The fourth in the Inspector Gamache series, this was a welcome return to form from my point of view. I found The Cruelest Month the least satisfying of the three I’d read, but very much enjoyed this one.
Part of the reason for that was the change of locale. The first three were all set in the tiny village of Three Pines. This time, Inspector Gamache and his team end up doing their detecting at an upmarket lakeside resort. The change of setting allows the author a chance to exercise her creativity in describing a different place and different people, and the result was refreshing. Penny’s description of the Quebec forests and lakes added to the atmosphere of the story without overwhelming it, and transplanting some of the Three Pines regulars showed different parts of their personality and back story.
The murder mystery itself was also well-plotted. Both the mechanics of the howdunnit and the motivations of the whodunnit were internally consistent and satisfying. I found the mystery of how it was done to be a bigger part of the story than in the earlier books, and liked that difference. The characterisations seemed to be to be better in this story too. The personalities and inner conflicts of the characters was solid without being overly intricate, which was my problem with the previous book in the series.The story’s setting at the Gamache’s anniversary getaway weekend allowed for the character of Mrs Gamache to be more fully developed, which was a nice addition to the series.
I know that the next book in the series returns to Three Pines, but I definitely think that the series and the writer benefited from the weekend away at the lakeside chateau. As part of the series, or as a stand-alone murder mystery, The Murder Stone is a very pleasant recreational read.