Friday, November 19, 2010

"What do we count?"

I recently finished A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny, the fourth book in a wonderful mystery series featuring the wise and steadfast Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. This is a whodunit, revolving around murder, money and hidden motives, so I'll stop now to issue a SPOILER ALERT. Just a bit of a spoiler, though. I won't reveal who did, but rather who didn't do it.

Beyond the beautiful writing and well-crafted plot, what strikes a chord in me is a minor sub-plot that I believe is central to the book's spirit and also to my thoughts this season.

In this thread in the story, each morning and evening during his lakeside holiday, an old man makes his way down to the dock. "I come here to do my sums. It's a natural place for it." This character, Bert Finney, is a retired accountant, described as very old, and very ugly, with little to do in life except cater to his fabulously wealthy, and exceedingly unpleasant wife. Everyone around him, including his four embittered stepchildren, believe he spends his time counting money -- perhaps the money he'll inherit from his wife when she dies. But once the police tape is rolled up and the murderer unmasked, Finney explains his "sums" to a curious Inspector Gamache: "I count my blessings."

This is Finney's power as a red herring: it is so much easier for us to believe that a man in his unenviable position would be driven by greed, than to accept that he humbles himself in thanks daily. For his life, far from perfect, he is grateful.

Among my many blessings, I'm always grateful for a good read. I'm doubly pleased to find a bit of inspiration alongside the murder and mayhem of a good mystery. I recommend any of the Inspector Gamache series -- Louise Penny tells a fine tale. But this holiday, my pick is A Rule Against Murder.

"We're all blessed and we're all blighted, Chief Inspector," said Finney. "Every day each of us does our sums. The question is, what do we count?"

What blessing will you count?


Linda K. said...

I definitely count the ability to read books among my many blessings. While in the hospital, after my recent mild stroke, I was concerned that I had lost the gift of being able to connect the words. I would read a sentence over and over and lose it right away. Fortunately I regained my capacity to concentrate and am now also grateful for the blessing of health and more free time to read and enjoy all the other blessings in my life. Books. Cats. Life is Good.

Roberta said...

One of the billion great things about reading is the good ideas that come to you from others. Hester Browne's charming series The Little Lady Agency features a character that lies in bed every morning thinking of three great things about her life. I try to do this when I am worried about something, and it is a no fail method of cheering myself.

Laura A. said...

Among my blessings are songwriters and authors who inspire me, including Bruce Springsteen, Maria McKee, Willa Cather and Thomas Hardy.

Karen said...

Singer-songwriter Annie Lennox has a great opening line, "Every day I write the list, the reasons why I still believe they do exist - a thousand beautiful things." Always a reason to give thanks if one is truly open-minded.

Linda K. said...

Josh Groban's "Noel" CD offers a beautiful song called "Thankful." Wonderful words and music expressed by a beautiful voice.

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