This murder mystery novel (336 pages) was published in January of 2009 by Minotaur Books. The book takes you to rural Quebec, Canada. Melissa read A Rule Against Murder and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is compassionate, intelligent, measured in his speech, generous with his praise, quick to accept responsibility for cock-ups, and — not for nothing — always smells like sandalwood.
Gamache, his friends, family, and assorted villains have starred in 17 books to date. The best-selling novels are adored for the intricate — but not far-fetched — plots, lyrical writing, and characters that feel so real, you expect to meet them if you visit Canada.
Three Pines, the fictional village where Gamache lives with his adored and adorable wife Reine-Marie, is decidedly twee, but the vicious crimes that he investigates there are not. In this fourth book in the series, he and his wife leave Three Pines — and the usual cast of characters — to celebrate their wedding anniversary at the Manoir Bellechasse, a remote and luxurious mansion on a lake, surrounded by forest.
Unfortunately, the Finney family — rich, cultured, horrible people — has also gathered at the inn for a family reunion. During a storm that disrupts the stifling heat and humidity of the summer, one of the Finneys is killed. Inspector Gamache senses murder, and the suspect pool is rich with prospects, including the family members who throw daggers with words and glares, and the Bellechasse’s staff: chef, maître d’, and the imperious owner herself.
With this installment, Louise Penny deviates from her usual narrative approach to pay homage to golden-age, locked-room mysteries. Imagine an Agatha Christie mystery, but with probing examination of the characters’ psyches. It’s brisk, exciting, and lush with atmosphere, as it explores the dark and light in people’s hearts.
For there was something unnatural about the Manoir Bellechasse from the very beginning. It was staggeringly beautiful, the stripped logs golden and glowing. It was made of wood and wattle and sat right at the water’s edge. It commanded Lac Massawippi, as the Robber Barons commanded everything. Over the years the wilderness receded. The foxes and deer, the moose and bears, all the wild creatures hunted by the Robber Barons, crept away… Towns and villages sprang up. Cottagers, weekenders, discovered the nearby lakes. But the Bellechasse remained. It changed hands over the generations and slowly the stunned and stuffed heads of long dead deer and moose and even a rare cougar disappeared from the log walls and were tossed into the attic. As the fortunes of its creators waned, so went the lodge. It sat abandoned for many years, far too big for a single family and too remote for a hotel. Just as the forest was emboldened enough to reclaim its own, someone bought the place. A road was built, curtains were hung, spiders and beetles and owls were chased from the Bellechasse and paying guests invited in. The Manoir Bellechasse became one of the finest auberges in Quebec. — Louise Penny
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