Title: A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache #4)
Author: Louise Penny; read by Ralph Cosham
Publishing Info: Blackstone Audio, 2009 (original by Minotaur, 2008, 322 pages)
Source: Digital library
It is the height of summer, and Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse, an isolated, luxurious inn not far from the village of Three Pines. But they're not alone. The Finney family -- rich, cultured, and respectable -- has also arrived for a celebration of their own.
The beautiful Manoir Bellechasse might be surrounded by nature, but there is something unnatural looming. As the heat rises and the humidity closes in, some surprising guests turn up at the family reunion, and a terrible summer storm leaves behind a dead body. It is up to Chief Inspector Gamache to unearth secrets long buried and hatreds hidden behind polite smiles. The chase takes him to Three Pines, into the dark corners of his own life, and finally to a harrowing climax.
This may be the most satisfying yet of the Inspector Gamache series, at least after the first. While the last two books have bothered me with the amount of plotting against Gamache that goes on, that has vanished from this book. We are still treated to some views of the dark interiors of people--this series really doesn't qualify as "cozy," not because it's a police procedural (though it is, for the most part), but because Penny doesn't flinch from exploring the dark bits in everyone. In fact, I could wish she did, because I'm not sure I believe everyone has so many dark bits, and a few of the characters who are supposed to be sympathetic end up not being very much so. (Ask me about Peter and Clara Morrow and their relationship and I'll probably start ranting).
On the other hand, the mystery kept me guessing, and both the puzzle and the clues were well-constructed. The gradual revealing of Gamache's own history always pull me in, and there was just about the right amount of action for me. The writing remains top-notch, the settings deeply evocative, and I remain ambivalent about the series. I'll keep going, but probably only in small doses.
If you like your mysteries a bit more meaty than cozy, and don't mind feeling at times like everyone is a bit unpleasant underneath, this is a series you don't want to miss, because they are incredibly well-written. If, on the other hand, you prefer to stay on the lighter side of the mystery genre, you might want to think twice.
Full Disclosure: I checked A Rule Against Murder out of my (digital) library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."