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Publisher's Summary

As autumn descends upon Three Pines, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store at the center of town. No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. What past did he leave behind, and why has he buried himself in this tiny village?

A trail of astounding clues and treasures - from first editions of Charlotte's Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word "WOE" woven in it - lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, then back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the final, brutal telling.

Listen to another Three Pines mystery.
©2009 Louise Penny (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Excellent....Readers keen for another glimpse into the life of Three Pines will be well rewarded." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Marie
  • Tallahassee, FL, United States
  • 04-03-10

Satisfying but sad

I've listened to all of the Three Pines novels now, having started with Still Life and fallen in love with the seemingly idyllic town and truly eccentric but delightful characters. Penny does a very fine job of drawing out the souls who people her novels as well as the settings, so much so that I wish I could find a Three Pines and move there.
As another reviewer had done, once I listened to Still Life, I downloaded and essentially devoured the remaining novels. I do hope Penny has another novel planned; this last one--The Brutal Telling--shook my gestalt as much as it did the citizens of Three Pines and the police. Although Penny is consistent in her story-telling, it wasn't until this last novel that I realized what it is that I like so much about her work: while her mysteries are traditional police procedurals, there's also an strong undercurrent of philosophy and psychology. The Chief Inspector's ruminations on human nature are what saved this particular novel from devastating me, leaving me with a tinge of hope, but also with an heightened understanding of how none of us is saved from those things that are "supposed" to happen to other people.
Like the Chief Inspector, I find myself ruminating about Three Pines and its inhabitants long after the "case is closed." And I hope I don't have to wait too long before there's another installment in this series.

43 of 45 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nicolle
  • Portland, OR, USA
  • 01-15-10


I simply adore her books and her writing. I find her use of theme to tie all of her subplots together just wonderful...not since reading my first Sayers novel, The Nine Tailors, have I found a mystery writer more inspiring.

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Escape to Three Pines

If you're ever depressed there are few novels or series I strongly recommend. Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia top the list of children's fantasy with more than enough adult wit, wisdom and hope to pull you through the dark times. (By no means wait till you are depressed to read these!). But I'll add two modern, purely adult efforts, Big Little Lies and the Three Pines/ Inspector Gamache series. Like the two classic examples, these modern gems take you away to a wonderful place with unforgettable characters, life to the fullest and in the end, hope.

The Brutal Telling takes us back to the lost village of Three Pines to yet another murder. We are treated to a few more interesting characters, including an abused horse named Mark and a duck wearing pearls. However, there is another murder that sadly exposes the darker side of some of Three Pines more colorful residents.

Gamache and his team are brilliant and the subject matter that surrounds the murder, rare art and antiquities, make the novel a fascinating listening experience.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Caused a Visceral Reaction

Potential spoiler alert...I do not plot summarize or give away specifics, but my reactions to the book in general might be enough of a hint to spoil the experience for some.

I am a huge fan of Louise Penny, and this book does not disappoint me.

This one made me particularly sad…or hit me especially hard…or was simply harder to take than the others. It’s been several days since I finished, and I have yet to download the next or move onto a different book because I’m still trapped inside this story. Yes, I am late to this series, so I have the luxury of reading several back-to-back, not waiting with bated breath for new releases…yet.

It differs from the others because it hits closer to home with the characters. Someone I already care about is in the hot seat here. It felt like finding out someone I love has a deeply disturbed side. It was a swift kick in the stomach once the story finally got to the finger-pointing moment. I kept thinking, wait, this can’t be, this is a dream sequence a la bad television, and so on.

However, this is not a negative reaction. The problem I often find with series is that the main core of characters tends to escape unscathed. It’s not remotely realistic. I mean, come on. In a tiny place like Three Pines, what’s the likelihood that every single significant character will be blameless when a murder happens just about every season? The author addresses that in this book for sure.

I can see why some might think this book is too much of a departure for the series. I disagree entirely, though. I think this is the author stepping up her game and pushing the boundaries in her series. It is definitely different, from the crime to the culprit, and everything in between. This book probably lacks the most action, yet it has a lot more introspection. I enjoyed that very much.

