A Rule Against Murder, Part 1

Introduction

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?

Sarah MelnykSarah Melnyk is a Publicity Manager at Minotaur Books. She has worked as a publicist for Penguin USA, Harcourt, and Storey Books in Vermont. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Discussion on “A Rule Against Murder, Part 1

  1. Jane F. says:

    Thank you for that wonderful introduction, Sarah. I also found the world around the Manoir Bellechasse interesting. I believe this is the first time we get to see Armand Gamache at ease, in a different setting from either the Surete or investigating at Three Pines. It’s almost, in fact, as if we the readers are also on vacation with Armand and Reine-Marie. I loved that first part of the book, when we were getting to know the staff, and the other guests at the resort.
    All right, now for that first question:
    We are introduced to the Morrow family. What member are you most drawn to?
    At first, I was going to answer Julia, as most of the other Finney/Morrow clan are just too dreadful to identify with. However, after thinking it over a bit, I think my favorite character is Bean. Yes, Bean, the child who has to live with the name of a vegetable which her mother gave her, mainly because it is gender neutral. We find that Bean’s mother in fact has not told any of her family members whether Bean is a boy or a girl. Now, this may sound all right in theory, but all of us have identities shaped in no little part in knowing which gender we are. I have to wonder what will happen to this child when he/she hits puberty! But in spite of the burdens that this child’s mother has placed on him/her, this is still a child who is imaginative and full of promise.

    • Lizzy K says:

      I agree with the majority. Bean is my favorite. I feel for this child though. What will the repercussions be later in life. I’m so glad he has Gamache and his wife to show him some true character and affection.

  2. Sarah M. says:

    Thanks, Jane! I too was immediately drawn to Julia in the first half. She seemed complex, and I wanted to get more of the story behind her. She seemed to be able to charm, a quality that the rest of the Morrows lacked, and the contrast was fascinating. Bean – we could write novels about Bean! So much to ponder there, which certainly will happen in Week One and I’m sure will happen in Week Two, as well…

  3. Linda Maday says:

    MORROW FAMILY MEMBER

    Such juicy characters aren’t they?

    Of course Bean would seem a natural choice, even Gamache is drawn to the enchanting child. Though experiencing an unusual upbringing, Bean is surprisingly grounded. I thoroughly believe this child is comfortable and unconcerned about the debate concerning gender. I would love to meet Bean.

    Yet there is something about Bean’s mother that intrigues me? If she is as unconventional as she tries to appear, how is Bean so well grounded and bright? I would like to meet Marianna away from her family. Being together seems to bring out the absolute worst in all members of the Morrow family.

    That being said, the one I would most like to have lunch with would be Bert Finney. Mr. Cliff Face does not have a heart to match. In the book it is his conversations that draw me in. I like–his sense of humor, “Seven mad Morrows in a verchere, what could possibly go wrong?”; his courtliness in always speaking a little French to the Gamaches; and his loyalty to his dead friend. It appears he was the only one that really knew or cared for the Morrow patriarch. I would love introduce him to our poet Ruth, and then take the two of them to lunch with the dear Gamache and order up a little Bean salad.

    • Carol Miro says:

      I, too, am intrigued by Marianna. She raised a remarkable child, has had an interesting career, successful not only monetarily, but in a way that is a positive force in the world. Her persona around her family seems so much at odds with what she brings to Bean and her life away from the family. It is so toxic for her to be around them, Thomas, Sandra and her mother are totally poisonous and destroy everyone around them. I hope in a future book, Bean and Marianna come to Three Pines and we learn more about them. In this book, we see the origins of Peter’s behavior. I think he would like to be kind, loving, and generous to Clara and others, but cannot take the leap to live those feelings. Maya Angelou has said “When I knew better, I did better” In the Morrow family, doing better is never on the table and in fact very dangerous is that family. I think Peter may know better, but he cannot take the risk to do better and this is the seed of his destruction.

      • Margaret says:

        Carol, I agree. This book feels to me like the “story of Peter.” (Amazing the things we see in Louise’s books on rereading. This idea was genius.)

        We are learning how Peter’s mind works, what makes him so poisonous when he would like to be kind… or at least, he thinks he would like to be kind. Is anyone ever kind in his family? Julia is, she learned it, but not from family. The story explains so much about Peter, particularly in contrast with the actions of his family members, as well as the staff at the manor.

