Still, I can’t stop myself from writing a review highly recommending A Rule Against Murder, the fourth in a series by Louise Penny, if for no other reason than to strongly urge mystery lovers who haven’t yet discovered Inspector Gamache to do so AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
And I would suggest you not start with number 4, but, just like Maria in The Sound of Music, start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start. Pick up Still Life, and begin your journey into the French-speaking part of Canada around Quebec in the little town of Three Pines.
Penny’s mysteries are gentle, but definitely not cozy mysteries. The townfolk – at least the ones we hear about in every book – are not typical small-town characters. They are complex, sometimes unlikeable, but always interesting. The protagonist, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, might be my favorite detective of all the mysteries I read – and I read a lot. He is smart and logical, kind and gentle, a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple. People who meet him can be lulled into thinking he’s simple, but he most definitely is not.
The first three books in the series had a mystery-within-the-mystery that encouraged you to read the next story to see how and if it’s wrapped up. That mystery is brought to a surprising and satisfying finish at the end of the third book in the series, The Cruelest Month.
While that storyline was tantalizing, the absence of it made A Rule Against Murder a refreshing change. That, and the fact that the first quarter of the book is simply a love story about Inspector Gamache and his marvelous wife Reine-Marie. Their relationship is one of the things I like best about this series, and it permeates this entire book.
Gamache and his wife are taking their annual vacation at the country inn where they had spent their honeymoon many years earlier. Penny’s descriptions about the couple’s sweet and loving relationship make this a love story as well as a mystery.
The Gamaches must share the inn with an extremely unpleasant and odd family, and predictably, murder ensues.
Gamaches team arrive at the inn and begin the process of trying to figure out the identity of the murderer.
Readers are rewarded with Penny’s beautiful descriptions of the location and the marvelous food and service. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me so wish I could be there. Well, except for the murder part.
The best thing about this book, and all of the Gamache mysteries, is Gamache himself. Treat yourself to a wonderful read.
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