After spending two weeks in July on a Louise-Penny-inspired road trip, it was even more fun to return to the world of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team from the Montreal Surete. If you like thoughtful character-driven mysteries where the “who” is less important than the “why” and with a strong sense of place, this series is for you. These novels are not fast-paced tales of suspense but rather explorations of human relationships and tensions that lead to murder. Set in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec, they frequently center around the town of Three Pines—a fictional village based on a mix of two real small towns—Knowlton and Sutton (which I can now say are absolutely charming).
Though my traveling companions (my mom and sister) have read all the books in the series, I’ve lagged behind a bit, perhaps because I like the idea of having more of them to read. I bought the 4th book in the series in Knowlton so it has the British/Canadian title, The Murder Stone, but the U.S. edition is titled A Rule Against Murder.
In this novel, Inspector Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, are celebrating their wedding anniversary at the Manoir Bellechasse, a lovely old lodge on the shores of Lake Massawippi not far from Three Pines, something they do every year. Most of the remaining rooms at the lodge are taken up by several generations of the Finney family—at the inn for some sort of family gathering. The Gamaches have friendly but superficial interactions with the Finney family—dining together and playing bridge in the evenings. However, things get less peaceful when the last family member arrives with his wife and even more interesting when someone is murdered.
Gamache is quickly joined in the investigation by two key members of his team—Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and Agent Isabelle Lacoste—and everyone is a suspect from the chef in the kitchen to a Three Pines resident Gamache knows well. The mystery to be solved is not just who killed the victim or how the murderer actually did it but also the motive; however, as in past books, that is only part of the story.
Because Louise Penny is fond of describing the food her characters eat, I would suggest reading this while drinking a strong cup of cappuccino and eating a piece of sugar pie (a dessert I really didn’t need to know existed.)