Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

A Rule Against Murder is Louise Penny’s fourth novel featuring Sûreté du Québec Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team. In this outing, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse as they do every year. A family, the Morrows, are having their family reunion at the Manoir as well. It doesn’t take long before the Morrow adults begin sniping at one another with long-festering hurts from childhood. None of the Morrows are as they seem. When one of them is murdered in the garden using a several-ton statue, Gamache must go from being on vacation to being on a case.

Gamache and his team begin peeling back the layers of the case one fact at a time. With each fact discovered, they get closer to their murderer. Gamache can’t figure out how the murder was accomplished, and until he does, he knows he will not know who committed the crime. To complicate matters for Gamache, one of the Morrow children, Peter, and his wife are acquaintances whom he likes a great deal. While Gamache hopes Peter didn’t kill his sister, it remains a possibility.

This is an outstanding series that is best read in order starting with Still Life. With each book in the series, the reader gets to know Gamache, Jean Guy Beauvoir, and Agent Isabelle Lacoste better. Gamache says that Beauvoir is “loosely wrapped, but tightly wound." We follow Gamache as he uncovers the clues that will help him solve the murder. Just when the reader is sure she knows who the murderer is, another clue is found and both Gamache and the reader must reassess the facts and the conclusions already drawn.

Penny’s writing is excellent. Each character is uniquely and finely drawn, including the staff of the Manoir, and, it seems everyone, including the chef and even Gamache, has secrets to guard. Penny evokes the setting so the reader sees the lake at the end of the rolling grounds outside the Manoir, feels the heat of summer as it lies heavy on the guests, suffers the growing humidity as a rain storm approaches the area, and feels the relief when Gamache threw “open their windows for the cool breeze the storm had left as an apology.”

The genre, regardless of whether you call it a procedural or a mystery, doesn’t get better than the books of Louise Penny.

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