The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny is fifth in the Inspector Gamache series, which I’ve been listening to in order, so, yes, it’s revisiting a town, Three Pines, that I’ve grown to love and catching up with the characters I feel like I know, but beyond that it’s about relationships and lies and greed and the power of words.

“Chaos is coming, old son.”

The peace of Three Pines has once again been shattered by murder. A stranger’s body is found in the bistro and Chief Inspector Gamache is called in, along with his team, to investigate. They soon discover that the man is a hermit who lives in the cabin in the woods surrounded by priceless antiques. There are several suspects, most new introductions to the series, but one, Olivier the bistro’s owner, has been a main character from the first book. All of them are hiding secrets and lies, but which of them is the killer?

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.

Haida Totems
Haida Totems by Emily Carr

I think this would work as a stand-alone, but I don’t think you can fully appreciate it without having read the previous ones in the series. First, Olivier is part of that inner circle and to have him be a suspect is potentially devastating to the community. And Ruth, the poet, would seem more than a bit crazy if you only knew her from this book, with her duck that wears clothes and the scraps of poems she keeps giving the Beauvoir, you wouldn’t appreciate her for the eccentric, blunt genius she is. And Clare and Peter, with their art and ambition, would seem like a pointless subplot, if you didn’t realize that it is a continuous thread through the books. I listened to this on audio read by Ralph Cosham, the same person who has narrated the others. As I’ve said before, I enjoy listening to these, hearing the French pronunciations, allowing myself to picture the scenes as they are being described. Also, listening to it rather than reading it forces a slower pace I think, allowing me to savor the details that I may have skimmed over in a paper copy.

I loved this book. I like how Penny makes me think beyond the clues, think about human nature and our fears and hopes. It’s richer than a lot of mysteries, especially cozies, that I’ve read. It’s not necessarily plot-driven; it’s slower and more introspective. The Brutal Telling, at least for me, has its funny moments and is also at times heart-breaking. Honestly, if I could only recommend one mystery series, I think this would be the one.

5 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery & Detective- Police procedural

Purchase: Amazon or IndieBound

Chief Inspector Gamache #5
First published Sept 22, 2009
2009 Agatha Award for Best Novel
2010 Anthony Award for Best Novel
13 hours, 13 minutes

Book source: Library

Chief Inspector Gamache Series

  1. Still Life
  2. A Fatal Grace
  3. The Cruelest Month
  4. A Rule Against Murder
  5. The Brutal Telling
  6. Bury Your Dead
  7. A Trick of the Light


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