A Rule Against Murder, Part 1

A Rule Against Murder, Part 1


When I came to Minotaur as a publicist in 2008, I was told that soon I’d begin working with the talented Louise Penny. I was handed a galley of A Rule Against Murder. It was July, and I dove into this wonderful summertime mystery, entranced. I had the utmost pleasure reading it, with its enchanting prose, exquisite storytelling, and a vivid cast of characters. Ghostly father figures lurk, their children left behind to ponder their anxieties and disappointments. Nothing is quite as it seems. I luxuriated in the setting of the Quebec forest with its creatures and secrets, the sprawling Manoir Bellechasse, and the strange Morrow family, who share DNA, a mutual distrust of one another, and not much else. And I met the Gamaches for the first time . . . Reine-Marie and Armand, celebrating their anniversary. Their loving union was a poetic and clever foil to the Morrows’ quiet hostility toward one another. I was hooked.

Those who have read Louise Penny’s books always remember their first one. A Rule Against Murder will always be one of my favorites for this reason. It does not take place in the beloved Three Pines, true, but Louise begins a journey here that explores Quebec and its history a bit deeper. To do this, we have to leave Three Pines from time to time.

I still remember speaking to Louise on the phone for the first time that late July. What was to come of that conversation was one of the most rewarding relationships I’ve found since becoming a publicist. We brainstormed about strategy for her new book, and I came away once again entranced, but also energized. That conversation that was the first of many fun strategy conversations with one of the cleverest minds I know. Many have asked me what it is like to work with Louise Penny. It is the same as reading one of her books: it is a powerful―and empowering―experience, sprinkled with some mischievous laughter along the way.

Recap (Chapters 1–12)

In the prologue, we meet the magnificent Manoir Bellechasse and its many makers, and its troublesome history before being turned into the finest auberges in Quebec. And we are forewarned: “The Robber Barons were back. They’d come to the Manoir Bellechasse once again, to kill.”

Gamache and Reine-Marie, following a decades-long tradition, have arrived at the Manoir Bellechasse to celebrate their thirty-fifth anniversary. The owner, Clementine Dubois, greets them warmly. But she apologizes and says that they unfortunately will have one of the smaller rooms in the back, as the Manoir is completely booked because of a family reunion. The Gamaches, simply happy to be there and see the ancient Madame Dubois one more year, begin their leisurely and luxurious stay. As the days pass, the Gamaches slowly get a sense of the wealthy Finneys:

Irene Finney: The Matriarch. Plump with soft white hair, with lots of white makeup to match her white complexion. “She looked like a soft, inviting, faded pillow, propped next to a cliff face.”

Bert Finney: The cliff face, Irene’s impossibly ugly husband, nearing ninety, Gamache guesses. He doesn’t say much, but seems courtly in his own way.

Thomas: The oldest brother, slim and attractive, and the most successful of all of the siblings. He’s polished yet cold, and likes to provoke his siblings.

Sandra: Thomas’ wife, seemingly bursting at the seams with insecurity and unhappiness and constantly making unreasonable demands on the staff of the Manoir Bellechasse.

Julia: The oldest daughter. Fair, lovely, and charming, she married a wealthy man, but is undergoing a divorce after his fraudulent investment practices came to light, and caused a very public scandal.

Marianna: The ugliest of all of the children, both in manners and appearance, she seems like an interloper to the family. She’s the only sibling who has a child, whom she seems to be raising in a very strange way.

Bean: Marinanna’s child, blond and beautiful, ten years old and often escaping into books and imagination. It’s not immediately apparent if Bean is a boy or a girl.

Gamache notices that this doesn’t feel like a very close or warm family. With the exception of Bert Finney, who is friendly to the Gamaches, the rest of the family seem ill at ease, trading awkward silences for subtle barbs toward one another. A couple of the Finneys surmise that Armand and his wife must be some sort of shopkeeper and cleaning woman since they were staying in a “broom closet” of a room at the Manoir.

