Saturday, July 24, 2010
THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny
This book blew me away. It was so much better than I expected it to be.
Myrna Landers finds the body of an unknown old man in the bistro of Quebec's Three Pines. It takes most of the book to identify the man, find where he had been living, and ferret out his story. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team from the Surete due Quebec investigate the crime.
But that description makes the book seem so ordinary. At one point, Gamache's assistant Beauvoir says the inspector had taught them that "to catch a killer they didn't move forward. They moved back. Into the past. That was where the crime began, where the killer began."
And so that's what they do. They learn about the victim's past. They learn about the depth of evil (and good) in the people of Three Pines. And they learn that even people you like can be murderers. This book is itself a brutal telling.
This is a complex story, not fully worked out until near the end. It deals with art and with the power of story. But most of all, it deals with people, their character, their flaws, and all those things that make them interesting.
Some might say this book is too complex or that it goes in too many directions. That didn't bother me at all. I was so taken by the people and by the role of art in the whole story, that I was willing to go along for the ride.
This is the first Louise Penny book I've read. She does such a beautiful job of writing about small towns. (See my post above on writing about small towns). She understands the nature of small towns in a way that few mystery writers do.
So, as you can guess, I've put more Louise Penny on my "To Be Read" list . . . a lot more.