The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

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8123447Kindle Edition, 311 pages

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3

Kindle Edition, 311 pages

Published: by Minotaur Books, March 1, 2008 (1st published 2007)

Setting: Québec

Awards: Barry Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009), Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2009), Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009), Arthur Ellis Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008), Agatha Award for Best Novel (2008)

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It is Easter in Three Pines, and villagers come together for an unconventional celebration. The old Hadley house is full of dark memories. During a gathering there, a member of the group is mysteriously killed, apparently having died of fright.

Once again, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate. He must unravel the complex tangle of relationships and unrequited passions in the village.

This complex, enjoyable novel introduces new characters, revisits old characters, and continues to unfold the tragic Arnot case which nearly derailed Gamache’s career. It has a feel of a comfortable old Gothic novel, complete with a “haunted” house and seances. It also has the vibe of a classic cozy mystery, with a nod to Agatha Christie. It even includes a scene where Inspector Gamache gathers the suspects “in the parlor” to address his suspicions about each one and reveal the identity of the killer.

The Cruelest Month is made more complex by the emotional nuances of the plot, revealing struggles with love, loneliness, jealousy, and the aching craving for a sense of belonging. The author is sensitively attuned to human longing and how difficult it is to find mutual love. This novel also offers a tender story about Ruth, the acerbic local poet, and a frail duckling. It serves as a metaphor for a mother’s lovingly well-intentioned but cripplingly codependent relationship with her adolescent daughter.

Louise Penny is beginning to feel like an warm, intelligent old friend, and I will definitely finish reading this series and continue to recommend it to mystery aficionados.

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