The Murder Stone

The Murder Stone

By Elspeth Redmond

A review of The Murder Stone by Louise Penny

Published on October 1, 2008

The Murder Stone
Louise Penny

Hodder Headline
$24.95
paper
300pp
978-0-755341-01-6

Louise Penny has made an inspired choice of locale for her fourth Chief Inspector Gamache mystery. She has moved us out of the village of Three Pines, over a few mountains and valleys, and down onto the forested shores of Lake Massawippi. We are still in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, where we find an enormous copper-roofed building made of huge rustic logs and originally used as a hunting lodge by the early robber barons of Quebec. Nowadays it is run as a luxurious inn, the Manoir Bellechasse. Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache stay here every year on their wedding anniversary. This year they find that all the other guests are from one family, originally members of the formerly all-powerful anglo business establishment of Montreal. The Morrows are having a family reunion.

In The Murder Stone, Penny does a witty takeoff on the English country house party mystery, à la Gosford Park, profiting from the opportunity to take an upstairs/downstairs view of guests and staff. Even funnier is her merciless view of a highly dysfunctional WASP family, mirrored in the astonishment of the down-to-earth francophone detectives. Among these last, however, is dapper Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, deeply unhappy at having to get his fine leather shoes and elegantly casual linen shirt wet and muddy…not to mention being bothered by those pesky bees, blackflies, and mosquitoes.

With the Morrows, nothing and nobody is what they seem, and conversations are never constructive. They inevitably end in bitter recriminations and reprisals for events long past. “The Morrows did what they did best. They fell silent,” we are told when one of them is found murdered. The murder itself is highly contrived but that is all part of the fun. The plotting is flawless and when the murderer is finally revealed in a thrilling climactic scene – a life-and-death struggle on the copper roof – we realize that there were plenty of clever clues along the way. Penny has finally and fully recovered the confidence shown in her first novel, Still Life. mRb

Elspeth Redmond is a Baie d'Urfe writer and reviewer.

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