…the burned and desolate spot Gamache sought wasn’t exclusive to the murderer. The reason Armand Gamache could go there was because it wasn’t totally foreign to him. He knew it because he’d seen his own burned terrain, he’d walked off the familiar and comfortable path inside his own head and heart and seen what festered in the dark. ~from The Murder Stone, by Louise Penny
I could easily fall in love with Armand Gamache. Louise Penny’s inveterate Chief Inspector of the Surete du Quebec is intelligent, romantic, sincere, sensitive, and deep thinking. He is completely devoted to his wife and children, yet able to run down the most vile of murderers, as he must do once again in The Murder Stone.
This is only my second Louise Penny book, but I enjoyed this one even more the first one I read (The Brutal Telling). The setting is the Manoir Bellechasse, a lakeside bed and breakfast, the place Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie always spend their wedding anniversary. They return each year because it is the place where they first made love – see, isn’t that romantic? They are celebrating their 35th anniversary at the Manoir, and are joined by a large family of other guests who have chosen this spot to place a commemorative statue of their father. Of course, as things happen, someone in the family turns up dead, and Inspector Gamache must take charge of the case.
Penny’s mysteries are intelligent and complex, and she delves deeply into each characters psyche. I imagine her as one of these authors who completes long character analyses of each person in their book, because they are each so unique and fully fleshed out.
But it is the relationship between Gamache and Reine-Marie that I love.
“I enjoyed this evening,” said Reine-Marie, slipping into the cool crisp sheets beside her husband.
“So did I.” He took off his half-moon reading glasses and folded his book onto the bed. It was a warm evening. Their tiny back room had only one window, onto the kitchen garden, so there wasn’t much of a through draught, but the window was thrown open and the light cotton curtains were billowing slightly. The lamps on their bedside tables provided ponds of light and the rest was in darkness. It smelled of wood from the log walls and pine from the forest, and a hint of sweetness from the herb garden below.
“Two days time and it’s our anniversary,” said Reine-Marie. “July first. Imagine, thirty-five years together. Were we so young?”
“I was. And innocent.”
“Poor boy. Did I scare you?”
“Maybe a little. But I’m over it now.”
Their marriage is so rock solid and strong, and though she doesn’t play an actual role in helping him solve the case, her insight usually plays a meaningful part in the investigation. Penny’s books are delightful – well written, well researched, and thoughtful through and through. And if you visit her website, she seems the kind of person who is just as you would expect from reading her books. Smart, kind, thoughtful, sincere, and a dog lover after my own heart.
Penny’s books are mysteries, but so much more. As she writes on her website: “The Chief Inspector Gamache books, while clearly crime fiction, are not in fact about murder or even death. They’re really about life. And friendship. About belonging and choices. And how very difficult it can be, how much courage it can take, to be kind.”
I highly recommend them, and I’m excited to read the other five books in this series.