And finally, the visceral reaction I’m having is a clear indication that this book made an impact on me. I read (and listen to) a lot, and it is not often I have this type of reaction. I highly recommend it, especially for people reading the series in order.

Ralph Cosham is perfection as usual. He is one of my favorite narrators, and he brings Three Pines to life.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Carol
  • Massachusetts
  • 06-27-13

Take in the Order Prescribed

Ahh, series, the lifeblood of mysteries and fantasies, authors and fans alike! But, while I almost always read the entries of a fantasy series in sequence, I have done the hunt-and-peck and read-them-as-I-find them thing with most of the mystery series I enjoy.

That said, I'd advise anyone new to this series to take the Inspector Gamache books in order. Unfortunately for me, after listening to first book--the wonderful "Still Life"--the next one I listened to was the recent "A Trick of the Light," which contains major spoilers not only for "The Brutal Telling" but also for the next book in the series. So I'm sure part of my disappointment with "The Brutal Telling" is the result of too much information about what's going to happen next.

I liked both "Still Life" and "Trick of the Light" better than this book. I found the victim's slowly unfolding story to be far-fetched (in this case, to discover who the victim is is to discover who killed him--maybe). The menage of totem poles and Charlotte's Web, native Americans and Czech immigrants--to say nothing of presumed-dead famous authors who just happen to show up and turn out to be someone's father--makes the head spin. These elements all come to roost in a hermit's cabin that's within walking distance of Three Pines' center but for years has somehow gone undetected by all but one of the town's inhabitants ... well, taken together, it's a lot of unlikely events to swallow. Woe. Or is it Woo? (Just a little TBT joke :-)

BUT in general I recommend this series, especially listening to it. Ralph Cosham's narration is poetic and mesmerizing. The main character is heroic (if a bit too much of a Saint and Martyr), and the recurring characters quickly become friends (although I doubt you'd want to live with any of these eccentrics, they are delightful to visit). The philosophical musings and the digressions about the art world are often fascinating. And the French-Canadian setting is beautifully depicted and seems like another world (although reviewers who seem to know that region a lot better than I do assert it's quite accurate).

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not as good as Penny's other books

I have read/listened to all of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache books and up until now have enjoyed the quaint characters and interesting plots. "The Brutal Telling" left me much less satisfied, however. All the familiar characters were there with a few new ones. I enjoyed the characters and actually laughed out loud with the description of some of their actions.

The problem for me was the plot. It was too complicated and Penny tried to put in too many twists. She seemed to be trying to put in too many characters who revolved around famous Canadians - Emily Carr and Jean Vanier. Nothing seemed to connect. Why did Gamache go to Haida G'wai? That part of the story was interesting but didn't really connect to the plot. At the end of the novel, the listener still doesn't know who the victim was or why he had all these treasures. It didn't seem realistic to me that the person identified as the murderer, was the murderer. I felt she just didn't know how to end the story. I felt that she had two, if not three, plots that she was trying to develop in one novel. It just left me with more questions than answers.

I am disappointed in this book because I liked her others so much.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Gail
  • BRIGHTON, Ontario, Canada
  • 12-07-09

Terrific. Wish there were more

A lovely weaving of mystery and small town charm. Characters are beautifully developed and the plot keeps you listening for the next twist. Funny too. lovely.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Best listen

If you are looking for a very well written mystery, this is it. I did not want to miss a word.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 02-03-16

Listening to Ralph Cosham narrate...

....a Louise Penny novel is a real pleasure even when i have previously read a printed version of the novel. The Brutal Telling is Book 5 in the of the Chief Inspector Gramache series. In my view it is the weakest of this wonderful series. Even so, it is far better than most novels.

Ralph Cosham was among the very best narrators. He is missed.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Bittersweet for Inspector Gamache

It is hard to write this review without spoiling the story, so I'll be intentionally vague. The characters are just as fully drawn and the story feels right; I still love them all and wish I lived there. What makes this bittersweet is that the plot is upsetting. STILL a great book and part of a series I couldn't recommend more highly. READ THIS!

You must go in order with the Three Pines series. And it helps if tu parles francais un peu.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful