“Still Life” is the first book in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. She’s now up to Book 13, so this was published awhile ago. Since I typically like to start a series at the beginning, I checked out “Still Life”, and now I’m pleased to say that I have 12 more books in this wonderful series that I’m looking forward to reading.
“Still Life” is set in the idyllic village of Three Pines, south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a retired school teacher, is found dead in the woods. Given the nature of her wounds, it appears that she is either a victim of murder or a hunting accident.
Jane is an unlikely murder victim. She has lived in Three Pines for her entire uncontroversial life. She’s well liked within the community and loved dearly by her circle of friends, which includes several artists, the owner of the local bookstore and the owners of the village’s only bistro (all really well designed characters whom I suspect I’ll be seeing again).
Three Pines doesn’t have its own police force, so Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in from Quebec to work the case. Gamache is an appealing character. He’s wise, compassionate and humble. He is very insightful about human nature and that makes him an effective detective and mentor to his team members. In this story he was trying to mentor a young policewoman named Nichol who was a real mess and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can turn her around in future installments.
Gamache uses an unusually collaborative approach to crime solving, facilitating input from his team and the villagers in order to get answers. It’s a technique that allows the reader to get to know the characters and their relationships with each other, most of which are refreshingly healthy. It also allows Ms. Penny to showcase her talent for writing witty dialogue, which had me smiling frequently.
I wasn’t expecting to like “Still Life” so much but it was a warm, witty, intelligent breath of fresh air. I hope the other books in the series are as good.
Have you read anything in the Gamache series. What did you think?