!
allthesedarnbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the third book in the Inspecteur Gamache/Three Pines mystery series, and my favorite yet. I loved the occult angle (there are seances and the evil Hadley house explored). I also loved the (partial) resolution of the plotting against Gamache within the Sûreté du Québec. The characters and the setting almost overwhelm the mystery and the intrigue, but in the end Penny finds a perfect balance. Highly recommended, as is the whole series, which should be read from the beginning and in order, IMO. Four and a half stars.
whimsicalkitten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Cruelest Month is the 3rd in Louise Penny's delightful Three Pines Mysteries series, featuring Quebecois detective Armand Gamache. Gamache and his team are called to investigate a murder at the much feared Hadley House, which played a role in the 1st book in the series (reading the books in this series in order most definitely increases one's appreciation of them). A secondary theme running through each of the books in the series is delved into much more deeply in this book. Gamache has been an outcast among higher ups at the Surete because of his outing of a very corrupt superior several years earlier. This conflict gives Penny an opportunity to develop the characters of Gamache and his colleagues and members of his team more deeply, and there are some surprises. While the resolution of this conflict stretches believabilty a little bit, the back story does add another level of interest to the book. I highly recommend this series to anyone who appreciates police procedurals set in lovely villages, whose inhabitants revel in their eccentricity.
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a difficult book for me to review. I almost quit reading it when I saw that the main theme of the book was the occult -- seances, witches, etc. I kept reading it only because the subplot that was developing made me realize that if I did not finish the book that I would probably not be able to follow book four in the series which a friend who has already read it assured me has a more acceptable plot. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is once again called back to the village of Three Pines for yet another murder at the Hadley Mansion. The death occurred during a seance being held at that dark house. At the same time, forces in the surete are trying to bring down Gamache for his role in bringing down Arnot. Louise Penny knows how to craft a mystery. Once I got further into the book where the focus was less on the event that precipitated the death and more into the investigation of the murder, I began to enjoy it more. I just wished that she had chosen a different theme and left the Occult out of her book.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Murder visits the idyllic Quebec village of Three Pines yet again in this third book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. Several of the village residents gather for a séance in the Hadley house, believed by many to be a place of evil because of the tragedies that have occurred there. One of their number doesn't survive the séance, and Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are once again called upon to investigate the suspcious death. Concurrently, intrigue at the highest levels of the Sûreté intensifies and threatens Gamache's position in the organization as well as his public reputation.Louise Penny's work is usually classified with the cozy genre, but I think it would be better classified as either a police procedural or literary mystery. Penny's text is full of subtelties, and it requires more focused reading and provokes deeper reflection than does the typical cozy mystery. Inspector Gamache and many of the Three Pines residents are well read, and literary allusions are scattered throughout the novels. Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache can stand alongside P. D. James's Adam Dalgliesh, Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn, and Christie's Hercule Poirot.This series should be read in order since it has a plot thread that develops across the books in the series.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this to be the most thrilling of the Three Pines series thus far. Can someone actually die of fright during a seance held at the old Hadley house? Were ghosts in the bleak house responsible? If not, who had it in for Madeline to want her dead? Everyone Chief Inspector Gamache and his team spoke with had nothing but good to say about her.There's also tension in the homicide team, brought on by the divisive Agent Nicole, who is back on the team again, who seems to relish particularly annoying the new agent Robert Lemieux. And who has it in for Gamache at the Surete? Scandalous articles start appearing in the newspapers about him and his family. Everything comes to a screeching climax in the last few pages of the book.