The Brutal Telling – Louise Penny

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The Brutal Telling is set in a remote, artistic community surrounded by the forests of Quebec. The book begins with the discovery of an unknown hermit’s body in the town’s bistro. Chief Inspector Gamache is called in to investigate the crime, in this, the fifth book in the series.

I haven’t read any books written by Loiuse Penny before, but I am always on the look out for a great new crime series to follow. Unfortunately this book failed to live up to my expectations.

The pace of the book was very fast, as a high percentage of it was dialogue. I wanted to know what the characters were thinking and feeling, but instead I only witnessed a string of events.

I found the writing to be quite passive and the characters failed to engage me. My problem in connecting with the characters could be due to the fact that this is the fifth in the series, but I was assured that this book would work as a stand alone novel, and many other people have enjoyed it with out having read the first four books.

The title implies that this will be a very dark novel, but it felt more like a cozy mystery to me, with very little menace. The plot itself was quite basic and lacked the cunning twists and turns that I love in crime fiction. I guessed the murderer quite early on and was disappointed to discover that I was correct.

The writing was of a high standard and there were many good sections in the book, but overall it failed to impress me.

Recommended to people who enjoy fast paced, simple cozy mysteries.


I seem to be one of the only people who didn’t enjoy with this book though: Kittling Books, Ms Bookish and Bibliophile by the Sea all loved it.

Did you enjoy The Brutal Telling?

Have you read any of Louise Penny’s other books?

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  1. Belle says:

    I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy The Brutal Telling, Jackie. I thought it would work as a standalone, but perhaps I’m not the best judge, as I have read the previous novels in the series already. I think that it was a very different book for me because I knew all the characters so well. For example, what you noted about knowing who the murderer was from very early on – I think that having read the other books first, it was very difficult for me to see the clues, because I didn’t want to see them!

    I hope you will give Still Life a try, even though you were disappointed with this one. The nice thing is that The Brutal Telling doesn’t contain any spoilers that would harm your reading of the earlier novels.

    1. Jackie says:

      Belle, You weren’t the only one who said this would work as a stand alone novel, so don’t worry about that. Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea loved it having not read the previous 4 and I saw several other reviews stating the same thing.

      I don’t think I’ll read Still Life, as the pace of the book was too fast for me – I prefer more depth to my crime novels. It was good to discover Penny’s writing style though and I hope that people won’t be put off reading her books by my review.

  2. FleurFisher says:

    I’m sorry you were disappointed with this one. I haven’t read it yet, I picked up on the series early and I have loved it. It would probably be fair to say though that the books are driven by the characters more than the mystery. If that appeals it’s worth starting from the beginning, otherwise…

    (By the way, your posts for the last couple of days haven’t appeared in my reader. Not sure if it’s me or you.)

    1. Jackie says:

      FleurFisher, I do think that starting at book number 5 was a problem for me and I’m sure I’d enjoy Still Life more, but I know it is never going to be a favourite, so I don’t think I’ll get round to reading them.

      Thanks for letting me know about the feed problem – I spotted that earlier in the day. It was my fault and it should be fixed now.

      1. FleurFisher says:

        Yes – you’re back!

  3. Sandy says:

    Crime series are a tough genre. There are so many of them, and few really deliver the goods. Many try to be so over-the-top violent, it becomes a joke, and really it shouldn’t. There is nothing to joke about with brutal crimes, but with some of these authors they all try to outdo each other. I think the better crime novels turn inward, exposing internal demons of both the antagonist and protagonist, and scare you through building tension. I guess I will cross this one off my list. There are enough out there already that I’ve left unexplored!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, The problem is that there are so many out there and it is so hard to know which ones will be good. I’ve learnt my lesson now and will always start with the first in the series, and hope I can unearth a good series soon.

  4. caite says:

    yes, I am sorry you did not like this one too.
    I have not read any of the other books in the series yet, but I enjoyed the book a great deal. True, the plot is not the most, it is not that sort of story. But personally I liked the characters a great deal and found them very well done. Which is what I will say if I ever write the review.
    But then not everyone can like the same books. :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      caite, This book does seem to be dividing people. I thought the characters were very realistic, but the fact it was all dialogue meant that I felt like an observer rather than part of the action. It all depends on what you like to see in a book and it is great that we all like different things.

  5. Simon S says:

    Oh dear, am a bit concerned now as I have been recommended Louise Penny so many times for her village mysteries. I hadnt linked this book with her as when saw an advert for this a while back I though what a trashy horrid cover. Now am all of a conundrum.

    I am suprised you didn’t enjoy this more as thought you were a big plot fan over everything else. I have to say if the characters are so one dimensional I am not sure would be a fan either. Shame as I said so many people have told me I must read Louise Penny.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, I am a big fan of a complex plot and this book suffered from having a very simple one. You might like Louise Penny, so don’t write her off because of my review – I look forward to seeing which side of the fence you’re on with her books.

  6. Jenny says:

    I’ve not read anything by Louise Penny, though it sounds like I had the wrong idea about her books. I thought they were more sort of procedural mysteries, which I don’t like as I am quite squeamish, but that’s not right, apparently? Still, sorry this wasn’t better for you!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I’m not an expert on the different types of crime novel, but I think you’d class this as a police procedural book. It isn’t packed with violence and gore though – it is quite gentle actually.

  7. diane says:

    Sorry this one was not more enjoyable for you. For me it was right book, right time …LOL

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I saw that you loved it – it is a shame I didn’t. Nevermind we can’t like them all!

  8. Eva says:

    I read Penny’s first book Still Life, and it underwhelmed me. So I’m with you. ;) This is off topic, but I saw Tender Morsels in your ‘Top of the TBR Pile’ widget, and while I loved that book, that cover you have pictured creeps me out. Ugh-there’s no way I’d pick that up in the bookstore! I loved the US hardcover art-I’m not sure what the trade paperback looks like though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Eva, it is good to know that I’m not alone!

      I agree with you about the Tender Morsels cover – I would never pick that up normally. It is only thanks to fantastic recommendations in the blogging world that I reserved it at my library. I hope I enjoy it as much as everyone else did.


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