This is not an unbiased book review. I'm a big fan of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache mysteries. In the first books, beginning with the award-winning Still Life, she introduced us to Gamache, the Chief Homicide Inspector for the Sûreté in Quebec, and the timeless village of Three Pines. She's taken us through three seasons filled with murder investigations, and a emotionally draining threat hanging over Gamache's head. We were ready for a break, right along with her detective.
A Rule Against Murder takes Gamache and the readers into an Agatha Christie traditional vacation, with the dark overtones that Penny masters. For thirty-four years, Armand and his wife, Reine-Marie, have taken their summer vacation to coincide with their wedding anniversary on Canada Day. This year, as always, they planned their retreat at Manoir Bellechasse, a quiet resort in the woods, with a wonderful chef, a superb maître d', and a beloved owner. They weren't planning on the disruption of the Finney family reunion, or an unusual death.
As in a Christie mystery, Penny's tribute is a story set in an isolated lodge, with a limited group of suspects, family members and retainers, with the detective on the spot. Fortunately, Armand Gamache has the added expertise of his squad, familiar characters to readers. And, two members of the Finney family are familiar, when Three Pines residents, Peter and Clara Morrow, show up late for their reunion.
Penny's story has extra layers that always make her mysteries fascinating. Readers who hungered for more information about Reine-Marie will be pleased with the time spent on Armand's family life. His family is quite a contrast to the divided, unhappy Finneys.
The conversations in Penny's books are always treasures. The owner's comment that there is a rule against murder at the Manoir Bellechasse leads to a telling story. The sculptor, Pelletier, has a provocative comment, that God is a serial killer. And, there's my favorite comment, when Gamache talks about his wife, a librarian. "But you want murderous feelings? Hang around librarians," confided Gamache. "All that silence. Gives them ideas."
Louise Penny is a master of the traditional mystery. Armand Gamache might have been forced to take a busman's holiday, but it was a vacation readers will treasure, in A Rule Against Murder.
Louise Penny's website is www.louisepenny.com
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312377021 (hardcover), 336p.