        • FionaTheBrit says:

          But surely Julia is only kind to build her own confidence. She does not really understand that not everyone likes us, and we should not have to be liked by all people. My mother used to tell me, “if you are nice people will like you.” It is not true, and it can betray what and who we are. We should not be deliberately cruel or unkind but we do not always have to be nice.

        • Jane F says:

          What a great insight, Margaret. “The story of Peter,” indeed. This book, presenting as it does, Peter’s family members, with all their warts exposed, is really an eye opener. It’s sort of like Peter being a changeling. Amongst his family, he is just “Spot,” but in Three Pines and elsewhere, he is Peter Morrow, famous artist. What’s that scripture about a prophet having no honor in his own family? I think about that, except of course, Peter is no prophet.
          Now, I also have to wonder–why on earth (other than his good looks and artistic ability) did Clara fall for Peter?( Of course, good looks alone are reason for a lot of young women, so perhaps I can cut her some slack there. Also, since he WAS from the “Montreal Morrow” family, he had to look like a good catch). But,WHY does she put up with all the crap that goes on at these family reunions? What does that tell us about her, and perhaps about HER family dynamics?
          It’s also quite telling, I think that none of the Morrow siblings who married produced children. That makes me wonder, too, why Peter and Clara never had any child. I suspect either infertility as a result of inbreeding on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Morrow, or the more likely scenario that none of their children wants a child, as their own childhoods were so rotten they can’t even contemplate having a child of their own. Ironic, isn’t it, that Marianna, the unmarried Morrow, is the only one to have had a child? If the guesses of some of our more observant readers is correct, and Marianna is in fact a “love child” between Mrs. Morrow and Bert Finney, that would explain a lot. She may not have the physical attractiveness of her other siblings, but apparently she has something much more important than that–the ability to have a child and give it love. Of course, once she gets into the Morrow orbit, she also gets sucked into the toxic vortex. Sad!
          Back to Clara– I for one would still like to know more about HER family background. Are her parents still living? Does she have any siblings? Cousins? Aunts? Uncles? I mean, unless Clara’s parents were both an only child, she should have other relatives. What’s the backstory there? My inquiring mind wants to know!

          • Julie says:

            Oh, yes, Jane – some more information about Clara’s background would be great. As to why she married Peter in the first place, it’s a mystery, isn’t it? When we’re introduced to Clara and Peter in Still Life, they seem like a normal, happy couple – and Ben is a close and trusted friend. We don’t see any cracks in the veneer at first. Of course, later, we learn that everything has a crack in it – it’s how the light gets in. With each book, we learn more about the Morrows’ marriage (Clara and Peter, not the rest), and we see how it moves from the first glimpse in Still Life, to something that looks very different. But how did it start? Was she simply attracted because he was handsome? Or did she sense something in him that need fixing? So many women take up damaged men, hoping to mend them some how. At least, that’s how I see a lot of early marriages to the “wrong ” people. None of us gets out of here without some damage – we all have faults and cracks. It’s how we deal with them that dictates our character. I think we can safely say that Clara has a lot of character, but it would be nice to know why she loved Peter in the first place…

  4. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    The member of the Morrow family drawn to–Bean. So far we all seem to agree. I don’t find much to be drawn to in the other Morrows. Toxic and noxious describes them and the air surrounding them.
    I do like Bert Finney but wonder how he could endure them.
    Madam DuBois is also a likeable character.

    • Julie says:

      Barbara, I have to wonder WHY he endures them, though we get a few glimpses that he really loves his wife, and wishes she were more open with her children, so they might love her too. While, of course, I am drawn to Bean and so, so, sorry for this child, who seems nothing more to his or her mother than a weapon to turn on her family!

      I believe Marianna is a “love child” of Bert Finney and Mrs. Morrow’s. It’s why she’s not as outwardly attractive as the others, and there is a hint of this somewhere near the end. It’s just a hint, of course, and that’s all I need, hahahaha.

