Tuesday, November 03, 2020

A Rule Against Murder - Louise Penny

A Rule Against Murder (2008) is the fourth book in Louise Penny’s popular 16-book Inspector Gamache  series. Because I’ve now read thirteen of the novels, including the first four and the last seven, I’m trying to get my ahead around what this one must have been like for its readers in 2008. How much did it newly reveal about Gamache (who is now in his fifties), his wife, his children, and his evolving relationship with Jean-Guy Beauvoir, for instance? Was the little village of Three Pines beginning to take centerstage in readers’ minds despite it not being much featured in A Rule Against Murder? I began reading the series in such a random order that I can’t comfortably draw any conclusions for myself.

A Rule Against Murder reminds me a little of what my perception of an Agatha Christie plot was often like: someone is murdered in a setting that greatly limits the number of potential suspects and no one will be going far before the murderer is identified by investigators. In this case that setting is a small, luxury hotel called Manoir Bellechasse built deep in the Canadian woods almost a century earlier. 

As it turns out, Manoir Bellechasse is very special to Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache. They have been coming to the old hotel every summer for the past thirty years. In addition to housing the small room in which the married couple first slept together, the hotel serves as a retreat from the world in which the Gamaches can prepare themselves to deal with the life of a high-ranking policeman for another year. This year, however, they learn that the hotel has been booked by a single wealthy family for its annual reunion, and that they will be apologetically relegated to a small room at the back of the hotel. 

The Finney family is an extraordinary family in many ways, including the wealth that has already been partially distributed between the family’s adult children. Perhaps even more extraordinary, however, is the utter dislike and contempt the siblings share for one another, their mother, and even at times for their dead father. That they actually show up for the reunions — and one of them is here for the first time in several years — makes Gamache wonder what they may be  hiding from the world, and for that matter, from each other. When a body is discovered in the aftermath of a violent storm, it will be up to Gamache, Beauvoir, and the rest of the team to figure exactly that out.

Bottom Line: A Rule Against Murder is a fine addition to the Gamache series. Seldom has a murder been committed in so unusual, seemingly impossible, a way as the one presented here. I have to doubt that anyone will figure out the physics involved in this case until Penny reveals them near the end of the novel. Too, there is a memorable child in the Finney family who has inexplicably been named Bean, a child who tugs at the emotions of the reader more and more as the story plays itself out. Fans of Three Pines only get a glimpse of the village and its residents at the beginning and end of this one.

(I “read” the audiobook version of A Rule Against Murder. The audiobook is narrated by Ralph Cosham who also narrated Penny’s Gamache novel Still Life. I find him to be a solid narrator, the type that I can forget thinking about after just a few pages. For me, that kind of smoothness and unobtrusiveness works best.)

Louise Penny


  1. I'm intrigued by the setting and the memorable child named Bean. :)

    1. Bean is quite a character, and a very cleverly constructed one at that. Wish I could tell you more, but...spoilers.

  2. I gather the hotel was based on an actual hotel but naturally I can't remember where it is now, in Quebec somewhere I think. This was a good instalment.

    1. Cath, what a great retreat that place would make for week or so, but I'm pretty positive I would have to settle for the little room without a view that the Gamaches had...if I could even afford that one. LOL