(Image from Barnes & Noble)
(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Cruelest Month, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from previous Armand Gamache mysteries. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
As Spring brings the little village of Three Pines back to life, its residents are deciding how to celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday. When a psychic from Montreal shows up in town, a group of villagers hatch a brilliant idea—wouldn't it be amusing to hold a real, live séance in the creepy old Hadley house? Indeed, it turns out to be a deliciously unnerving event. Then, bright, spirited Madeleine Favreau drops dead. Presumably, the 44-year-old died of fright. The death of a woman as likable as Madeleine can only have been of natural causes, right?
The mysterious death lures Armand Gamache, the Sûcreté du Quebec's renowned chief inspector, back to Three Pines. Along with his team, the gentlemanly Gamache sets out to discover what really happened to Madeleine. His verdict? Murder. But how? And by whose hand?
In addition to solving the puzzling case, Gamache is dealing with internal strife from his mismatched team. Because of an accusation against his superior, the chief inspector believes he may have a mole among his crew. While trying to flush out the spy, Gamache must do his best to convince his team to work together. He needs all hands on deck to solve the murder at hand. Can he do it? Or will a traitor in his midst ruin everything?
Although The Cruelest Month—the third installment in Louise Penny's popular Armand Gamache series—isn't my favorite, it still kept me thoroughly entertained. I'm always drawn in by the author's signature warmth and humor, which brings her setting and characters to such vivid life. She also creates complex plots that keep me guessing. While the murderer in The Cruelest Month felt more obvious than usual, I still wasn't quite sure about the killer's identity until the very end of the book. Penny does give this installment more depth by using intertwining story lines to explore intriguing themes like jealousy, the inability to celebrate someone else's happiness, resentment, etc. Then, there's our indefatigable hero. No matter how unique or mundane the situation, I always love Armand Gamache. He's a complex, well-rounded character who never fails to entertain and intrigue me. So, while The Cruelest Month didn't dazzle me as much as its predecessors, I still adore this series. Something interesting is always happening in Three Pines and I, for one, don't want to miss a word of it!
(Readalikes: Other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; A Fatal Grace; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; The Hangman; A Trick of the Light; The Beautiful Mystery; How the Light Gets In; The Long Way Home; and The Nature of the Beast)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for strong language, violence, and sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: Another library