      The one I am drawn to is Sandra. Okay, maybe not DRAWN TO, but she cracks me up! I find the constant “is HIS piece of cake larger than mine?” so funny! I know she is just annoying as all get out, but she has so much to put up with! I so identify with her having to diet before facing her husband’s family, not to mention the crud her husband puts out toward her while they are together. I get the impression that while some of the others are their very worst selves while the family is around, Thomas is like this all the time, and Sandra is stuck with him.

      Another thing I love is how Peter comes undone around his family – immediately, the crumbs that normally find a way into Clara’s hair are now on Peter’s shirt, and he can’t seem to keep that shirt tucked in, while Clara becomes sleek and pulled-together!

      I know this family – I grew up with them. It takes all one’s might to find your own way when you are away from them. When they’re near, you revert to familiar roles. The same fights break out – the same barbs, the same complaints… I feel eternally sorry for these grown children having to show up year after year to these family reunions. I know they don’t “have to”, except that, somehow, they do.

      The insights some of this brings into Peter and his insecurities is the main nugget I pull from this book, and I love the way Louise Penny does this! None of us have appreciated the way Peter has treated Clara. We understand so much, now that we’ve seen a little of his upbringing. It doesn’t excuse his outright “putting down” of Clara, but we do begin to understand it. Coming from a dog-eat-dog family can do that to a person. Of course, we expect that now that he is grown and in a loving relationship, he should do better, and be better to Clara. Time will tell if he can ever manage that.

      • Linda Maday says:

        I do have to admit, I liked Peter even less after this book. I did however like the fact that for the first time we see Clara pushing back and not just acting oblivious or meekly retreating.

        • Julie says:

          Yes – understanding where his insecurities come from doesn’t excuse his behavior at all – it’s time to grow up, for goodness’ sake, and be the kind of person you want to be. It was nice to see Clara push back, wasn’t it? I think seeing the people we care about (even the fictional ones) grow and develop is so exciting! I have to admit that Ruth left me intimidated and a little cold after the first reading of Still Life, but this group has me going back and taking second and third looks – and while I still wouldn’t do it her way, I do love to see the glimmers of the soft center!

        • Panzi says:

          Where once I admired the elegant and handsome Peter for his love of his somewhat plainer wife, I began to dislike him here. He doesn’t take up for Clara when his family mocks her and morphs into a person as unlikeable as the rest of the Morrows. In fact, I like him less after each novel. Which is to say I positively loathe him by the end of “How the Light Gets In.”
          I, too, am drawn to Bean. And once I got past this strange idea of Marianne to keep her family guessing about Bean’s gender, I liked her. Her family gives her no credit for her successes and insist that Thomas play the piano for their entertainment when Marianne is by far the more accomplished musician. She of all the Morrows strikes me as the only one who would be kind and likeable away from her family. The others strike me as loathsome no matter where they are or whom they are with.

        • FionaTheBrit says:

          I too enjoy when Clara takes on the odious Mrs. Finney, but am sorry that Clara does not fight back a bit more.

          They have both been using the wrong the name for each other, but while I think Clara has done this inadvertently, I am left believing that Mrs. Finney has called Clara, Claire, deliberately. Why would she not simply correct Clara the first time Clara addresses her as Mrs. Morrow – “Actually Clara, my name is Mrs. Finney, I remarried after my first husband’s death.” Is Mrs. Finney’s use of Claire, instead of Clara, her way of saying, you have not bothered to get my name correct, so I will not get your correct? Childish in the extreme, but then this whole family seems doomed to live a childhood horror for ever.

      • Linda says:

        I absolutely loved that Peter spills, gets crumbs, etc. (normally what happens to Clara) and that Clara becomes pristine among the Morrows. What a role reversal.

        • Jane F says:

          Linda,
          I also liked the part where Peter was the one looking disheveled and Clara was looking pristine! Quite a role reversal there!

        • Linda Maday says:

          Peter was truly revealed wasn’t he? To me he came across as whiney and self-centered. True, his family is dysfunctional but as a grown adult he has the ability to rise above that. His carefully tended “poor picked on me” attitude may very well be the root of his jealousy of Clara’s talent. (Intentionally leaving the paint spots on his hands to play up the fact that he believes they are the reason for his family nickname Spot may well be one of his more interesting paintings.)

      • Barbara H. Johnson says:

        ——– SPOILER ALERT ——————-
        I had completely overlooked the import of Bert Finney’s remark to Gamache about the Marianna Islands. Two readings and I did not pick up on it. Thanks for the help.

