Still Life by Louise Penny

29 October, 2012

The first volume in the Inspector Gamache series, Louise Penny’s Still Life is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. Winner of the Crime Writers Association’s New Blood Dagger in 2006, Still Life introduces the Chief Inspector at the Sûréte de Québec but also to a part of the world of which I’m unfamiliar, French Canada.

Inspector Armand Gamache is called to Three Pines, a small village in the heart of Quebec when retired local teacher Jane Neal is found dead in the woods. It is the beginning of deer hunting season and it looks as though a stray arrow has found its way into her heart. Three Pines is a sleepy village where everyone knows each other. But soon, Gamache and his deputy Jean-Guy Beauvoir (don’t you just love that name?) begin to sense that not all is as it seems in Three Pines. Jane has recently submitted a piece of artwork to the annual Art Exhibition curated by her friends Clara and Peter Morrow. At the celebratory Thanksgiving dinner that same evening, Jane had also invited her friends over to her house for the first time. But a few days after her artwork was accepted, she is found dead. Was there something about her painting or her house that needed to stay hidden? Can Gamache tease out the murderer in what looks like an inside job?

I initially found Still Life a little slow. But it’s a slow burning book and by the end, I was racing through to find out exactly whodunnit. Armand Gamache is a happily married policeman setting out to do his job and teaching his deputies along the way. Beavoir is his deputy, independant, strong and loyal. And togther with their team, they burrow into the daily lives of the villages, leaving no stone unturned. Three Pines has a mixture of eccentric folk but what they do have in common is their shared history, one which Jane Neal had faithfully rendered onto her painting.

As a city person, I’ve always been fascinated by small town lives ever since reading Anne of Green Gables as a child. The intense friendships, the long histories, even the claustrophobia. As Miss Marple would say, it’s a microcosm of human society everywhere.

There are now eight books in the series and I’m looking forward to catching up starting with the next book in the series, Dead Cold.

And thank you Carl for urging me to read this one and do check out his review. You were right!

I read this as part of R.I.P. VII.