Title: The Cruelest Month
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
How I Read It: Paperback purchased by me.
Synopsis: 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. However, not everything is meant to return to life…
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the old Hadley house, one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was it murder? Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to investigate, and the case 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.
*Synopsis taken from the back of the book
My Review: Any time I read one of Louise Penny’s novels set in Three Pines, I fall in love with the village all over again. And then I feel terrible that all of these awful things keep happening there! Despite these murders, it’s the kind of village I’d like to spend some time in, although I’m not quite sure I’d fit in.
This time around, a woman called Madeline, who is adored by pretty much everyone, dies of fright at a séance. Initially, everyone believes it was just a tragic accident, but the arrival of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache gets the villagers to realize that maybe her death was more of an intentional thing after all.
Gamache himself is dealing with some personal/professional drama because of a case from a few years back, which is starting to resurface. Those things were particularly heartbreaking for me because I absolutely adore Gamache and I really hate seeing anyone deliberately hurt him.
For me, reading these novels is all about the characters and their interpersonal relationships with each other. Sure, there’s a mystery afoot that needs to be solved, but I’m equally interested in the interactions between Gamache and his number two man, Jean Guy; the way the relationship between Peter and Clara changes as she becomes more successful; and pretty much any time anyone interacts with Ruth, it’s a hoot. These characters are all like living, breathing people, and Louise Penny really makes it seem like if you’re lucky enough to find Three Pines, these people are waiting for you. I would love to stay at Gabri’s B&B!
The scene of the murder is the scary old Hadley House, which is a pretty terrifying place for several of the characters because of their history in the house. Readers who have been following the series from book one will probably also have some lingering feelings about it – it’s a little like reading about the Amityville house, or some other famous scary place like that. It made for a really good murder setting, and the creep factor is increased as the mystery becomes more intricate.
I always feel like the plot is really believable in these novels too, it’s never that something incredibly outrageous happens that requires suspending a lot of disbelief. The beauty is that the story itself is just so lovely that I don’t think I’d care even if they did all get to that level. In my mind, that makes for almost a perfect mystery! Plus this was a great time of year to read it, because it’s spring, and April isn’t far off, so it was very seasonally appropriate during my reading.
Read this book if: I will never hesitate to recommend Louise Penny to someone, so definitely pick it up if you like a nice murder mystery. The character background from the other novels is helpful, but not necessary, and I also like that.
My Rating: 4/5 – Borderline amazing!