October 22, 2006
Still Life by Louise Penny
MysteryFinished on 10/13/06Rating: A- (8/10 Very Good)
Winner of the New Blood Dagger in Britain and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada for best first crime novel.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces – and this series – with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.
It took me a few chapters to settle into this debut novel, but once I got a handle on all the various characters (many of whom were possible suspects in the death of Ms. Neal), I couldn’t put it down, anxious to get back to my reading and trying to solve the crime as I went about my daily activities.Still Life is not a hard-boiled thriller, but rather a gentle “drawing room” mystery in which the chief investigator relishes a warm café au lait and flaky croissant as he ponders the details of the crime, while enjoying the peacefulness of the village as dawn breaks.
Gamache is a likeable character, reminding me a little bit of John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport (although, not quite the womanizer and much more well-read). I have a feeling Gamache and Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir will become another favorite duo and I look forward to Penny’s next installment (Dead Cold), due out next spring.