The terrible heat and humidity feel like threat of what is to come. Pierre, the maître d’, has warned the guests that a storm is coming. What should be a relaxing retreat so far seems peppered with problems. Thomas and Julia both mention that Spot and Claire, the last of their siblings and his wife, will be arriving soon, and hint that they’re the worst ones of the family—hard to believe given what the family is like. Julia in particular is dreading it, and during an illicit smoke outside one evening, she confides to Gamache that her family makes her miserable.

Armand Gamache also hears some news from home that is unsettling for him. Reine-Marie had talked with their daughter-in-law, and learns they may name their baby after Armand’s father if it’s a boy. It’s meant to be a wonderful gesture, but to Armand, it’s troubling.

The staff at the Manoir have their own problems. Pierre, the maître d’ who has worked there for decades, is having trouble with the young Elliot. He’s one of the new servers and openly challenges Pierre’s authority, causing mischief among the ranks. Normally Pierre is exceptionally patient, and has trained young workers summer after summer, but Elliot seems a special case. Chef Veronique, who has also worked there for as long as Pierre has, tries to support the maître d’ who is also her friend, and asks him why Elliot gets to him. Pierre doesn’t have an answer.

The morning arrives that the loathsome final pair of Finneys are to arrive, but to the Gamaches’ surprise and delight, it turns out to be Peter and Clara Morrow, who they know from Three Pines. “Spot” was the nickname his siblings gave him. The two couples rejoice in seeing one another at the Manoir.

Gamache and Reine-Marie then learn from Madame Dubois that the whole family isn’t the Finney family—they are the Morrow family. Charles Morrow, Irene’s first husband, had died some time ago, and then she married Burt Finney. The children are Morrows. And the reason for this family reunion is to unveil a statue in Charles Morrow’s image that will sit forever on the grounds of the Manoir Bellechasse. Gamache had wondered about a huge marble plinth sitting very unnaturally on a corner of the grounds earlier. Soon, Madam Dubois says, the statue will arrive, and the grand unveiling will take place.

Clara especially feels uncomfortable with Peter’s refined but rude family—his mother calls her “Claire,” even after Clara being married to her son for years—and they ignore her good news that she will soon have her own solo show at the prestigious Galerie Fortin in Montreal. Clara came to the reunion to protect Peter from this horrid family, but that becomes difficult when Peter seems to regress in their presence, almost not in control of his own voice anymore—which is a source of at least one fight between the couple while they’re there.

Bean finds trouble when playing near the marble plinth and gets attacked by bees. Gamache removes the stingers and poison sacs and Reine-Marie applies calamine and kisses them better, while the rest of the Morrows stand nearby, squabbling with one another.

The big moment of the unveiling of the statue finally arrives, and is strangely anticlimactic. The Morrows say nothing after the canvas hood comes off, and continue on with their day.

The Gamaches take a look later, and are struck by the strangeness of it. The statue of Charles Morrow seems odd: While it looks as if he’s about to take a step, the figure does not look powerful and authoritative. His head is bowed, and although he’s about to say something, whatever he’s seeing has literally turned him to stone. Gamache wonders how the Morrows really feel about the statue.

That same evening, the guests are mingling and talking. The Gamaches talk breezily with Peter and Clara, and share some embarrassing news about the first time Armand met Reine-Marie’s family. Just then the rest of the Morrow children—Thomas, Marianna, and Julia—join them and overtake the conversation. Thomas throws a barb at Julia meant to hurt, and it has the desired effect—she loses her temper and rails at her siblings one by one, before saying to the room, “I know Daddy’s secret” and running outside. Reine-Marie and Gamache follow her, and through her tears, she tells them she’ll probably have to leave first thing in the morning: “They’ll never forgive me, you know.”

The storm that had been building finally hits in the middle of the night with startling force. The electricity goes out, torrential rain pounds at the windows and violent thunder and lightning attack the area. Gamache and his wife help the frazzled staff close some banging windows and doors. The storm eventually moves on, leaving behind cool breezes in its wake, and everyone goes back to bed.

The house wakes to sodden earth and drizzle, and the residents being to settle in for a lazy rainy day. But they hear terrible screams—Bean has been wandering and discovers the attic, filled with old taxidermy from the days when the inn was a hunting and fishing lodge. After Madame Dubois and the Gamaches sooth the frightened child, Irene Finney scolds Bean and makes Bean apologize for trespassing—an apology that Madame Dubois does not want from the frightened little one. After things settle down, they hear more screams—or is it crying?—this time from outside. Bean just wants more attention, Thomas retorts.

