In The Brutal Telling, Chief Inspector Armande Gamache is the largely silent, perceptive detective that heads a division of the famed homicide department of the Surete du Quebec. Like Adam Dalgliesh, who performs a similar function for P.D. James, Gamache turns up in this author’s mysteries like an old penny. And as in the previous Gamache books, the murder has occurred in the seemingly blissful village of Three Pines, near Montreal.
In this instance, an apparently unknown and quite dead hermit shows up on the floor of the bistro owned by two gay partners, Olivier and Gabri, who also run the B & B next door. Gamache and his colleagues Jean Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste return to Three Pines and the B & B to solve the crime. They also allow a local young man, Agent Paul Morin, to apprentice with them, learning the lessons they all now know so well:
“…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. Some event, perhaps long forgotten by everyone else, had lodged inside the murderer. And he’d begun to fester.
What kills can’t be seen, the Chief had warned Beauvoir. That’s what makes it so dangerous. It’s not a gun or a knife or a fist. It’s not anything you can see coming. It’s an emotion. Rancid, spoiled. And waiting for a chance to strike.”
And so, in the warm, comfortable, and caloric bosom of the bistro and the B & B, the inspectors begin their investigation. Gamache, with his kind, thoughtful and intelligent eyes, was the most feared by those with the most to fear; for they knew those eyes could see what most men could not.
Before long, the place the murder actually took place is discovered, a log hut deep in the woods full of priceless antiques. The weapon and motive eventually come out as well. But mysteries remain, and the detectives wonder if they are being purposefully led away from the murderer’s trail. This challenge, in fact, was the part of the investigation Gamache liked the most: “…the possibility of turning left when he should have gone right. Of dismissing a lead, of giving up on a promising trail. Or not seeing one in his rush to a conclusion.”
Finally, Gamache is able to discover the rest, including what caused the great fear that drove all the parties to the murder – something the murderer wanted more than anything else, and something denied to him as long as the victim was alive.
Evaluation: This book belongs to the “drawing room” or “cozy mystery” genre. Thus you are generally assured of a certain charm no matter how the mystery part comes out. I liked the characters, in spite of the fact that they seemed a bit inconsistent at times; at least they were on the complex side. The description of life in a small Canadian village is lovely, although some of the behavior of the locals strains credulity. I was not so impressed with the writing as far as the murder was concerned. I feel the author used the narrative equivalent of exclamation marks a little too often, making mountains out of a molehills. In the final analysis, I thought it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. It would definitely appeal to fans of the series, however.
Published by Minotaur Books, 2009