I have finished the 23rd book for the book challenge. I reread A Rule Against Murder: A Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mystery by Louise Penny.
This story is primarily set in the wilderness of the Eastern Townships of Québec at the Manoir Bellechasse, a lakeside resort. Monsieur and Madame Gamache have gone there to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary after a difficult Spring. Their fellow guests are the Finneys, a strange family who are having a family reunion.
The family consist of the elder and Mrs. Finney; Thomas and Sandra, who want to best of everything, and Marianna, who plays the piano with passion and covers herself in veils and has a child of indeterminate sex named Bean; and Julia, who seems to be proper and kind and generous. They are waiting for the arrival of another brother Spot and his wife Claire. They are amusing to the Gamaches. Imagine their surprise when they discover that “Spot and Claire” are really Peter and Clara Morrow, their friends from Three Pines! The younger “Finneys” are actually Morrows. Mrs. Finney was the widow of Charles Morrow and they are here to unveil a statue of Charles Morrow in the garden of the Manoir Bellechasse.
The Finneys are a dysfunctional family, to say the least. They are emotionally repressed and unstable. There is a huge blowout the night after the unveiling, with Julia accusing her brothers of cruelty and ending with her running into the night. That night there is a big storm. In the morning, while out walking, Gamache hears a scream from a young gardener. He goes running to see what has happened. There is Julia Martin lying dead with the statue of her father fallen on top of her.
No one knows how the heavy statue could have fallen from its pedestal over on top of Julia. The storm couldn’t have knocked it over. Only a crane could have shifted it. But somehow it was moved to crush her. Everyone is a suspect. And everyone’s secrets from their childhoods and their adolescences is now open to Gamache and his team from the Sureté du Québec, which has been called in to investigate the murder, for that is what it is.
In the meantime, Gamache is dealing with his own private crisis, the naming of his next grandchild. Daniel’s wife is pregnant and they have selected names. The name they have chosen for a boy is Honoré, Gamache’s father’s name. He was a conscientious objector during the Second World War and was regarded as a coward and a traitor. Gamache doesn’t want his grandchild saddled with this name and he fights with his son over the phone in Paris about this and with himself and his feelings. He finally comes to the conclusions that he can live with his son’s decision because his father redeemed himself by apologizing after Gamache remembered his father had helped liberate Bergen-Belsen. But it had become a moot point. The baby is to be a girl and they will name her Zora, the name of Gamache’s “grandmother,” the Jewish woman his father had liberated from the concentration camp.
The Gamache’s return to Three Pines to celebrate Canada Day and their anniversary with Peter and Clara. Reine-Marie participates in the clog-dancing demonstration and Gamache watches with interest as a young boy spills his Coke and some salt from a salt shaker and the wasps and bees fly around the spills. He suddenly remembers back to what he observed at the Manoir Bellechasse and has figured out how the statue was moved. He races back to the Manoir and makes some phone calls to confirm his suspicions, only to find that the young waiter Elliot has gone missing and that his suspected murderer is trying to escape and that now young Bean is missing, too.
The rescue of Bean and the capture of the murderer and the resolution of the mystery comprise the remainder of the book. There is the added mystery of who the chef at the Manoir Bellechasse really is and why she seems so familiar and comforting to all who meet her. I loved this book. It’s a little far-fetched. I’m not so sure the statue could have been moved this way but supposedly this is the way things were done. The motive seems a little “out there” too but it could have been festering. At any rate, I love the Chief Inspector Gamache books and I loved this one.