THE CRUELEST MONTH
Louise Penny

 


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Headline, 2007
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith

Easter, the time of rebirth, is being celebrated in the small Canadian village of Three Pines in ways that have become part of village tradition. There are dinner parties among friends, and the hiding of Easter eggs for the young to find.

On this Good Friday at the end of April Three Pines smells of fresh earth and the promise of spring. Clara Morrow is finishing an important painting and Hazel Smyth is getting ready for the weekend visit of her daughter Sophie. A witch has come to stay at the B&B and Gabri has invited everyone to a sťance. And overlooking the village the Hadley house broods.

When Friday night's sťance yields no satisfactory results the witch suggests a sťance in the Hadley house on Easter Sunday. As the participants sit in a sacred circle and the witch calls on the house to yield up its wickedness and hatred, death arrives with a scream.

THE CRUELEST MONTH is the third in Louise Penny's series featuring Chief Inspector Armande Gamache of the Quebec Surete. In his own words he is a prideful, stubborn and arrogant man, with enemies among the highest in the police service. He is known as a whistle blower in a matter that has not yet run its course, and even in his own team there are spies and traitors. Gamache's need to help people often borders on the self-destructive and his inability to abandon a soul in need carries the seeds of his own downfall.

When the death at the sťance turns out to be murder Gamache and his team descend once again on Three Pines, renewing acquaintance and friendship with the villagers. But even among friends motives for murder exist, and the investigation is played out against real threats to Gamache's own career, his family and his very existence.

For her first novel STILL LIFE Louise Penny was the recipient of the CWA New Blood Dagger, and the CWC Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her second novel was DEAD COLD aka A FATAL GRACE. Readers new to her novels would probably do best to read them in order, to allow the characters of Gamache and his team, and those of the residents in the village of Three Pines to develop.

THE CRUELEST MONTH has been sitting on my "to be read" pile for some time now and I regret not tackling it earlier. The Three Pines series are sometimes labelled cozies, but really there is little that is cozy about this village except perhaps its name, originally signifying safety to United Empire Loyalists over 200 years before. Under its calm exterior lie tensions between strong, even quirky, characters.

Feb 2009 review crossposted on Murder & Mayhem

 

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