        • Julie says:

          It was a teensy little comment – I sure didn’t see it the first time!

        • Panzi says:

          I’ve read it twice, and still don’t remember his comment nor did I associate it with Marianne’s parentage.

          • Julie says:

            In chapter 32 Finney says to Gamache – ‘ “You know the Mariana Islands, sir? They’re where the American troops left to liberate Burma.” Finney stopped then and looked over to the four chairs, one of which contained a woman and her child, both very unlike the other Morrows.’ This is the only hint we have of this, but I am choosing to believe it means that Marianna is Finney’s child, not a Morrow.

  5. Barbara says:

    I have a question. We know Penny uses known poets for some of her lines, but where do Ruth’s poems come from? From Penny?

    • Julie says:

      Somebody said they’d heard Louise say in an interview that they were Margaret Atwood’s poems that are attributed to Ruth – though I didn’t hear this myself – just reporting what someone said – I think in the Still Life discussion.

    • Linda Maday says:

      In Brutal Telling there are acknowledgements regarding some poetry used from Atwood and others. as well, yes there have been interviews with Louise Penny where she also acknowledges Atwood. All the poetry ascribed to Ruth is by Atwood. You can Google this and you can also find some info in the books of the series.

    • Sarah M. says:

      I can answer that, Barbara. The poems are used, with permission (and acknowledged on the permissions page) – they’re by Margaret Atwood from her Morning in the Burned House, and a self-published book of poetry by the late Marylyn Plessner called Vapour Trails.

    • Panzi says:

      Google “Ruth Zardo’s poetry’ and you will find that Penny uses three or four different poets including Leonard Cohen who Penny says is the only poet who allows her to use his poems for free.

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks to everyone for their replies! I look forward to reading Atwood and the other poets.

  6. I’m thinking yes. Does anyone know for sure?

  7. KB says:

    Although not technically a Morrow, I was most drawn to Albert Finney. His intelligence, groundedness, humour, and spirit were such a contrast to the “Mad Morrows”. Thomas and Sandra were repulsive. Thomas – unnecessarily cruel. Sandra – so hard done by. Marianna….using her child as a weapon against the family….that was unnerving. Peter has always been “off”. His veneer slipped though in this book, so that his brokenness was out there for all to see. And the mother…. ye gods! The horror. The only real Morrow sibling who was at all attractive as a person was Julia. She seemed authentically kind, even though she was too caught up in appearances and what the world thinks. Assuming that Bean is a Morrow (not a Finney), Bean is the most attractive of the bunch. Bean appeared to be a spirited and (fairly) confident child who didn’t get stressed about the tension, ugliness and pettiness of the rest of the Morrow clan.

    • Jane F says:

      Yes, but KB, IF we assume that Bean’s mother is the love child of Bert Finney and Mrs. Morrow, then that makes Bean a Finney, not a Morrow. That would explain a lot about her personality, too. Of course, she hasn’t grown up in a home where the father lived in fear of his children–fear that they would be the ones to squander the family fortune, not considering that if he’d filled them with love and respect, they would’ve been a lot less apt to be what he feared. Anyway, without a warped father figure, and even with a mother so loony that she would give a child a stupid name like Bean, and not tell anyone in her family what gender the child is, Bean is pretty much a normal child. (Except for all the clocks in her room–that is some kind of neurosis there, but not a crippling one, I’d say). Amidst all the petty sniping and cruel jests of the Morrow clan, Bean is a shining light and her normality shows there is hope that even a clan as poisonous as the Morrows can produce a child full of imagination and joie de vivre. I think that is why I like Bean so much–she’s an emblem of hope.

  8. KB says:

    I’m going to have to go back to be able to discuss most of the middle questions, but on #5 – “can’t always choose or like your family”, not always being able to choose or like them doesn’t preclude either. Most of us don’t choose our family…outside of adoption, we get the luck of the draw. As far as liking them, we are sometimes lucky and have shared interests without major conflicts intervening. Without sibling rivalry gone bad. Without old hurts from careless or well sharpened and deliberate words.
    In most cases, though, those old hurts exist. Most are not as deep as those inflicted by the Morrows, but put-downs from a teenager trying to look cool or unintended slights or being ignored or minimized when you needed help or attention or love….there can be reverberations at unexpected times. Triggered by a word or a smell or a sound. And then there is a choice: live in the hurt. Get dragged down and reflect it. Or choose to see beyond it to the good. Choose to remember support, belonging and love.

