The Brutal Telling is the fifth of Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache novels. Murder has once again happened in the tiny, seemingly idyllic Quebec village of Three Pines, and Chief Inspector Gamache, along with Inspectors Beauvoir and Lacoste head out from the city to solve the case. They stay, as always, in Olivier and Gabri's B & B, but, charming as the two men have made it, there's a taint in the air: the body in question was dumped in their bistro next door, implicating them as suspects.
The body is that of someone that no one seems to know. He appears to be a homeless man in his seventies, although his autopsy will show that he is a weathered--but well-kept--fifty-something. Who is he? Who hated him enough to kill him? Who even knew him at all, let alone well enough to kill him? And why does he live in a log cabin deep in the woods filled with priceless antiques and other treasure?
Chief Inspector Gamache is deep and thoughtful, and, as always, engages the puzzle at all levels. His intelligence is keen, his patience seemingly boundless. Gamache listens, he is always polite and respectful, and yet he will be forceful as needed. His power comes from within, and he's supremely confident in it (in one of the many amusing little throw away incidents Penny folds into her much grander, beautiful narrative, as they are approaching a potentially volatile interview Inspector Beauvoir asks Gamache if he has a gun, and shakes his head in exasperation when Gamache replies that he doesn't like guns because they're dangerous).
Three Pines is a village composed largely of long term residents who have come from elsewhere. Some were running, some were seeking, but all have found at least some degree of peace in their rather murder-prone little haven. There is a great poet, artists of various sorts, former financiers and ad executives and even a psychiatrist who runs a used book store.
The characters are wonderful and well-rounded, the setting is to die for, but the mystery is the best of all. It is a true whodunit, with blame bouncing around as evidence points in all different directions. When the answer finally comes it is not so much an ah ha! moment as an oh, no one, and that is one of the brilliances of Penny's fiction.