The 37th book I read for the book challenge was The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mystery by Louise Penny. I reread this book.
On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Myra is out for her morning walk in Three Pines. She passes by Olivier’s bistro and notices that the door is ajar. She opens the door and sees–a body. Thus begins the latest mystery in Three Pines. She rouses Gabri and Olivier from their sleep and brings them to the bistro where they too are shocked to see a body in their bistro. They call the Sureté du Québec and Chief Inspector Gamache and his team arrive in Three Pines to take charge of the investigation. Of course, the three main suspects are Gabri, Olivier, and Myra.
They first try to ascertain where everyone was in the nighttime and who had a key to the bistro. Gabri and Myra were asleep. Olivier left the bistro around 1:30. It seems that nearly everyone either had a key to the bistro or knew that Olivier kept a key in the planter outside. No one seems to know who the elderly man was who was murdered, for he was murdered, his head bashed in by a blunt instrument. Olivier’s fireplace pokers are taken away to be tested. But there is little blood on the floor of the bistro. The investigators think the man was killed elsewhere and then moved to the bistro. But why was he moved to the bistro? Why would someone want to do this to Olivier?
The investigators set out to interview the residents of Three Pines to see if they knew who the murdered man was or if they saw anything suspicious. The coroner puts the time of death at around 2 or 3 a.m. She also noted the presence of polyurethane on his clothes. Inspector Beauvoir and Agent Morin ask Monsieur Béliveau about selling polyurethane in his store. He sold two containers–one to Gabri and one to Marc Gilbert at the Auberge. Gabri’s tine has not been used. Gilbert had previously told them that they did not use polyurethane; they only used natural products. When Inspector Beauvoir visits this time, he notices the foyer has polyurethane on the floor and fibers stuck to it. Fibers from the old man’s shirt. The man’s body has been here.
Marc Gilbert tells them that he awoke to find the man’s body in his foyer. He then took the body down the hill to the bistro and took the key from the planter and opened the bistro and left the body in the bistro. He knows he did the wrong thing, but he couldn’t leave the body in his Auberge. The coroner tells the team that the man is not really old. He is probably only in his fifties even though his hair is completely white. Then, a man is seen in the garden of the Auberge. They apprehend him and discover that it is Marc’s father that everyone thought was dead–Vincent Gilbert, the famous physician who wrote the book Being about his work with people with Down’s syndrome. He had supposedly gone missing in India many years ago. But he and his wife had agreed that he would disappear and he had been watching his son and decided to come back now. He is arrogant and aloof. He is asked to stay at the Auberge. Marc has very mixed feelings about his father’s appearance after so many years.
Roar Parra has been reopening the horse trails that go into the forest. Danielle is out riding some of the old trails. She comes riding quickly into the village and comes into the bistro looking for Chief Inspector Gamache to tell him she has found a cabin in the woods. The Chief Inspector and Inspector Beauvoir take horses and go to the cabin and find a place full of treasure–and find the scene of their murder. There is blood on the floor. This is where the man, the Hermit, as they now call him, was murdered. The cabin is full of antiques–beautiful plates, glassware, a violin, first edition books, amber glass, linen. All worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And groceries. Somehow the Hermit was getting groceries brought in to him. He had a vegetable garden and paper money stuffed in between the logs for insulation. He was clutching a carving of a red cedar word, Woo. In a corner, there was a fishing line cob web that spelled out the word Woo. The investigators dust everything for prints. The Chief Inspector calls his friend Superintendent Brunel about the antiques. They also find two intricate carvings of people traveling and a young man. These seem to be telling a story and the Chief Inspector thinks there may be more. Superintendent Brunel will look for more in her contacts.
The fingerprints show Olivier’s fingerprints on the carved red cedar word Woo. Chief Inspector Gamache confronts Olivier. Olivier admits that he had been visited the Hermit. He took him groceries in exchange for antiques and the carvings. Olivier sold the carvings on eBay and the antiques in Montreal. Olivier was able to essentially buy up most of Three Pines with the money he made from the antiques. The people of Three Pines are angry with Olivier for his greed and his lying. He says that on the night the Hermit died, he had visited the Hermit. He brought the Hermit groceries. He left without the creamer the Hermit had given him. He went back and found the Hermit dead. He then took one carving, a menorah, the creamer, put the Hermit’s body in the wheelbarrow, and put the Hermit’s body in the foyer of the Auberge, and hid the carving and the menorah behind the loose bricks in the bistro.
The investigators have found the menorah and the carving behind the loose bricks in the bistro. The menorah has bits of paraffin on it. Paraffin was found in the wound on the Hermit’s head. It was the murder weapon. Olivier is the prime murder suspect. Chief Inspector Gamache arrests Olivier for the murder of the Hermit, but Olivier absolutely swears that he did not murder the Hermit. His friends still believe him, but there is no other suspect. Gamache is a bit uneasy, but he too knows there is no other suspect. Is this really a closed case?
This is a good book. Olivier is a character whom we have grown to love through the previous books. With the other residents of Three Pines, we now have seen another side to Olivier, a side that we don’t much like, but a side that doesn’t really make him a murderer. It seems that Chief Inspector Gamache is making a mistake, but who could have committed this murder? There doesn’t seem to be another clear suspect. Maybe another Czech refugee family or person? But one has not emerged in the course of the investigation. Perhaps more investigation needs to be done in another book. Certainly Olivier could not have done this. He will be exonerated in another book, I’m sure.