Day 296: The Cruelest Month

Cover for The Cruelest MonthThe village of Three Pines in remote southern Quebec has a psychic visiting, so bed and breakfast owner Gabri arranges a séance on Good Friday evening. It is not very successful, but some of the participants decide to try again at the deserted Hadley house the next night. A few additional people attend, and several of the group are filled with foreboding. The Hadley house has, after all, been the scene of frightful crimes.

In a dusty, candle-lit room, the participants hear a horrible noise and one of their party drops dead–Madeleine Favreau, a vibrant, popular woman who shares a house with Hazel Smyth. When Inspector Gamache and his team arrive, they find that someone has slipped Madeleine the banned drug ephedra, which, combined with a weak heart, has resulted in a fatal heart attack.

The investigators find motives for several of the people at the séance, mostly those of jealousy or thwarted love. But Gamache’s team is also dealing with its own problems. Senior officers want to destroy Gamache because of his role in accusing a popular superior officer of crimes years ago and so have inserted a spy into his team. However, they have found other ways to strike, as Gamache begins finding newspaper articles attacking him and his family.

As always with Louise Penny’s mysteries, the plot is compelling and Gamache and the other characters are interesting. Of course, it is unusual that a small village like Three Pines would suffer so many violent deaths, but it is a pleasure to continue revisiting the village and its inhabitants, so I think we have to suspend our disbelief. I also think the series deserves some kind of prize for the most beautiful cover art.

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