Tuesday, September 6, 2011


For me, Louise Penny’s A Rule Against Murder was a mixed bag.

The book had Penny’s usual stellar writing.  It had her sharp insights, quotes from classics, and deep psychological probing, but . . . .

This was the story of the Morrow family.  While on vacation, Inspector Armand Gamache comes upon Peter Morrow’s family reunion.

Morrow’s family is more than dysfunctional.  They trash one another with every word. 

The family’s dysfunction causes Gamache to consider his own family, and to see them as healthy and loving even though a part of the Morrow family attack on Gamache comes from Morrows who knew Gamache’s father.

In my Sunday Quote this week, I used a quotation from Penny’s The Cruelest Month:  “Love wants the best for others.  Attachment takes hostages.”

That quote could be the hallmark of A Rule Against Murder, and that was the problem for me.  I got tired of the Morrow family’s incessant harping, using words to destroy one another.  In excess of two hundred pages of family fighting was more than I could enjoyably read.

Only one Morrow family in-law and a child had redeeming qualities.

Not that the family arguments didn’t embody the kind of evil often present in dysfunctional families.  They did.  People hide illnesses and other secrets.  They hold grudges.  They attack one another mercilessly in a myriad of ways.  

When someone murders a Morrow, the murder had to come from within the family.   

But my thought was, “I’ve read enough of this.  I could have gotten the point in a book that was one hundred pages shorter.”

Not that my feeling about the book will keep me from reading the new Louise Penny.  I know what you get with Louise Penny.  You get psychology, murder based on feelings as Gamache often says.  And I know the books are excellent, including this one.

Penny’s books are character studies.  The mystery in this one is first in how the murderer committed the crime.  Penny shields the method almost to the end.  And Penny meticulously plants the clues. 

So the book is high quality, just as always.  My feeling about it is my feeling. 

I admire Louise Penny.  Her books are one story with book-length episodes.  This episode gave us blinding insight into the artist Peter Morrow and his family. 

It will be interesting to see what the new book brings.  

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