The Annotated Three Pines – The Brutal Telling

From Pg. 1
“All around. Have you seen the light in the night sky?”
“I thought those were the Northern Lights.” The pink and green and white shifting, flowing against the stars. Like something alive, glowing, and growing. And approaching.
Olivier Brulé lowered his gaze, no longer able to look into the troubled, lunatic eyes across from him. He’d lived with this story for so long, and kept telling himself it wasn’t real. It was a myth, a story told and repeated and embellished over and over and over. Around fires just like theirs.
It was a story, nothing more. No harm in it.

Louise’s Thoughts:
The idea for this book, both the theme of story telling, of the ‘myth-time, and the title of the book, came completely unexpectedly when Michael and I were visiting Vancouver. We went into their splendid Art Gallery, where there was an exhibit on of one of my favourite artists, Emily Carr. She painted in a flowing, near abstract, style, uncannily capturing a sort of dream world in an area called Haida Gwai. As part of the exhibit, there was context, about the oral traditions of the First Nations. As well as a history of Carr herself. In it they described that she was very very close to her father, until a falling out. After that, she never saw him, spoke to him, spoke of him again. And only ever once referred to what had happened, describing it as ’the brutal telling.’ It came to me, standing there, that I wanted to write a book about myth, about the power of stories, and imagination. And perception. These lines are the beginning of a story woven throughout the book.

From Pg. 26
Most murder investigations appeared complex but were really quite simple. It was just a matter of asking “And then what happened?” over and over and over.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ha – what they’re really saying is that a great investigator listens. Closely. I actually got this idea from my time as an interviewer on CBC Radio, where most of the time the best thing the interviewer can do is get out of the way, and help the person tell an often painful story. And listen, very, very closely.

From Pg. 23
He’d once heard a judge say the most humane way to execute a prisoner was to tell him he was free. Then kill him.
Gamache had struggled against that, argued against it, railed against it. Then finally, exhausted, had come to believe it.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This is something a high school teacher said, almost in passing, to my class. I can’t remember the context, but I do remember being appalled. And revisiting this idea over and over. Until, as I got older and became aware of my own mortality, I came to believe it might be true. This isn’t in any way a call to capital punishment, which I find repulsive. But simply an acknowledgement that maybe not knowing is the kindest way to go. I also liked showing this part of Gamache. That he is not at all dogmatic. He’s willing, and able, to face tough questions, and change his mind.

From Pg. 31
“Can’t imagine what Gamache thinks of us,” said Myrna. “Every time he shows up there’s a body.”
“Every Quebec village has a vocation,” said Clara. “Some make cheese, some wine, some pots. We produce bodies.”

Louise’s Thoughts:
Now, this is facing a slight problem head on. No use pretending that the body count in Three Pines (a village continuously described as idyllic) is in any way normal. Might as well embrace this abnormality, own it, even have some fun with it, then move on. I really hadn’t thought of this when I first started writing the books. As a result, I didn’t want to strain credibility too much, so many of the actual deaths now happen elsewhere. But the investigations are conducted from the village.

From Pg. 33
People lied all the time in murder investigations. If the first victim of war was the truth, some of the first victims of a murder investigation were people’s lies. The lies they told themselves, the lies they told each other. The little lies that allowed them to get out of bed on cold, dark mornings.

Louise’s Thoughts:
The Gamache books are absolutely crime novels, murder mysteries, but the biggest mystery in each is human behaviour. Human nature. And part of that nature is a certain willful disregard for the truth about ourselves. That’s what I love exploring. What motivates us. Thomas Hobbes said that hell is truth seen too late. That’s the vortex around which THE BRUTAL TELLING swirls.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – The Brutal Telling

  1. Leslie Miller says:

    Can’t wait for the CD. I love taking Three Pines with me on a journey.

  2. Sue Oerter says:

    Loved re-reading this one. I spent a day in the St. Louis Art Museum Library studying Emily Carr. She is unique. Thank you for bringing her to my attention.