Gamache and Pierre walk towards the sound anyway. They find Colleen the gardener, sobbing and frightened, staring at the statue. The huge statue of Charles Morrow had indeed taken that step—and stepped right off the plinth. And onto his daughter, Julia. Crushing her.

Pierre and Gamache are stunned. They lead the shocked gardener inside, where Gamache calls his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir from the Sûreté de Québec, and tells him to come to the Manoir at once. Gamache breaks the tragic news to the family that Julia has been killed. They are disbelieving, even angry with Gamache. Irene Finney insists that she must see her daughter—a request to which Gamache eventually relents later in the day after the Sûreté de Quebec arrive—and she sees with utter horror her first daughter, killed inexplicably by the statue of her late husband. Charles, what have you done?

Beauvoir and Agent Lacoste and the other officers arrive, and secure the site. Julia’s death seems impossible. How could a statue that large could simply fall over, and on to a living person? The coroner begins an investigation, and discovers dirt under the corpse—not mud. Julia was killed before the storm; not during, not after. So the storm could not have knocked down the statue. Gamache understands then that this had to have been murder. Statues just don’t just fall down. Something—someone—made it happen.

As they begin their investigation, some of the Morrows feel fairly certain they know who did it—the shopkeeper and the cleaning lady! They tell one of the local officers, who brings the information immediately to Gamache’s team so they can follow up. After a chuckle, the family is finally told that the shopkeeper, Armand Gamache, is actually the famous head of homicide for the Sûreté de Québec. And he will find out who killed Julia.

Madame Dubois urges this. “What happened here isn’t allowed,” she says. When she and her husband bought the Manoir Bellechasse decades ago, they made a pact with the forest: there would be no more unnatural death, no more killing. There is no more hunting and fishing, birds are fed in the winter, mice are even caught alive and released. She’s seen what happens when creatures turn on each other. And she warns Gamache: “You must find out who did this. Because I know one thing for sure. If a person would kill once, they’d kill again.”

Favorite Quotes

“Chef Veronique loved nature, and found plenty of time to study it, and she knew that sometimes something unnatural crawled out of the womb, out of the woods.”

“Madame Dubois knew, from bitter experience, you can’t always choose, or like, your family.”

Discussion Questions

1. We are introduced to the Morrow family. What member are you most drawn to?

2. Who are some of the less obvious characters in A Rule Against Murder?

3. Louise Penny’s books are filled with rich sensory experiences—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. With A Rule Against Murder, we get the summertime sensory experiences, in addition to simple everyday ones. What are your favorite sensory passages or sentences in A Rule Against Murder?

4. Louise Penny plays with duality, and in A Rule Against Murder we see the juxtaposition of the unnatural within the natural. How is this illustrated? What are some other themes that you see?

5. Do you agree with Madame Dubois’ opinion about family? (See above under “Favorite Quotes”.) Can there sometimes be a choice to like your family?

6. What are your favorite humorous moments from A Rule Against Murder?

Discussion on “A Rule Against Murder, Part 1”

I have happened upon this page six years after the above comments. While reading the latest Louis Penny book, All the Devils Are Here, I am remembering the falling out between Gamache and his son Daniel and Gamache’s insistence that Daniel not name a son Honore. This has always bugged me because I feel as if if was never adequately explained. Why is Gamache so resistant to the use of the name Honore? And why is he okay with it later on when Annie and Jean Guy name their son Honore? If anyone is still monitoring these posts, I’d love some ideas.

