Wednesday 20 October 2010

Book review : The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny

You can't judge a book by its cover but sometimes it really does epitomise what you will find inside. Just by looking at the evocative image on the book jacket, I was expecting great things. It's gloomy, mysterious, atmospheric, things are hidden amongst the trees and suggested just out of the field of vision, it's beautiful but creepy. And the book does deliver all of those things.

The pivotal event is the murder of a strange hermit whose reclusive home is a log cabin in the woods that nobody (or so it seems) has ever noticed. But his very basic abode is packed full of priceless relics and when the strange tale of a vengeful mountain and intricate but fear-inspiring carvings come to light, that only makes it so much harder to get to the truth. Deep dark secrets are uncovered and suddenly everybody in the vicinity seems to have a hidden agenda and possibly a motive for murder.

Unlike many high octane crime novels I've read recently, Louise Penny weaves a tale that remains understated and almost lyrical, whose power lies in the words on the page rather than graphic violence and shock value.The novel is set in Quebec and I was instantly reminded of Fred Vargas' style, with Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache also ressembling Vargas' Adamsberg in many ways. I love the beautiful depictions of the Canadian countryside, the description of the quirky villagers, the exploration of Canada's heritage and the analysis of the powerplay behind life in a small community. It's more than just another whodunnit, since the relationships between the characters are as essential as the criminal investigation itself. It's as much an emotional as a psychological thriller.The characters are well-rounded and detailed but maintain an air of mystery so we are never really sure of their motives and hidden personalities. In fact, right up until the final pages any one of them could be the murderer.

It has an almost olde-worlde feel to it, vaguely reminiscent of Agatha Christie, and although it won't leave you breathless like an adrenalin-fuelled, relentless-paced thriller, it will keep you happily turning the pages and uncovering the secrets lurking in the recesses of Three Pines. This is the fifth book featuring Inspector Gamache and I now definitely want to read all of the others to learn more about this likeable, enigmatic character.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £19.99

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: Headline (1 Oct 2009)

Language English

ISBN-10: 0755341031

ISBN-13: 978-0755341030

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