    • Marie G. says:

      Or, choose to consciously and completely severe ones self from the family. Sometimes, albeit drastic and not highly recommended, it is the only choice in order to survive…a choice some of us have had to make.

  9. Jane F says:

    Ready to tackle question #2:

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

    This is more complicated than it looks at first reading. I thought almost immediately of Colleen, the gardener, the one who told the Finney group that Bean had been stung by wasps. Don’t want to write too much more here, as that might be a spoiler for those who haven’t finished reading the book yet, but Colleen plays an integral part in helping Gamache solve the ” How was it done?” question later on.
    I also think Chef Veronique qualifies as someone who is less obvious. Of course, with her physique, it’s hard to think of her as anything resembling “less obvious”, but here I think perhaps the question is referring to personal qualities, not just physical, and in reading the book, it’s clear that unless one is daily in the kitchen area, a guest would not even be aware of Veronique, as she pretty much keeps to the kitchen or the garden/hives areas. Even more than that, though, there’s the mystery of WHY she is at Bellechasse. That is not answered until the last part of the book, so it’s another little thread in the tapestry of Louise Penny’s mystery that makes it so satisfying.

    • Linda Maday says:

      If there is ever a There Pines Cook book, they need to include honorary chapters from Chef Veronique. She was by far my favorite less obvious character in this reading. I loved how Jean-Lic was so taken by her. If any book of this series made me hungry, this is it.

    • Julie says:

      I agree – would love to have more of a discussion on Chef Veronique in the next part – this is so much a part of the Canadian voice that Louise brings to these books. Not only Jean Luc is drawn to her – both Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache are just SURE they know her from somewhere. Reine-Marie will help us out here…

      A less-obvious character is Elliot – does his flirtation with Julia mean he had evil intentions toward her? I liked the interplay between Elliot and Pierre – and can’t help but think that if Pierre could remember his 18-year-old self, he’d recognize Elliot as a kindred spirit…

    • Lizzy K says:

      I too love the Chef. She has good perceptions on how to handle the kids working there. I wonder if she would like to marry Pierre.

  10. sharon says:

    In the dysfunctional hurtful family members, I have found, often say and do cruel things to seemingly push loved ones away, but when the loved ones stay, in a perverse way it proves their love. Human beings, those created by Louise, and in real life are so very complex and needy! Armand and Reine Marie are so easy to embrace. I wish they were part of my family!

  11. Ben Harsevoort says:

    My wife, Hanna, and I enjoyed this wonderful tale as we drove to Myrtle Beach during the March break. We love Gamache, and having this episode read to us as we drove transported us to the site of pastoral setting, with a decidedly non-pastoral family. Gamache’s decency is so attractive; what a fine character. He’s so blessed by Reine Marie, as she is with him. Looking forward to many more adventures. Thank you, Louise Penny.

    • Jane F says:

      yes, Ben, I must concur that Armand is extremely fortunate to have the lovely Reine-Marie as his life partner. BTW, I finally twigged what Reine-Marie’s name means, and Gabri sort of gives it away in the last part of this book. Reine comes from the same root word as Regina, and both mean Queen. Marie is the French for Mary, of course, so her name in English is literally “Queen Mary”. A very appropriate name for the queenly woman who is married to Gamache!

  12. Sharon Norris says:

    More than a story about families, this book is about fathers and their sons. Gamache and his father and his own son, and even to the 4th generation are spotlighted. But father Morrow, especially with his sons, are involved. What about Bean with a lack of father… And then there is the virtual father-son relationship between Gamache and Beauvoir, which has affected the series in important ways and will continue to do so.

    • Julie says:

      I loved the little gestures with Gamache as he talked about or thought about his father, Honore. After the second time it happened, it dawned on me that he was holding his father’s hand, which transported me to a place where I was a tiny girl. My great big Daddy would put down one finger and I would reach up high and grasp the finger – it’s the way he held my hand to walk across a street. I so identify with that.