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I continue to be impressed by Louise Penny’s depth of knowledge of psychology and human
nature. As a licensed counselor, I can see a number of incidences where she takes a well-known focus of counseling and weaves it into the story. There are several in A Rule Against Murder including the fascinating one of Chef Veronique. There is an approach in psychology (I hope I don’t confuse anyone) especially for people with a history of trauma, where the patient chooses a safe place that they remember. Research is showing how memories are stored, not just as visual images, but including all 5 senses. Even the body remembers (can’t wait to discuss Bury Your Dead). Some patients will describe their grandmother’s kitchen and the smell of warm bread, etc. By bringing up this memory during a stressful time, it can bring calm and relaxation. One doesn’t need to remember the full visual image (as Beauvoir could not but he could bring up the sensory components of the memory) to elicit relaxation. Most of the characters could not remember the visual image on an intellectual level because they were children when the Chef was on TV but remember how much better she made them feel when they were sick. Gamache’s reaction to mothballs is an example of a negative or traumatic memory without a visual image altho he still remembers that night vividly.

Also the contrast and comparison of cultures and languages is addressed in this book as it is in the others. Beauvoir often points out features of the English Canadian culture that are in stark contrast to his own French Canadian culture. I don’t see it so much of a duality as a contrast and comparison. It is more than language differences that make cultures different.

On second reading, I am drawn to Bert Finney. I wasn’t at first. His insightful comments shed
much light on the ‘story behind the story’ in this book. Ruth is my favorite in the other novels
and I love her humor. Reminds me of Maggie Smith. In this book Beauvoir’s thought about teeth being a motive for murder was hilarious. I highly recommend the audio books from Audible read by Ralph Coshum, who is very gifted.

An aspect that intrigued me was how Armand felt about his father, and the taunts of Irene about him, but how Bert gave him a new perspective when he told him about his father realizing that he’d been wrong and had the courage to change his mind about the war and also to apologize for trying to lead the Quebec people from joining in the fight against Hitler. It made Armand appreciate his father, Honore, in a brand new way that led him to feel comfortable in the end with his own son, Daniel, giving his newborn the name Honore if the child was a boy. I liked it that Bert told Armand that, in his eyes, Honore Gamache was a hero, not a coward. It was lovely to understand a bit about Armand’s background.

1. We are introduced to the Morrow family. What member are you most drawn to?

Julia. She has tried her whole life to put others at ease by kindness. Losing her father suddenly at age 20 or 21 through no fault of her own had to be traumatic. The only evidence we have of her ever being mean was that one phrase thrown out during the game about Peter’s pimple which set in motion everything. Was she being mean intentionally? In a fast paced game like that given the obvious visual clue I think not. It just “popped” out like Peter’s perpetually purple pimple. She is not implicated in any way with her husband’s criminal financial scandal and yet has paid a heavy price. She is haunted by loss and the need for love and came back to her family because they were all she had left.

2. Who are some of the less obvious characters in A Rule Against Murder?

Elliot the waiter about whom we see so many conflicting opinions. Charming, flirty, lazy, argumentative, a ring leader and maybe a leader. What his real motives are in engaging Julia Martin in conversation and being drawn to her are painted in many different lights.

3. Louise Penny’s books are filled with rich sensory experiences—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. With A Rule Against Murder, we get the summertime sensory experiences, in addition to simple everyday ones. What are your favorite sensory passages or sentences in A Rule Against Murder?

“The garden smelled of fresh turned earth and roses. Every now and then she caught a slight scent of herbs wafting from the kitchen garden. But the scent she longed for, and caught as she leaned into her husband, was sandalwood. It was more than his cologne, he seemed to exude it. It was how every season smelled. It was how love and stability and belonging smelled. It was the perfume of friendship and ease and peace.”

4. Louise Penny plays with duality, and in A Rule Against Murder we see the juxtaposition of the unnatural within the natural. How is this illustrated? What are some other themes that you see?

Heaven and Hell. The choices made by each character in the same physical location at the same point in time to see Heaven or Hell. To perceive their circumstances so differently.

5. Do you agree with Madame Dubois’ opinion about family? (See above under “Favorite Quotes”.) Can there sometimes be a choice to like your family?

Yes I agree with Madame Dubois. I think you can choose to LOVE your family though despite not “liking” their actions, words, etc. … And I think that applies universally.

6. What are your favorite humorous moments from A Rule Against Murder?

At the clogging competition: Gamache says to Ruth:

“Do you have a lee-sense for zat minky?” He pointed to the duck waddling behind the elderly poet. Ruth glared at him, but a tiny twitch at the corner of her mouth betrayed her. “Come on along, Rosa,” she said to the quacking duck. “He drinks, you know.”

