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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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The Brutal Telling

by Louise Penny |



Three Pines, a tiny Quebec village distinguished by its isolated beauty, world-class eccentrics and an alarming procession of murders, once again hosts the estimable Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he contemplates the intricacies of the criminal mind. This time around, a bludgeoned body has been found on the old pine floor of the town’s very fine bistro. Everyone claims not to know the victim. But when the dead man’s cabin is discovered deep in the forest and filled to the brim with priceless antiques and first editions, Gamache must face the possibility that one of the townsfolk is a killer. With an intricate, almost mythic plot, superb characters and rich, dark humor, Penny—a former journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who has garnered multiple awards for the series’ four previous novels—continues to deepen and modernize the traditional “village mystery.” Her courtly, poetry-loving Inspector Gamache, who peers into suspects’ souls over meals so mouthwatering you’ll want to book a flight, contributes a humane and sophisticated perspective on human foibles. Here’s hoping that Three Pines—a town as improbably intrigue-filled as Murder She Wrote’s folksier Cabot Cove, Maine—continues to provide him with plenty of bodies.

Love and Summer

by William Trevor |



Set in an Irish town in the late ’50s, Trevor’s 14th novel is partly the story of an illicit affair: a dreamy young man seduces a farmer’s wife one lush summer. But Trevor, an insightful, compassionate writer, gives seemingly less significant characters secret desires of their own: A secretary in love with her middle-aged employer lives for the glass of 7-Up he offers her each morning as they look over the books; the employer’s sister waits with little hope for the return of her married lover, a traveling salesman, who abandoned her years ago. Such yearnings lend subtle drama to this beautifully realized account of a small, self-contained world turned upside down, briefly, by love.

Her Fearful Symmetry

by Audrey Niffenegger |



Returning with her first novel since the acclaimed bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife, Niffenegger has created a compelling modern-day ghost story set in and around London’s atmospheric Highgate cemetery. When Julia and Valentina, 20-year-old twin sisters living in Chicago, inherit a London flat from their aunt Elspeth, the stipulation is that the girls spend a year living in the flat by themselves. Once in England, they find their carefree sojourn complicated by a quirky cast of characters, including Elspeth’s graveyard-obsessed boyfriend and a crossword creator with severe OCD. The sisters’ lives are further challenged by a strange, haunting presence in their new home—one that behaves suspiciously like their dear departed aunt. An engrossing love story that crosses to the “other side,” Symmetry offers an inventive take on sibling rivalry, personal identity and what it’s like to be dead.


The Time Traveler’s Wife became a movie starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. The DVD is out this fall.