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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2007 Louise Penny (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Many mystery buffs have credited Louise Penny with the revival of the type of traditional murder mystery made famous by Agatha Christie.... The book's title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache's personal and professional challenges - making this the series standout so far." (Sarah Weinman)

Featured Article: Best Mystery Series—Listens That'll Take You Right to the Crime Scene


While a standalone mystery is great when you're in the mood for a one-and-done, sometimes you want to feed your craving with an entire mystery series—knowing there's a world and characters you can keep coming back to for the satisfaction of solving crimes. With audiobooks, you get the added bonus of sinking deeper into the setting, clues, and suspects as the story is performed for you, so you'll feel like you're alongside detectives, ready to bust a case.

What listeners say about The Cruelest Month

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not a popular opinion, I am sure

There is so much to love about this series and yet this book had me so aggravated I almost didn't finish it.

The actual murder mystery was as good as ever, with the wonderful quirky inhabitants of Three Pines and generally good plotting.

The subplot of the evil corrupt cops, however, annoyed me no end. Gamache, who is noted for his perception and intelligence was so damned clueless I wanted to slap some sense into him. The twist I saw coming a mile away. The reason for his arch-enemy's actions (and the actions themselves, frankly) was ridiculous. Honestly I can't say how much I hated it.

I am not sure I will continue with the series. It would be nice to think this nonsense was tied up in this one, but from what I have heard of the following books, there is more of it.

10 people found this helpful

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This one made be the best of the series so far !

I love the way the author fleshed out the characters in this third book. she also tied up some loose ends related to the notorious Arnot subplot. 3 Pines is a place that I would love to visit again!

13 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Reread this book!

There are few books worth rereading (the world has so many good books). But this novel has many levels. You might miss some in a rush to finish reading to understand the "story ". If you take the time to read again you will find delightful characters as well as an engrossing mystery. And ideas. And love that people have for one another. Take the time!

5 people found this helpful

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Very enjoyable!

Engaging story and excellent narration. This series is one of my favorites. The characters are like old friends!

10 people found this helpful

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ANOTHER HOME RU N

Absolutely love the way she writes. Oddly enough finding parts of myself through Inspector Gomosh's kindness. The depth that she expresses through her different characters is a special gift for a writer.



3 people found this helpful

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Gentle, Thoughtful, Thorough Inspector Gamache

The Cruelest Month, the third in the series, was just as satisfying as the first two . . . maybe more so . . . as Chief Inspector Armand Gamache faces down evil in the old Hadley House in Three Pines, Quebec . . . familiar friends and townsfolk from Three Pines return, artists Peter and Clara, poet Ruth, and former psychologist turned bookstore owner, Myrna . . . as Gamache and his team work to solve the murder, it becomes more and more evident that he has a Judas on his own team . . . waiting to betray him . . . as the case comes closer and closer to resolution, Gamache deals with ever increasing personal attacks, (which go back to a former case, where he exposed the corruption of a fellow department officer) . . . keeping a cool head and vigilant, determination to listen, and seek truth . . . he manages to maneuver his way through the quagmire . . .references to Matthew 10:36 and other subtle biblical quotes . . . meeting God at the door . . . are peppered through Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache books . . . so are things like new age beliefs, seances, and other fleeting trends . . . you are left to suss out what is steadfast . . . what is true . . . what is good . . . I like that . . .

16 people found this helpful

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...Breeding lilacs out of the dead land….

This is a wonderful, entertaining book, subtle, yet not obscure in its underlying mystery, and engrossing in another which envelopes it. It is sensitive, literate, and wonderfully conceived, particularly in its revelation of the series setting, the village of Three Pines. To my surprise, I find it to be the finest of the first three novels. Until now, I have regarded Dorothy Sayers as the most-literary of mystery writers. No longer.

By the way, I, myself—having started with the sixth in the series—would advise reading the titles in order. When I come to the sixth book, once again,I plan to reread it. There is such continuity from book-to-book that I wish to reclaim what I may have missed upon the initial reading.

The Audible editions are beautifully narrated by Ralph Cosham. As I have discovered, the mixture of narration and text is extremely rich, and at times I much enjoyed reading the ebook while listening to the narration.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

lyrical and sad

There are two stories within this novel. the murder is secondary to the continued unfolding of the back story of Armand being made to pay for turning in dirty fellow officers. Both show how love can become twisted into jealousy and acts of hatred but Armand's story so much the sadder. I was somber after listening. Yet this novel includes many moments of poetry and beautiful prose.

The narrator is excellent as Armand but sometimes not as strong in distinguishing other voices as I think he's been in prior novels in this series.

well worth the listen . But be prepared for deep melancholy.

5 people found this helpful

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Three Pines, Spiritualism, Murder, and Arnot

Starting The Cruelest Month (2008), the third Inspector Gamache novel by Louise Penny, was like reclining in a familiar chair by a crackling fire while snacking on a maple syrup garnished brioche while sipping a creamy café au lait. Almost too comfortable. At first. To Penny’s credit, she’s soon working twisted shadows into even the most benign and healthy seeming of people and places, introducing an old haunted house, and channeling her inner wiccan/psychologist. “Was something more sinister at work behind the pleasant facade of Three Pines?” Oh, you betcha!