#4. K.E., I’m glad that you mentioned the theme of the duality of heaven and hell and our choice as to whether we believe we are in heaven or hell at any given time. “The mind is its own place.” p. 95. Such a powerful idea and one that will be developed further in Part 2 of this book.

I love Bert Finney, Bean. Other than the Morrows…Chef Veronique and Clementine Dubois.

One of the things I find intriguing and unsettling in all of the Gamache books – is how I can see myself in the characters I like the least…Peter, Mrs. Finney, Sandra Morrow. I come face to face with the parts of myself that I like the least. I like that though, because they remind me of where I do not want to end up.

Peter reminds me how easy it is to be eaten up by jealousy and envy. Mrs. Finney reminds me how easy it is to isolate by being judge and jury of the rest of the world…and how reprehensible it is to purposely push people’s buttons to control them. Sandra Morrow reminds me what a horrible thing it is to constantly put oneself in the one down position; lesser than everyone around you because you believe you always get second best.

I believe we can cause ourselves an enormous amount of emotional pain depending on what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Whenever I start feeling down these days, I say to myself, “The mind is its own place. It can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.” I think that’s the quote.

I love and understand many of the least pleasant characters. They encourage me to be kinder to myself and a better human being. Each book talks about Gamache being willing to go to the darkest place inside his own head and make friends with what he finds there. I am finding it easier and easier to make friends with and admit to what is in the darkest parts of my mind.

If you’re up for it, these books provide a great resource for self-therapy!

I am skipping over to some of the Reading Group Guide questions. Here’s the first one:

Louise Penny has said that she initially set out to write A Rule Against Murder as a classic mystery, a tribute to Golden Age writers such as Christie and Tey and Sayers, masters of the hermetic environment. She wanted to take that form and bring it into the 21st century. As the story unfolds, in what ways does it follow—or diverge from—the conventions of traditional crime fiction?
I just love this question. Mystery novel aficianado that I am, I recognize that Christie, especially, liked to set her novels in a “hermetic environment”–that is, either at a manor house or a hotel where there were only a set number of people present when a murder occurred, and it was apparent the murderer had to be one of those present. Think of And Then There Were None, The Mousetrap, or even Halloween Party, where Hercule Poirot is present and a young girl is supposedly accidentally drowned, and you’ll see what I mean. I imagine a lot of you have your own favorite Christie or Sayers books that you could compare to Penny’s book.(Sorry, I can’t remember details about Tey’s books enough to discuss here. I will leave that to someone else). Gaudy Night, where Lord Peter Wimsey is aiding Harriet Vane in her endeavor to find the authoress of poisoned pen letters, is also an example of a situation where it’s basically a hermetic environment. (The perpetrator clearly has to be either a student or a faculty member). Agatha Christie was also famous for her “locked room” mysteries, which required a lot of brain work on the part of the reader to figure out HOW the murder could have happened(the murder itself was not in question). That last makes me think a lot of the situation Gamache finds himself in at Bellechasse. It’s clear that Julia Morrow seems to have been lured to the garden area where the sculpture of her father was located, but the HOW of the sculpture being moved to kill her is the big puzzler. Again, we see Penny’s homage to Christie in placing her mystery in a hermetic environment. That is, there are not really any viable suspects aside from the staff and the guests at the manoir. ( Hard to see how any passing “serial killer” could have managed to move the statue of Mr. Morrow by him(0r her) self). There’s another book where Dorothy L. Sayers makes the focus of Lord Peter’s inquiries the HOW rather than “Who dunnit”, and that is in Busman’s Honeymoon. In that case, Lord Peter and Harriet are on their honeymoon, at Tallboys the home that Harriet had loved from childhood, and the morning after they arrive, Bunter discovers the reason why the previous owner hadn’t been there to give them the key–he’s dead, in the wine cellar. Again, the crime is pretty much hermetically sealed– only someone acquainted with the previous owner, who lives in the immediate vicinity, is a viable suspect. The real puzzle, though, is again, HOW the murder was done. Once that is solved, the who will be solved also. It’s the same thing in A Rule Against Murder. Once Gamache can figure out HOW the murder was committed, he will then be on the right track to decide WHO did the murder.

