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Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny, 2008, * * * *

July in Quebec can be quite hot and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his beloved wife Reine-Marie are looking forward to spending their anniversary at their favorite inn -- Manoir Bellechasse.  When the Gamaches arrive they are a bit suprirsed to find the inn almost full due to a booking by an extended family named Finney, who is planning a ceremony to memorialize their late father.  It would be an understatement to label the Finneys as dysfunctional.  There is so much animosity among the four gtrown children, their spouses and their mother that it is a wonder they can coexist on the same planet. The emotional powder keg is obvious to Gamache and his wife as they begin to doubt the restorative brenefits of their holiday thinking that  it would have been better to go to Three Pines, the wonderful village that is the fictional setting for most of her books. Louise Penny has created in her "Inspector Gamache series" a clever combination of a police procedural and a cozy mystery novel.  Having a bona fide policeman as a protagonist lends a feeling of credibility and legitimacy to the pursuit of the wrongdoer, yet the nature of the deed divorces the tale from that of drug dealing, serial killer, or great conspiracy.  The novel is a classic "locked room" mystery with the available suspects limited to those at the inn at the time the crime was committed. The author has done an interesting thing with the main characters in her series.  Instead of introducing them dully in the first of the series, she lets the situations in which they become involved gradually explain what has happened in their lives prior to the first novel in the series. In this way she is able to avoid the tedium of reintroducing each character in each book and possbily boring her growing cadre of readers.  She carefully plants an enigmatic seed in the beginning chapters of the book which reveal more about her major players as the novel progresses.  I am a huge Louise Penny fan and am glad that my friend Phebe introduced me to this wonderful writer and series.

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