  3. Christine Goebel says:

    From Pg. 31- I remember laughing at this when I first read it, and it reminded me of my thoughts about Cabot Cove, Maine, where “A Murder She Wrote” takes place. Who would ever visit there when someone dies weekly! LOL

    • Alice Dyment says:

      I have had similar thoughts about “Murder She Wrote”. Perhaps the fictional people of the fictional town of Three Pines don’t wish for tourism. They certainly have enough excitement of their own.

    • Jo says:

      also with Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot- where ever they were there a body would be found or any other detective that appear in a series easier to accept in a large city but villages are supposed to be different- but it does not take away from the “little gray cells”

  4. Audrey Braam says:

    Every time I reread one your books, I find something else, an idea, or an image that stays with me for a while and is precious. I love knowing where the ideas began. Thank you for your yearly books; I anticipate each one, eagerly!

  5. Barbara Bole says:

    Your thoughts on the excerpt from page 23 got me thinking again. It seems so long ago that I first read the passage about a potential humane way of executing a prisoner. I’m sure it left me shocked and appalled then as it did in re-reading it. However this time I reflected more on the words, wondering if it is more humane to not know what’s coming, though I’m not thinking in terms of executions as I also do not believe in capital punishment. Thanks for your insights. They give me more to ponder!

  6. Wendy Berry says:

    Really enjoying the comments – really help to put the book into context. I found this book most interesting and disturbing, because of the outcome about the murder. Won’t say any more…

  7. Bonnie says:

    Love how your books lead me to places and people I didn’t know. Emily Carr is facinating and I loved reading about her and seeing her art. The fable in this story made it one of my favorite books.

  8. Alice Briggs says:

    In equal amounts, when reading your books I enjoy your writing style, the mysteries you conjure, and the development of your well-loved characters. Reading your reflections gives new meaning and understanding of how you develop each book.

  9. Maradel Sager says:

    Tell them they’re free, then kill them….very brutal….tough to read and absorb….not exactly humane….still so enjoying your thoughts on what inspired your books…thank you Louise

  10. Susan says:

    I love all your books and I read them in order, which has been a wonderful experience. Brutal Telling kicked your always wonderful writing up a notch that I didn’t think was possible…eerie, complex…just superb. Viva Gamache! Viva Louise!

    • Susan B. says:

      I always tell people Brutal Telling is my favorite. I agree the writing kicked up a notch with this one. I just kept thinking how much I was enjoying reading it at the time. How good it was. And then got to the ending and I was so angry. A short while later I realized my experience was like those viewing the wood carving in the story. How beautiful it was. And then they thought it was ugly. My husband it reading Brutal Telling now (he just started reading the series from the beginning). I can’t wait to discuss it with him, but feel I need to go back and re-read them all!

  11. Hilde Senecal says:

    reminds me often “Cabot Cove” in Murder She wrote. I loved that TV Series and I love your Gamache books, hopefully you never stop writing. I absolutely love Ruth w. Rosa ❤️

  12. Heather says:

    “Three Pines” is the Midsomer of Canada. :)

  13. Carole Carraro says:

    Thanks Louise for more enlightenment. I’m almost ready to start this book in my re-reading of the series. I still watch re-runs of Murder She Wrote every evening at 7pm with my coffee. I love the logical thinking you both have. You’re comments about “really listening” is so important. Listen to people, adults and children of all ages, when they talk; listen to nature, to the animals and the birds, to the rain; listen to the stillness, to the quiet.

  14. Virginia Cowie says:

    Thank you for mentioning Emily Carr because I never had heard of her before, so I looked her up online and found some of her artwork. I have to agree with you; it is beautiful and flowing. So unique and it just grabs you….well me!

  15. Mary Gregory says:

    Love these forums. Thanks to you, Louise and whoever thought of this idea. It’s a mini book club discussion.

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