You must enjoy mysteries as much as I do. I took a Continuing Education class “The Golden Age of Mysteries” at a nearby college a few years ago. All of us Senior Citizens enjoyed sharing our favorite authors and stories and hearing about the favorites of others.

Ah, the “Golden Age” of mysteries. One of my favorite periods and authors. I’d be interested, Barbara, in knowing which authors the instructor of that class included for your studies . At a guess, I’d say Agatha Christie, A. Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers for the British authors, and Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler for the Americans. But in particular, Christie is the one many other mystery writers try to emulate, for her plotting devices such as the “locked room” mysteries and the aforementioned “hermetic environment”. That hermetic environment did make things less complicated for her detectives like Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. I would add, that since Louise Penny has set the murder scene outside in this book, that she is both paying homage to Christie(and Sayers, too as I’ve discussed in my previous post) but tweaking it a bit also, simply by placing the murder outdoors and not inside. Christie is not known, however, for much development in her characters, and I’d have to say Penny has her beat there.

The golden age of detective fiction, how Iremember first being introduced to Dorothy L Dayers and Agatha Christie. As you say, their characters whilst interesting, were not developed as fully and extensively as Luoise Penny ‘s. As you progress through the Gamache series, more layers are revealed and private lives ‘exposed’.

You are absolutely correct. The main authors were Christie, Sayers and Doyle. We Did not study any American Authors. I still enjoy these three.An American Radio series during WWII was based on the new telling of the Adventures of Holmes and Watson by Dr. Watson. Hollywood also produced films of Holmes and Watson preventing Nazi sabatoge during WWII. Inspiration from Christie and Sayers are still seen in some writered today. Read an article today on the Golden Age “Cozy.” Mention was made of the ideal English Village where the murder rate is very high but does not seem to detract from the desirability of living there. The House Party setting was the other favorite device. These included the idea of a landed gentry still clinging to way of life that had been forever altered by WWI. I have read many of these types of books and enjoyed a trip to a place and time long gone. Gone except for the Village of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada.

I didn’t think I could enjoy these books any more than I did on first reading. Sharing this rereading with all of you has been so much more than I expected. I am amazed at the unique way each individual views the characters. There are so many threads, hues, colors and textures woven into even the simplest story lines. What a priviliege to share with others who recognize what a superb writer Louise Penny is. I anxiously await each new publication of four or five authors. Although I enjoy their novels, I consider Penny to be the most talented. Her books are truly Treasures.

Question 4. The stuffed, mounted animal heads in the attic of the manoir are an example of the unnatural within the natural, I think. The very natural child, Bean, is terrified when she finds them. Gamache is certainly startled when he sees all the eyes staring at him when he runs to the attic in response to Bean’s scream. Then the comparison of the animal heads to the stiff, staring heads of the Morrows is very effective. They are another unnatural element among the natural, as Julie noted.
I notice that I wrote “she” for Bean. I do think of Bean as a girl!

Oooh – that’s an excellent point, Cathryne – I forgot about those heads (as soon as I could!) I think Bean is a girl, too. Because she’s so smart! 😉

Actually, I think of Bean as a boy. My blond fine-featured grandson fits the description perfectly, and he is often mistaken for a girl. And, now, now, smart is not gender specific.

Cathryne, Julie, and Linda, I also find it difficult to think of Bean as just a “neuter”–that is, neither male nor female. Since Penny does not reveal Bean’s gender at the end of the book, I think perhaps she is sending a message about how we pile on expectations to a person, simply because that person is male or female. Anyway, I have had the thought that Bean is not such a handicap for a name as I first thought. If one drops the “a” out of the name, it becomes “Ben,” and if one drops the “n”, it becomes “Bea.” So whenever Bean hits puberty and decides which gender to identify with , he/she can modify the name so it reflects that choice.

