59 pages 1 hour read

Louise Penny

A Rule Against Murder

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2008

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Introduction

A Rule Against Murder is the fourth book in Louise Penny’s acclaimed Chief Inspector Gamache series. Published in 2009 by Minotaur Books, the novel was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award. Penny’s Gamache series is praised for its thematic depth; set in Quebec, Canada, the series goes beyond a conventional mystery plot to probe the culture and history of Quebec. In addition, Gamache is a much-beloved fan favorite: a detective with heart and integrity who looks to the emotional lives of the victims to solve their murders. This popularity has resulted in numerous awards and accolades for the series, which was adapted by Amazon into a television series called Three Pines.

This study guide refers to the ebook edition, published in 2009 by Minotaur Books.

Plot Summary

In A Rule Against Murder, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary at their favorite place, the Manoir Bellechasse, an auberge (inn) deep in the forests of Quebec. Their stay coincides with another event, the Finney-Morrow family reunion, for which the family has taken the rest of the rooms in the lodge. When the last members of the family arrive, Gamache and Reine-Marie are delighted to discover that it is their friends, Peter and Clara Morrow, from the village of Three Pines.

Although Peter and Clara are kind, wonderful friends, Peter’s family is snobbish and difficult, and the tense family dynamics swirl throughout the lodge, affecting visitors and staff alike. Family tensions come to a head after the unveiling of a statue of Charles Morrow, the long-deceased patriarch of the family. One of the Morrow children, Julia, is at the reunion for the first time in many years, having been estranged from the family. After Julia is found dead, crushed by the statue of Charles Morrow, Gamache is forced to abandon his vacation and undertake the investigation, aided by his Sûreté (Quebec police) team.

The investigation, while focused on finding the killer, also needs to determine how exactly the killer pushed the heavy statue off its pedestal, a mystery that confounds Gamache. As he ponders this conundrum, he and his team question and observe the family, convinced that the killer is among them. When he spends a rare day off in Three Pines with Reine-Marie, he discovers the answer to the puzzle of the statue: Sugar had been placed between the statue and its base, making it easier to move. This in turn leads Gamache to suspect that the killer is Pierre Patenaude, the head waiter of Manoir Bellechasse.

Gamache returns to Manoir Bellechasse to confront Pierre and narrowly blocks the man’s escape. Pierre takes Bean, one of the Morrow children, hostage, and Gamache is forced to confront him on the roof of the lodge. Gamache slips when he tries to save Bean, and Pierre ends up saving them both. Gamache is forced to confront the fact that his assumption that the killer was one of the family was wrong—and almost caused the death of a child. Later, Pierre confesses that he killed Julia because he was bitter that her imprisoned, soon-to-be ex-husband had bankrupted his father, along with many others, by running a pyramid scheme.

While the investigation is going on, Gamache deals with a ghost from his own past. His son wants to name his child after Gamache’s father, an infamous figure in Canadian history. Gamache, who has always believed himself to be reconciled with his father’s legacy, must grapple with the fact that he still has far to go in the quest to fully forgive his father.

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