My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another great addition to Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache Series. Unlike most of the books in the series, this one is not set in the village of Three Pines itself (the villagers are spared a murder!, albeit temporarily), but rather at a nearby luxury hotel hidden in the woods. Inspector Gamache and his wife are celebrating their anniversary at the hotel, while the rest of the rooms are taken by Mrs. Finney and her extended family.
It becomes clear that while her newly married name is Finney, her children from a previous marriage are all Morrows, including Gamache's friend artist Peter Morrow from nearby Three Pines, who is the last of the four children to arrive. His wife Clara, who is essentially the co-protagonist of the series, arrives with him, where they meet the others: oldest brother Thomas and his wife Sandra, older sister Julia, and younger sister Marianna. There's also a grandchild of undetermined gender named Bean, as well as Mrs. Finney's new husband Bert, who was himself a lifelong friend of Mrs. Finney's late husband, Charles Morrow. Several staff of the hotel are prominent, and a couple of the Three Pines regulars make brief appearances, but this story is primarily about the Morrows.
As a study of a dysfunctional, bitter family, A Rule Against Murder is brilliant. It is heart-rending to see all the siblings tear into each other while the matriarch dispenses little love combined with plenty of judgment. Inevitably one of the family is murdered, at which point Gamache takes over.
The murder mystery itself is neither terribly elaborate nor compelling. The method of killing the victim seems rather improbable, a fact that seems to increasingly be a feature of the Gamache series. But the reason to read this series if not for any Agatha Christie-style twists, but rather for the psychological insights of the author, that are primarily viewed and revealed through the eyes of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
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