The Cruelest Month: A Chief Inspector Gamache #3 by Louise Penny

Summary: When a group from Three Pines decides to have a séance to purge the evil spirits of the Hadley house, one of the participants appears to die of fright.

I know some people like to be scared by books or movies or TV shows, I am not one of those people. I have never read a Stephen King novel, I don’t watch horror movies, I won’t watch Walking Dead no matter how many people tell me that I will like it.

So I was put off by the early part of the book. The characters in Three Pines first have a séance for fun, then a semi-serious one to try and rid evil spirits from the Hadley House (which was connected to deaths in the previous two books.) In the end, the murder at the center of the book occurs at the second séance, where a woman appears to have died of fright.

The first two books I enjoyed, but I thought were missing the final piece that makes me want to recommend them. This third book I loved (and the fourth that I am half way through now I love even more.)

The series is set in a small rural village filled with extraordinary people that have escaped the outside world to settle in Three Pines. There is a back story to everyone, and with the first two books it felt like that back story was sitting there and unused. It was hinted at, but without the actual story, the bruised and battered people of Three Pines (as well as the few that have found healing) were just cardboard without the additional background.

This story, about half way through, really started working on giving back story to Inspector Gamache. The case that has hung over the previous two books came to the fore. The conclusion of the book almost minimized the resolution of this murder too much to deal with the problem Gamache’s historical problem. But there was a resolution to it all, or at least enough to keep you reading the series.

One of my other complaints about the first two books was that other than Gamache, I didn’t really like most of the characters in Three Pines. That too is changing as we understand the characters more. Sheila Brennan, who originally recommended the books to me, commented that once Ruth gets her geese the series really starts to shine. And this is the book where Ruth gets her geese.

Ruth is an elderly famous poet that happens to live in Three Pines. She is also mean, and cruel, self-centered and a drunk. But she is tolerated by the community. Early in the book, Ruth adopts two goose eggs and cares for them until they hatch and then cares for the goslings, much to the amazement of everyone in the village. Ruth’s love and care for the goslings helps her to love and care for those around her as well (or at least get started). And she transforms, not into a perfect saint, but into a tarnished figure that we can at least see the beautiful underneath.

I continue to wonder if those that like to figure everything out in advance will like the series, because the reader usually cannot figure out what is not revealed. But that part does not at all bother me. This is a mystery series that is about understanding people and character and motivation and history, more than figuring out a particular crime. It is my kind of mystery series.

The Cruelest Month: A Chief Inspector Gamache #4 by Louise Penny Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook, Scribd Audiobook

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