January 31, 2019

The Cruelest Month

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3
2007 St. Martin's Minotaur
Finished on January 28, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

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. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil---until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that 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.

Well done! I do believe I am finally hooked on this series. It's been over 12 years since I first read Still Life and looking back at my review, I'm a little surprised I gave it such a high rating. I wrote the following after reading the second book, A Fatal Grace:
I read the first in the series (Still Life), and later listened to that same story on audio to reacquaint myself with the cast of characters before moving forward and reading this book. I decided to continue with the series on audio rather than the print version and while I enjoyed the book, it took me almost three weeks to finish. Unlike the psychological thrillers I enjoy listening to, the books in this cozy series are more serene, and I found my mind wandering as I listened while I worked. At one point, I had to go back and listen to a chapter a second time to sort out some of the details, and I found that if I didn’t listen over the weekend, I had to backtrack once again to refresh my memory.
So that's the key. Print rather than audio. Some mysteries are wonderful on audio, but this series begs to be read and savored. I love the sprinkling of French phrases, most of which (surprisingly!) I can decipher thanks to two years of high school French. I am also up to speed on all the supporting characters, no longer relying on an index card (with names and relationships) I kept tucked inside the book. I can now readily picture each character and the details of the village of Three Pines. 

It took me a full week to read the book, but it never once felt sluggish and I was eager to get back to it at the end of each day, reading far too late in the night.  I was a bit confused by references to an earlier incident in the series, but Penny does a fine job teasing out the backstory without giving too much away. However, I'm tempted to go back and re-read A Fatal Grace, but since I have so many books in this series on which to catch up, I'll just move on to A Rule Against Murder, which is already on my nightstand. 


  1. Glad you liked it, Les! A RULE AGAINST MURDER is one of my favorites in the series. It is the first one that takes them outside of Three Pines for a bit and many people didn't like that. However, I've been pretty happy with all the forays into other locations. Penny has done her research in that regard. And as you go through these books, there is a big overarching story that plays out over a lot of books. I won't share anything else about that.

    1. I'm glad I liked this one too, Kay. And now that I'm well into A Rule Against Murder, I may just have to binge on this series. I"m really enjoying it!

  2. I'm at book 8 of this series and it still is such a good one. I was listening to the last book and was enjoying it but had to return it to the library because I didn't finish it in time. Will have to check it out again. So glad you are enjoying this series.

    1. I am so hooked on this series now, Iliana! I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. reading #4! I'm pretty sure I'll dive right into #5 once I finish my book club selection (Whiskey When We're Dry).


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