Monday, August 29, 2011

THE CRUELEST MONTH by Louise Penny


Louise Penny’s The Cruelest Month is Gamache’s story. 

Attacked by friends, his family facing smears and troubles, Gamache responds in the same deeply thoughtful way he responds to murder.  He remembers those whom he serves.  He stands up for the victims, not protecting brutal cops, and he is willing to suffer to be ethical, to do things in the right way.

If Gamache sounds like Superman, he’s not.  He struggles and has pain. He refuses to see the truth because he is too trusting.  He almost resigns his position.  And he faces one of the most terrible things he has ever had to face, a breach in a long-term friendship.

The story begins with the death of a popular Three Pines resident during a Séance. 

To solve the crime, which turns out to be a murder, Gamache and his team have to dig into the history of the people of Three Pines.  They visit the schools the people attended, look at old yearbooks, and talk about what happened in the past.

Everyone could have committed the crime.  In the Poirot-like denouncement held in the same seemingly-haunted house in which the murder occurred, Gamache enumerates the suspects, basically almost everybody involved.

Meanwhile, “friends” in Sûreté du Québec attack Gamache, trying, not just to get him to resign, but to destroy him.

The murder story itself seems too fantastical.  I found myself struggling to believe the murder could have been committed in the way it was.  I also struggled with other plot elements.  But that didn’t matter.  Louise Penny deals in character.

It was clear early on who was on Gamache’s side though I could never tell whether Gamache knew that.

I read this book to get ready for Penny’s new book.  Her writing is not separate stories.  It is more one story told in episodes, the books themselves.  This book has foreshadowing of what will happen with characters in later books.  It portrays people as they are, not as we might want them. 

Again, Ruth the poet, though she was a minor character in this book, still fascinates.  I see her as one of the most striking characters in all of mystery literature.  For me, Gamache grew into a full-blooded person in this story.

I have one more Louise Penny to read to have read the whole series so far and to be ready for the upcoming book.  I’ve put off a book or two because I enjoy them.  I didn’t want to use them up. 

This series of semi-cozy mystery novels is among the best on-going series I have ever read.

3 comments:

Naomi Johnson said...

I keep promising myself I'm going to catch up on this excellent series. When that will happen, who knows?

Joe Barone said...

Naomi,
So many books, so little time! My wife just finished the newest book in this series, and she was in tears. I was jealous. I'm still catching up and won't read that one for a week or two.

My wife's comment might be helpful to you. She said the thing that made the book powerful is that she had read the others. You come to know the people.

If you do choose to read these books sometime, you might want to start with the first one and read them through.

Naomi Johnson said...

I have read the first three, so I know the quality of these books. But that leaves me, what? Three or four behind now. Argh!