The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
Book 3 in the Inspector Gamache series
St. Martin's Minotaur, 2007
I adored the first Inspector Gamache book, Still Life, and I’ve liked the subsequent books, including this one. I’m not usually a fan of cozy, small village mysteries, but Penny is very good at creating characters with interesting psychological lives, which makes her books stand out over other cozies with an assortment of eccentric village residents. Also, she is very good at weaving in the backstory of Gamache’s fall from grace within the Surete because he exposed his superior Arnot’s misdeeds within the department, leading to a trial. I preferred the Arnot plot to the murder mystery in this particular book.
This particular book involves Gamache’s third murder investigation in the village of Three Pines. Someone died during a séance in an abandoned home on Easter Sunday. The woman leading the séance is a Wiccan, and the book is a bit heavy on the background of paganism and the whole spooky-house-where-bad-things-have-happened story. Spooky ghost stories are not my favorite thing, but the first section of the book wasn’t bad: it was good to see recurring characters from the earlier books, particularly the artists Clara and Peter Morrow.
While investigating the murder, Gamache deals with his police colleagues who are against him after he exposed Arnot’s misdeeds. This story line will be satisfying to readers of the series from the beginning because the story of the case and its ramifications are clearly spelled out after being only hinted at in earlier books. It is a bit jarring to move between the village and the politics at Surete headquarters (it feels like two very different books), but I’m grateful to have more of Gamache’s professional backstory.
I did enjoy this book, but I think it works best if you read it in order instead of joining the series here with book three.
I read this book as part of the Criminal Plots II Reading Challenge: book whose protagonist is the opposite gender of the author.