Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Louise Penny’s “A Rule Against Murder”

I’ve now read the fourth of Louise Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache detective mysteries, and it may be the best yet.

In A Rule Against Murder, Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are celebrating their wedding anniversary at the Quebec lakeside resort of Manoir Bellechasse. It is an old (and somewhat refurbished) resort built in the days of the 19th century Robber Barons. It has become a place of quiet, beautiful views, outstanding food, and equally outstanding service.

The Gamaches discover that a family, the Morrows, is also staying at the resort, occupying the best rooms in an annual family reunion. It is not an attractive or engaging family: a distant elderly mother and stepfather; Thomas and Sandra. a son and daughter-in-law who seem to be made of equal parts obnoxiousness and meanness; Marianna, an unmarried daughter with Bean, a 10-year-old child of indeterminate sex; and Julia, a recently divorced daughter whose husband has been imprisoned for stock fraud. They are waiting for the fourth sibling and his wife, whom they refer to as Spot and Claire. Spot and Claire turn out to be the Gamaches’ artist friends from Three Pines, the quaint village an hour away where Gamache has sold the crimes in the three previous books.

Louise Penny
This reunion is to be different – the family is installing a statue of the patriarch Charles Morrow on the grounds of the resort. The ceremony is held and the statue dedicated, and the next morning it is found toppled, with the body of Julia underneath it. An examination of the statue’s pedestal reveals that there is no way the death could have happened. What had looked like a tragic accident instead becomes a case of murder.

Penny is a master at creating characters that the reader can almost taste; they’re that vivid and real. She is also a master at burying the roots of crimes in the distant past, in this case the past of a family that seems to hate itself. And as the investigation progresses, Gamache learns something about himself and his own family past.

A Rule Against Murder is a a thought-provoking, engaging mystery, a mesmerizing story of pain, grief, anger, and revenge.


Photograph: Lake Johnston, Quebec, like the like in A Rule Against Murder.

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