Mar 24, 2014

Audio Review: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache #3)

As this series continues, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete is once again called to Three Pines to investigate another death. Gamache has become very fond of this quaint little village that lies south of Montreal, and many of its inhabitants, so its a double-edged sword to return there for this purpose.

It is now Spring and with the arrival of a visiting phychic to their community, the villagers plan a seance, though not everyone thinks its a good idea to do this at Easter time. Nonetheless, they hold a first seance in Olivier's Bistro with lackluster results, so they hold second seance at The Old Hadley House, well known to everyone for having evil spirits. It is during that second gathering that the unthinkable happens and one of their own dies in the process. Gamache arrives and confirms that the death was a murder and sets out to find the killer. Again, he relies on the residents of Three Pines to help put the pieces together and find out who had the means and the motive to commit murder right under their noses.

While Gamache is busy with his list of suspects, someone within the Surete is stepping up their plot to bring down Gamache and ultimately humiliate him into resigning. But this time, they are also going after his family, whom Gamache will do anything to protect.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Louise Penny is one of those mystery writers who does not rush anything in her stories. As with her previous installments of this series, this is a slow-paced thought-provoking journey into the minds of both the killer and the Chief Inspector. If you're looking for edge-of-your-seat thrills, you won't necessarily find them here, but you will find smart, provocative characters, with interesting backgrounds and insights weaved together with believable murder plots. Penny's who-dun-its unfold methodically, slowly showing that anyone could be the murderer. That's what I love about her books.

In this third book, I had a real feel for the Surete officers on Gamache's investigative team and I knew for the most part who to trust and who not to trust, but that is not to say there weren't some surprises in that regard.

I love the character of Gamache and I instantly dislike anyone who goes against him. His second in command, Jean Guy, is also a favorite, though he can be brash, but his loyalty to Armand Gamache is unshakable. I also enjoy the familiarity of the core group of villagers of Three Pines. They can be strange, loving, funny and even down-right odd but they are good people. They each have their own quirks about them but that is what makes them interesting. Now that I am well into the series, I get the little inside jokes and jabs the villagers have with each other, not to mention the name-calling that would seem mean or harsh to an outsider but comes across lovingly if you know the source. One of my favorite things about this installment is the lovely, metaphorical way in which Penny allowed us to learn more about Ruth Zardo, one of the core group who always has come across as the mean and nasty poet who doesn't think twice about telling you exactly what she thinks of you. The realization of who Ruth really is underneath all that gruff was beautifully done using two baby ducklings to do it. It was fantastic and makes me appreciate Penny's writing even more.

In these last three books, along with the main plot of the murder, there has been an underlying ongoing plot of who is trying to bring down Gamache. I'm anxious to see where that story leads us in the fourth book, as much of that story has now been brought to light. In my opinion, this series is more for the mature reader who enjoys uncovering and learning the physic of its characters. Not to stereotype, but some younger readers may find it a bit slow and lack the excitement they are looking for, though, if given a fair chance, I believe they would appreciate the provocative storytelling these books offer.      

Audio Review:

This is the first time I've chosen the audio version for this series and though at first, I didn't feel like I was going to enjoy the narration by Ralph Cosham, I did end up changing my opinion. At first I thought he was a bit drab, but soon I realized his voice was very suitable, especially for the voice of Chief Inspector Gamache. I'm relieved that I ended up favoring his performance because I very well may choose to listen to more based on that decision.

THE CRUELEST MONTH (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Louise Penny
Narrated by: Ralph Cosham
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Published: March 2008
Length:  11 hrs 46 mins


  1. Terrific review, Lisa. Louise Penny's books are so good. I need to add this one to my list. Love the cover!

  2. I need to start this series. I have the first on my Kindle. My friends who've read the series recommend the audios over reading the book - so that's what I intend to do. Glad you ended up liking this on audio!

  3. I've only read the first of the series, but hope to get to the second soon.


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