In the first eight chapters Penny returns us to the main setting of her murder mystery series, Three Pines. The Quebec village (“where poets take walks with ducks and art falls from the sky”) is quirky and cozy without being trendy or edgey and, like Shangri La or Narnia, is only found accidentally by lost people who need it. Living in Three Pines is Penny’s recurring cast of eccentric and appealing people: the sensitive and sensible about-to-be-discovered artist Clara Morrow and her already successful but secretly jealous artist husband Peter, the prickly old foul-mouthed poet Ruth Zardo, the gay couple immaculate Olivier and disheveled Gabri who run the town B&B and bistro slash antique shop, and the large generous black former psychologist and current bookstore owner Myrna. Because none of those recurring characters could ever be guilty of murder (we assume), Penny introduces some new ones: luminous Madeleine and her generous friend Hazel, Hazel’s needy university student daughter Sophie, the widower town grocer Monsieur Beliveau, Odile (a bad poet who runs an organic shop) and her boyfriend Giles (an ex-lumberjack who crafts beautiful furniture from dead trees and talks to live ones), and the mousy wiccan Jeanne Chauvet. Jeanne, who is visiting Three Pines for the first time, quickly finds herself presiding over not one but two seances, the second of which takes place in the abandoned and cursed and or haunted old Hadley House and ends with someone apparently dying of fright.

If it is another Three Pines murder, who better to find the killer than Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec’s homicide department? In his fifties, he possesses a large, elegant figure, deep brown eyes, strong face, and laugh lines around his eyes. Though his native tongue is French, he speaks English with a British accent, having studied history in Cambridge U. He is incredibly intelligent and well-read, quoting at will from classics and contemporary poets. He is observant and patient (“I listen to everybody”), being especially interested in people’s homes and emotions (“The most important thing in a murder investigation is how people feel”). He trusts his intuitions. Unlike many of today’s detective heroes, he’s happily married and has successful children but no alcohol or demons poisoning his inside. He likes to recruit ostracized agents for his team. He is THE ideal father/teacher figure.

But will Gamache be able to solve the present mystery while having to deal with a media assault on his character and career engineered without his knowledge by his best friend from childhood Superintendent Michel Brevbeuf who has for decades secretly hated Gamache’s ability to live happily despite adversity? It’s clear that the five or so years old Arnot case (in which righteous Gamache split the Surete in two by bringing down a corrupt Surete superintendent) is still hanging over Gamache’s head. On his murder investigation team, in fact, two young agents are spying on him and sabotaging the case, the ever-unpleasant Yvette Nicole and the ever-eager Robert Lemieux. (Luckily, he also has reliable agents Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste) Will Gamache’s inveterate good faith and desire to rehabilitate lost causes cause his downfall? If this third book in the series follows the pattern of the first two, the murder case will be solved while the Arnot case is developed a little further without being resolved. We do learn here what the amoral Arnot was doing to merit being exposed, prosecuted, and imprisoned five years ago: destroying indigenous villages with agents provocateur, alcohol, and murder.

Penny writes rotating every page or two or less among the points of view of her varied cast of characters. She excels at getting in the heads of different people. However, by narrating via so many point of view characters as she tells her story, she may at times cheat by hiding certain key information from the reader that the characters would surely think about, whether it’s who’s side they’re on in the Arnot Surete cold civil war or how they killed someone (though this last is probably a flaw of most detective genre stories).

Penny writes interesting Quebecois cultural details (spring hailstorms, bear poop, French and English, hockey references, etc.). And food: creamy Brie or pate on crisp baguettes, eggs Benedict (with Canadian bacon!), pear and cranberry tart, maple laced brioches, frothy and steamy cups of rich and aromatic coffee, and more.

And she writes vivid similes, like “She looked as if made up by a vindictive mortician,” “dark circles under her eyes, as if grief had physically struck her,” and “Emboldened by the light, as though what they held was swords, they moved deeper into the house.”

And it’s a pleasure to eavesdrop on the witty Three Pines locals and on the wise Gamache and his agents. The characters talk about life and human nature, like the concept of the Near Enemy: unhealthy emotions masquerading as healthy ones (attachment as love, pity as compassion, indifference as equanimity). Gamache’s truism “It’s our secrets that make us sick” works perfectly in the story, as does the fact that some people can’t stand seeing other people (especially friends) happy.

Although Penny is prime when setting people to talking, teasing, philosophizing, questioning, musing, and so on, so far her action scenes are unfortunate. Each of her first three Gamache novels features a climax involving violent action, and each time it feels contrived, unbelievable, and even absurd. Luckily, such scenes are short and rare and don’t detract much from the overall excellence of her stories.

Ralph Cosham reads the audiobook with his appealing voice giving every moment in the novel the perfect pace and emphasis and mood without ever showing off.

This novel was a page-turning, moving, and humorous read, and I’m looking forward to the fourth Gamache story.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Awful narration!

I’ve always loved the exceptional Inspector Gamache books in print. I can’t read anymore and this was the first time I listened to one of them.

My eager anticipation was deflated as soon as I heard the narrator’s gasping, overly portentous yet repetitious style. Always the same pattern, no twinkle of mirth where there might be one. Deadly grave (no pun intended). I didn’t enjoy listening to a book I’d otherwise get lost in. What a disappointment.

I see that all her books on Libro.fm are narrated by the same person. So no more Louise Penny for me. I cannot “read” one of my favorite authors - the narration spoils them for me!

1 person found this helpful