Book Review: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

A Rule Against Murder
by
Louise Penny

Rating:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Quebec, but in the fourth book in this series, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie are taking a mini-vacation at the beautiful Manoir Bellechasse to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Or so they think.

They’re sharing the remote lodge with the wealthy Finney family, there to honor the raising of a statue of the late Charles Morrow, Mrs. Finney’s first husband and the father of their four adult children. It isn’t long before someone is murdered, however, and Gamache must change gears to investigate. He summons his staff, Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and Agent Isabelle Lacoste, they quickly set up an investigation room and begin interviewing suspects.

The Finney family is not a warm bunch and the adult children are laden with bitterness and hatred for each other. Although they are in their 50s and 60s, their petty rivalries shoot to the surface, all centered around who was favored and loved and who was shunned. It doesn’t help that their mother is cold and distant and her new husband, Bert Finney is a puzzle. An accountant, he’s frequently seen doing his “sums” and the reader can’t help but ask if he’s in the marriage for the money.

The siblings are busy asserting themselves, in terms of who’s the most successful, most charming (on the outside), best at the piano, and word games and they frequently jab at each other’s weaknesses. The youngest Morrow, Mariana, takes her fair share of criticism. Unattractive, sloppy and less refined, she also has a child whose sex she refuses to reveal to the family.

Busy serving this demanding family are Pierre Patenaude, the Manoir’s maître d’, his large staff of young waiters and attendants, the owner, Clementine Dubois and Chef Véronique Langlois. There are secrets, romance, drama and a little rebellion among the Manoir’s staff, adding to the story.

Everyone is a suspect and, while it’s easy to line them up, it’s not easy to explain how the impossible events of the murder occurred. For Gamache, when more people go missing, it’s a race against time to figure it out.

Penny includes strong themes of family, fatherhood, and parenthood in general, the conflict between French and English Canadians and also between the upper class and the working class. Many of her characters, Gamache included, struggle in this story to understand their pasts and possible misconceptions about their families. She also includes a bit of her Three Pines characters, the recurring setting in her other books.

I enjoyed reading A Rule Against Murder, which absolutely can be read as a standalone, or even out of order. I read my first and only other book in the series, A Great Reckoning (Book 12) about two years ago and had no issues adjusting to the story line or characters then or now. You can read my 4-star review here. Penny’s books are smart, literary, a little quirky (but not too much to keep me away) and both serious and warm. I recommend A Rule Against Murder to mystery readers who enjoy both standalones and series.

Have you read any books by Louise Penny?

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