I was surprised to realize when I first read

Bean has always been a boy to me. I hope Penny lets us know at some point as Bean matures. Children are more fortunate now than when I was growing up. I cried bitterly for an electric train like my cousin, Herbert, had. I think that I secretly resented that I could not have one because girls did not play with trains. I think my Daddy would have enjoyed playing trains with me as much as he and my uncle enjoyed playing with my cousin.

Peter and Clara are good friends of the Gamaches. Clara loves Peter. These facts have impelled me to give Peter the benefit of the doubt. We have seen many of his failings. I suspect he also has virtues and strengths. Clearly, his story is not over yet. I remain cautiously optimistic about his character.

What an amazing coincidence — I began reading A Rule Against Murder just last night. The storm is approaching, so I curtailed reading these comments (having found this posting in my Facebook page during a break from cleaning a closet) in order not to spoil tonght’s reading. I am intrigued by Louise Penny’s masterful, lyrical use of language and her characters, and have read several of her novels.

Welcome, Liz – we are actually reading all the Gamache novels in order while waiting for the latest one to be released! C’mon along! We’re having so much fun!

I need help. I really don’t know the meaning of question #4. I grasp the meaning of the words but do not know how to answer. “Juxtaposition of the unnatural in the natural? How is this illustrated?” Maybe I’m overthinking it or I may just be clueless in Georgia.

I’m with you a bit, Barbara – other than that this is a very natural setting, and murder is un-natural, it’s difficult to come up with much more. There’s the huge marble cube (and later, the statue for a little while, at least) set just beside the woods – so I guess that’s another example. Hmmmmm – thinking here – I think we can assume that by the “natural” – we mean the setting – the Manoir itself is a natural place/thing, even though it WAS made by humans. It’s been there, and set there with so much reverence for the natural that I think it has become natural.

The Morrow clan are most unnatural in so many ways. Then there’s the way they speak of “Spot and Claire” before they arrive. When they show up, Armand and Reine-Marie are astounded to see that they are not the worst of a bad group, but their very good friends. So, perhaps, we begin to see that the Morrows see the world in an unnatural way. It’s all backwards – the nasty is normal and natural, and the kind are to be sneered at.

That’s as far as I can get here – my brain hurts now. hahahaha.

Thanks. I think I see the idea in your examples. The Morrows and their view of life certainly is not natural.

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about reading this book again, as it had been my least favorite first time round. And I think that is because Peter has always made me feel uncomfortable and this book was full of his family. But I loved reading it again and experiencing a taste of Gamache on holiday. The heat and tension were palpable and I could almost feel the grass under my feet. I think Bert Finney was my favourite, which surprised me and I feel justified in continuing to dislike pathetic Peter. Oh how I love these books!

This was another one of my favorite passages – I suppose it could answer both Question 2 and Question 3:
“The storm moved on, to terrorize other creatures deeper in the forest. And the Gamaches returned to bed, throwing open their windows for the cool breeze the storm had left as an apology.”

Thank you to all of those eagle eyed readers who are making me look again. I have read this book more than once and missed many of the points raised in this discussion.
I think my favourite member of the Morrow family is Bert Finney, who is and isn’t a Morrow. I love the ‘ugliness’; of his looks with the consideration and love that he shows to others. Hadn’t picked up on the possible Bert/Marianna connection, but it does fit well.
Oh definitely Chef Veroniquie for my favourite and most complex secondary character. Though in every book I am drawn to Isabelle Lacoste, who returns to the murder sites to reassure the victims they will do their best to find the killers.

So funny – other than her “communing with the dead” and promising them that they will find the killer, I find Isabelle almost a blank character. She’s often described as “Like most Quebecois women, stylish” and nothing much else. Maybe it’s my perspective – in that I have met all the other characters before (in real life), and she is more of a mystery to me. It’s so interesting to me that she is someone who has garnered your interest.

I agree that she is a relatively bland/blank character [so far in the series], however I really like that she expresses the responsibility no doubt felt by all investigators, to find a murderer.
I think mayb she is an extension of Gamache’s attitude and is verbalising what his attitude to murder investigations is.

But I think that speaks volumes about her character. She has respect for the dead (as does her mentor, Gamache). And she makes it a point to act on that.

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