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Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel    by Louise Penny order for
Brutal Telling
by Louise Penny
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Brutal Telling, fifth in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series that began with Still Life, opens on Olivier's mysterious visit to the Hermit in the woods, who warns him 'Chaos is coming, old son.' Series fans will remember Olivier as an antique dealer who runs the Three Pines bed and breakfast with his gay partner Gabri. Other old series friends include painters Peter and Clara Morrow and eminent poet Ruth Zardo of the 'diabolical temperament'.

After the Hermit is found brutally murdered in Olivier's bistro the morning after their encounter (the weapon possibly a fireplace poker), Chief Inspector Gamache's Labour Day weekend is interrupted. He soon arrives in Three Pines, accompanied by his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, and by Isabelle Lacosts. They stay at Gabri and Olivier's B & B. Olivier claims not to know the dead man - readers wonder why? And why was the Hermit living in a wilderness cabin filled with priceless antiques?

Gamache is thoughtful, intelligent and kind. As his investigation proceeds at a slow and steady pace, the corpse is found to have been moved from the old Hadley house. It's being renovated by newcomers Marc and Dominique Gilbert, who plan to establish an inn/spa - they've had some conflict with Olivier who sees them as competition. There are also Czech escapees and extraordinary carvings with a dark history that prompts Gamache to travel to meet Haida elders in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

It's an intriguing mix of cozy and police procedural, enriched by artistic references and enlivened by quirky characters and the social interactions of Three Pines. I also enjoyed Gamache's musings on murder as when he taught a new officer, 'that to catch a killer they didn't move forward. They moved back. Into the past.' He does this successfully once again in Brutal Telling, a fine addition to a deservedly popular series.

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