Synopses & Reviews
“Many mystery buffs have credited Louise Penny with the revival of the type of traditional murder mystery made famous by Agatha Christie. . . . The books title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamaches personal and professional challenges---making this the series standout so far.” --Sarah Weinman
Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.
Its spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil---until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.
“Gamache is a prodigiously complicated and engaging hero, destined to become one of the classic detectives.”
---Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The cozy mystery has a graceful practitioner in Louise Penny.”
---The New York Times Book Review
“Dont look for the hamlet of Three Pines anywhere on a map . . . although Louise Penny has made the town and its residents so real . . . that you might just try to find it.”
---The Chicago Tribune
“[A Fatal Grace] is not the usual ‘cosy or even a traditional puzzle mystery. Its a finely written, intelligent, and observant book.”
---The Houston Chronicle
“A remarkable new writer . . . Louise Penny arrives with flair, humanity, and intrigue in her debut novel, Still Life. . . . Elegant writing alone would not carry this remarkable book; Penny also creates a puzzle worthy of the masters. But more important, she studies issues of good and evil, of human nature, of human kindness, and human cruelty.”
---The Richmond Times-Dispatch
“This cerebral mystery . . . is a rare treat.”
---People on Still Life
About the Author
Louise Penny, author of the New York Times bestselling Chief Inspector Gamache novels, worked as an award-winning journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before leaving to write crime fiction. Her first mystery, Still Life, was the winner of the New Blood Dagger and the Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys Awards; and was also named one of the five Mystery/Crime Novels of the Decade by Deadly Pleasures magazine. Louise went on to become the first writer ever to win the Agatha Award for Best Novel four times, as well as an Anthony Award for The Brutal Telling and the Dilys, Arthur Ellis, Macavity, and Anthony Awards for Bury Your Dead. Her novels are bestsellers in the United States and Great Britain and have been translated into twenty languages. She lives with her husband, Michael, in a small village south of Montréal.
Reading Group Guide
READING GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Were told that Three Pines is “only ever found by people lost.” In what way are Peter and Clara, Ruth, Myrna, Gabri and Olivier, and even Gamache and his team of investigators, lost people?
2. Early in the story, when Peter is looking at Claras unfinished painting: “He suddenly felt something grab him. From behind. It reached forward and right into him….Tears came to his eyes as he was overcome by this wraith that had threatened all his life. That hed hidden from as a child, that hed run from and buried and denied. It had stalked him and finally found him. Here, in his beloved wifes studio. Standing in front of this creation of hers the terrible monster had found him. And devoured him.” What do you think Peters “monster” is? How does it manifest itself throughout the story? What becomes of the monster in the end?
3. Peter, Ruth and Olivier stay behind when the group heads to the Hadley house for the séance. Discuss these characters and their various reasons for avoiding the house and/or the ritual.
4. What do you think is the difference between magic and miracles?
5. How does the novel's epigraph, from T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land," resonate with the story? What do you think of Peters interpretation of Aprils cruelty: “All those spring flowers slaughtered. Happens almost every year. Theyre tricked into blooming, into coming out. Opening up. And not just the spring bulbs, but the bulbs on the trees….All out and happy. And then boom, a freak snowstorm kills them all.”
6. As the plot proceeds, is it possible to guess or deduce the killer? If so, at what point, and on what grounds?
7. Louise Penny is unusually sensitive to the difficulties of finding love and the struggle to champion it in a harsh world. In The Cruelest Month, the relationships between Odile and Gilles, Hazel and Madeleine, and Clara and Peter, are very different. What does each relationship say about love? Are there any common elements shared by all?
8. How does Gamaches trusting nature, seen by many as his greatest failing, ultimately serve him?
9. “How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another mans eyes,” wrote Shakespeare in As You Like It. Discuss the various manifestations of jealousy in The Cruelest Month. What makes Gamache so much happier than his seemingly more fortunate best friend, Brébeuf?