Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

Title: A Rule Against Murder
Author: Louise Penny
ISBN: 9780312377021, Minotaur Books, 2008
Genre: Police Procedural, #4 Inspector Gamache mystery
Rating: A+

First Line: In the height of summer the guests descended on the isolated lodge by the lake, summoned to the Manoir Bellechasse by identical vellum invitations, addressed in the familiar spider scrawl as though written in cobwebs.

For once the action in this fourth book in Penny's excellent series takes place outside the charming village of Three Pines, thus dodging the "Cabot Cove" bullet.

Inspector Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are at the isolated Manoir Bellechasse to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Unfortunately the lodge is overrun by the wealthy, entitled and whiny Morrow clan, but the pair are able to shut the Morrows out and enjoy themselves. The obnoxious clan dismisses the pair as "a shopkeeper and his cleaning woman wife", and that's fine with Gamache and Reine-Marie.

In exchange for agreeing to take over some of the operating costs, the Morrows erect a statue of the deceased head of the clan on the grounds of Bellechasse. After a furious late night thunderstorm, one of the gardeners discovers the body of Julia Morrow beneath the toppled statue. How on earth was someone able to knock over the statue without leaving a scratch on its base, and who wanted to kill Julia Morrow...and why?

Gamache bundles Reine-Marie off to Three Pines to keep her out of harm's way as he calls in his staff and begins to investigate. The shock when the Morrows discover the inspector's true identity is quite pleasurable. What isn't pleasurable is the discovery that Peter and Clara of Three Pines are members of the Morrow clan. No wonder they've kept that fact hidden, for this clan was tailor made for Gamache to investigate:

And Gamache? He knew he was neither the hound nor the hunter. Armand Gamache was the explorer. He went ahead of all the rest, into territory unknown and uncharted. He was drawn to the edge of things. To the places old mariners knew, and warned, "Beyond here be monsters."

One of the delights of reading A Rule Against Murder was learning more of Gamache's background, of discovering what happened in his youth to make him the rather strange and very understanding man that he is in these books. What isn't so delightful is learning about the odious Morrow clan, one of whose members named her child Bean and hasn't told anyone Bean's sex-- and no Morrow has even asked!

"Are you kidding? A Morrow ask a question? Admit ignorance?" She leaned forward conspiratorially and despite himself Beauvoir leaned forward to meet her. "That's the brilliance of this. Their own ignorance is my best weapon."

That's quite a crew, isn't it?

The more I read, the more I sank into the characterizations. They reign supreme in this book. I sank so far that I totally forgot to gather clues and when the identity of the murderer was revealed, I was shocked. The explanation for moving the statue almost made me smack my forehead. Penny had neatly planted clues from the very beginning as to the killer's identity and methods, but I was oblivious to them all.

That's the power of Louise Penny. She's created an entire world, her own version of Shangri-La, and peopled it with so many fascinating characters that it's all too easy to forget that you're reading a mystery and supposed to be gathering together the pieces of the puzzle. For me, A Rule Against Murder is the strongest book in the series so far, and I look forward to the next, The Brutal Telling, with a great deal of anticipation.


  1. I'm pretty sure I have the first one in this series on audio. I know I have to get started on it. But when? I need more time.....

    Love the new art -- wish I were planning my next trip.

  2. I am reading The Brutal Telling right now. Sadly, I am almost done it. It is the first of Penny's books I have read but I am happy to know I can now go back and start at the beginning of this!

    She is a wonderful writer an I love these characters.

  3. Excellent review. I have her latest book A Brutal Telling --looking forward to it.

  4. Oh, I can't wait to read my first book by her later this month!

  5. I've got A Brutal Telling and you've made me anxious to read it too!

  6. You've nailed something I've noticed also when I read a Penny story: I get so caught up in the prose and the characters that I forget to pay attention to the clues. Boy, is she sneaky! And I love it.

  7. It sounds brilliant. My library has a couple of her Three Pines books, but not this one. I'm tempted to go the Amazon route.

  8. I started reading your review without looking at the particulars at the top. I was down into the last of the quotes when I knew I had to read this book and then wondered - how did Cathy rate this one? Ahh, A+ of course.

    Question: Do you recommend I start at the beginning of this series or can they be read out of order?

  9. I did read The Brutal Telling and it was my first book by Penny, but this one sounds very good too!

  10. I'm so glad you reviewed this book! I just finished The Brutal Telling and loved it. I really want to read Penny's other books in the Inspector Gamache series!I have to write my review now.


  11. Beth--More time? I know I could enjoy being retired right now. I'd be planning that trip! LOL

    Caite-- I'm about halfway through The Brutal Telling. Penny just keeps getting better and better. Wow!

    Diane-- I'm reading TBT right now.

    Nicola-- You have a treat in store!

    Kathy-- Have you started it yet?

    Corey-- I'm reading The Brutal Telling right now and I'm trying with all my might to gather clues along the way. It's hard work because I just want to get lost in the story!

    Susan-- I'm tempted to tell you to do it!

    Margot--They can be read out of order, but the characters are so marvelous I'd recommend starting at the beginning.

    Rhapsody-- It is!

    Amy-- I'm glad you loved The Brutal Telling because I'm midway through it now. All the books in the series are good, but it's amazing to see how much better each one is as the series continues.

  12. This looks fantastic and tour rating tells me it is!

  13. Sheila--It is...and I've just finished the next book in the series, The Brutal Telling. Wow!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!