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by Louise Penny
St Martin's Minotaur, January 2009
322 pages
ISBN: 0312377029

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie have been coming to the Manoir Bellechasse for as long as they've been married; they spent their wedding night with Clementine Dubois in her wonderful lodge. So it is this year, in the middle of the summer, that they arrive to find they have been given The Forest Room, in the back. The Gamaches are quite happy with this; unlike the unhappy family that has taken over the rest of the lodge, they are, "perfectly happy with what we're given."

The Finneys have gathered at the Manoir Bellechasse for some kind of family reunion. They are not really a large family: Thomas Finney and his wife Sandra; Julia Martin, recently widowed; Marianna Finney and her child Bean (father unknown?); Bert and Irene Finney, the matriarch and her second husband, and Peter and Clara Finney, who turn out to be friends of the Gamaches. For such a small group of people, the layers and levels of family discord are stunning. Not unexpected, given that dysfunctional families are far more the norm than not, but still - nobody figured on murder.

The ostensible reason for the reunion is the unveiling of a statue of Charles Morrow, Irene's first husband and the father of all the children. The statue is huge, and Julia doesn't stand a chance when the statue topples over onto her. The problem, apart from the obvious one of who killed Julia, is how in the world did that person get the statue to fall?

Chief Inspector Gamache is asked to help the locals investigate. With his usual low-key thoroughness and insight, he does solve all the problems that stand in the way of a solution.

Louise Penny has done another wonderful job here. Fans of the previous books will not be disappointed. If one picks up A RULE AGAINST MURDER out of order, it's a good one to read out of sequence. Nobody at the Manoir Bellechasse is on their own turf, except for the owner and a few staff-people. So the back-stories aren't so important. The only criticism I've ever heard about the series is that Gamache is too perfect, which may be true, but I don't find that his perfection in any way detracts from my enjoyment of the series.

A RULE AGAINST MURDER appeared in Canada and the UK under the title THE MURDER STONE.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, April 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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