The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Gamache #5), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2009.
Summary: The body of an unknown man is found in the bistro of Gabri and Olivier, and Olivier is the chief suspect!
Olivier has been secretly visiting the cabin of a hermit living in a self-built cabin hidden in the woods near Three Pines. He brings groceries, shares stories, and is repaid with carvings and other items in the hermit’s possessions. The night after his last visit, the hermit’s body appears in the bistro jointly run by Gabri and Olivier, found by neighboring bookstore owner Myrna. The hermit has been brutally murdered with a skull-shattering blow to the back of the The hermit is unknown to anyone else in the village and when questioned, Olivier denies knowledge of him as well.
But how did the body get to the bistro? Who was the man? Why was he killed? And why is Olivier lying? These are questions Inspector Gamache and his team, joined by a young local officer eager to learn from Gamache, Paul Morin. It turns out that the body was placed in the bistro by the new owner of the Hadley house, Marc Gilbert. The Gilberts are turning it into a spa that will compete with Gabri and Olivier’s bistro and B & B. But Gilbert doesn’t appear to be the killer. He found the body in his foyer and moved it to the bistro. But who deposited the body at their doorway?
There are other suspects. Roar and Havoc Parras are part of a Czech community. It is revealed that the hermit had Czech connections. Roar has been cutting a trail for the Gilberts getting closer and closer to the hermit’s cabin. Havoc is an intelligent young man, seemingly content with working in the bistro, far below is potential. Gilbert’s father Vincent, a seemingly saintly figure who has worked with the mentally disabled, yet emotionally manipulative, just happens to show up, literally out of the woods.
Still, as clues emerge and the cabin is discovered as the murder scene, Olivier emerges as the lead suspect, even as his answers continue to be evasive. Gamache learns of his estranged relationship with his father and the extent of his wealth. He owns much of Three Pines. Where did that money come from?
Gamache’s inquiries focus around a set of valuable carvings made from a redwood from an island off of British Columbia. He even goes there and comes back knowing who the murderer is.
Meanwhile Penny continues to develop Peter and Clara Morrow. As Clara prepares for a debut show with Dennis Fortin, he drops a homophobic remark. She debates whether to say something and risk her future. Moral dilemmas result for both Clara and Peter. Clara know Fortin could cancel her show. Peter is conflicted as he sees her success eclipsing his own. What does integrity, loyalty, and a marital bond require?
The story explores the relationships of fathers and children. Some of these had shattering “brutal tellings.” Penny explores the shaping influences of fathers on children and the dangers of festering anger and how murder begins long before the act.
It seems each of these get better than the ones before, and this has a number of “unfinished” elements that leave one wondering “what’s next?” I look forward to how Penny will unfold this tale!