The Cruelest Month


91PQ9jb0fXLI’ve read the last two Gamache books, the first two, and one in the middle, so with this book, I attempt to read the rest of her books in publishing chronological order, this being number three. What I love about these books is so similar to why I love Donna Leon’s Commisario Brunetti books. Both men are intelligent, well-read, reserved, confident, they love their wives and their family, and they have an unwavering sense of justice that does not always fit into the bureaucratic morass that is their respective law enforcement agency policies. In addition, I always learn something— and there’s food!

In this installment, Gamache is called once again to the rural village of Three Pines to investigate a murder. A small group of villagers held a seance in a deserted, haunted house where the murder took place. Most of the characters are recurring, making each new installment an opportunity to get to know more about these characters who feel like friends. I love when Gamache imparts wisdom to his junior staff, like giving Lemieux a crash course in catching killers. “There are four statements that lead to wisdom. I don’t know. I’m sorry. I need help. I was wrong.”


During the murder investigation, Inspector Beauvoir and Gamache are looking at a high school yearbook, trying to make a connection between the picture of a lovely young cheerleader and the mousy woman seated on the other side of the Bistro. If the cheerleader is indeed the same woman, she may be the murderer. Beauvoir looked at Gamache and said, “You think maybe she magically transformed herself from a beautiful cheerleader into that?” Gamache replied, “I have seen flowers come in stony places, And kind things done by men with ugly faces.”

An Epilogue
John Masefield

I have seen flowers come in stony places
And kind things done by men with ugly faces,
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust, too.





Slow cooker Quebec-style baked beans




Everyone handles grief differently. When Beauvoir went to question Hazel Smyth in her kitchen after the death of her best friend and roommate, every pot was out, either in use, or in the sink. On the stove there was a brown jar filled with a classic Québécois dish, baked beans. Since my husband loves baked beans, this had to be the dish for this book. The slow cooker made it easy.

Quebec Maple Baked Beans
Servings 5 cups

1 pound dry beans (navy, great Northern) 2-1/3 cups
water for soaking and precooking
1 medium onion
¼ lb salt pork or bacon
¼ C pure maple syrup
⅓ C brown sugar
2 T unsulfured molasses
2 T tomato paste
2 tsp dry mustard
3 C water for cooking
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Rinse and sort the beans; remove any pebbles or debris. Place the beans in a large bowl. Fill with water in order to submerge the beans by at least two inches of water.
Soak overnight (8-12 hours).

The next day, transfer the drained and rinsed beans to a large pot. Re-fill with water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse again.

Transfer the rinsed precooked beans in your slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir together and place the whole onion in the center.

Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or until the beans are tender. If the mixture appears dry, you can add some water.

Serve immediately or refrigerate and served reheated the next day. The baked beans can also be frozen.

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