      Family – ah – so complicated. Of course we cannot choose them (nor would we be guaranteed good choices if we could), but I like what KB said – that we can choose our reactions – or at least our outward actions. Even though the same old barbs cut like a knife, we can choose to rise above it. And no, that’s not always easy. There are some families that are so toxic that the best you can do is to limit or end all contact. This is what Julia had done, and she at least seemed the most pleasant of all of them.

      Once we know some of the secrets, I can sympathize. There is a moment late in the book where Marianne and Sandra join forces and I can see that Sandra really would only need to be out of the influence of the Morrows to be able to flower a bit. What Sandra does, it seems to me, is only petty and somewhat annoying – it’s not destructive, like what Peter does. I think there’s hope for Sandra.

    • Lizzy K says:

      good insights, Sharon!

  13. Pat says:

    This book represented a struggle for me personally. I loved the book, the story line and the life nuggets always present. I had trouble with the Morrow family dysfunction which reminded me so of my own family once upon a time. I was interested in the development of Peter’s secrets which he didn’t part with wholeheartedly. It always amazes me the lengths one will go to protect a wounded soul.

    • Julie says:

      You and me, both, Pat! They only need to move this family to the woods in Ontario to be my family. We had a few more moments (especially as a child) when we were truly like a loving family, but there was, unfortunately, a lot of venom, as well. Knowing better DOES help you to do better, but it’s not easy – especially as you first try to break away. And I wonder, do the grown Morrow children really know better? This is all they’ve ever known, though I think it’s telling that only Marianna has had a child.

      • Marie G. says:

        In a way, this dysfunction makes me think of emotional “abuse,” in the sense of keeping such a tight rein on the children’s feelings, emotions, and actions that these children are almost held hostage. As with any kind of abuse, the emotional kind has long-lasting effects that come out in most unexpected and undesired (often) ways, regardless of one’s age. As for recognizing this type of “abuse” in ones self or family members, I’m not sure how easy that is to do, without accusing and/or putting ones self in a more awkward and bad light.

  14. Karen Gast says:

    Starting at the final question, who couldn’t love the scene where Bean is throwing cookies to the ceiling? I wanted to join in. I was almost immediately drawn to Marianna. She didn’t seem to let herself be drawn into the hateful relationships, and there were times when she was clearly a frazzled, but loving mother.

    I liked Chef Veronique quickly also.

    A friend once related to me that when one of her children misbehaved and was fearful they’d no longer be loved, she told them that she would always love them, but perhaps didn’t like them–more precisely what they did–at the time. The poor Morrow family never seemed to be able to like OR love. This is a wonderful story of complex family relationships, including that of Gamache.

    Sensory? It was too hot and buggy! I sweated and swatted with Jean-Luc.

  15. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    The world, current and past, is filled with too much cruelty to be interested in “horror movies.” The revelations of the Morrow family ‘s treatment of each other is brillant in its intricacies and nuances. It is bone chilling to think of children suffering such emotional abuse. What kind of a father laughs at Julia’s ridicule of Peter. That is bullying and cruel. She should have been taught that you do not seek to win a contest by any means possible. There exists, in families and in society, lines that are not to be crossed. Look at the harm that one incident led to. However, some people are able to rise above life’s horrors and lead full, rewarding, happy lives while others live forever mired in the muck and seek only to cause as much pain as possible to others. How are the two outcomes possible? Is there some character trait that accounts for this? What is the key? It must exist.

    • Julie says:

      In this story, I think the key is getting away from the family. Julia does so much better away, and was about to tell them all something that would have been a good thing for them to hear – would have been healing. She was met with the taunts of her siblings, however, and then never got another chance.

      In real life, I think the difference is much harder to define. Of my siblings, I think I’m the only one who “got away”. And the difference, I think, is that I was the only girl, and the middle child, so much more ignored – which turns out to be a good thing, as toxic attention is not really what you want…

    • FionaTheBrit says:

      Parents should learn to apologise to their children. We cannot always get it right as parents, but on behaving poorly we must be ready to apologise to our children just as we expect them to apologise for inappropriate behaviour. Life should not be a constant competition. There is a time for competition and a time to just enjoy the pleasure in relationships, children should be shown this by their parents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *