My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The rich and varied nation of Canada deserves a bigger presence on the literary map, and with her Inspector Gamache series, Louise Penny is aiding the cause, at least for Quebec. Still Life, the inaugural title, introduces Armand Gamache of the Surete, setting him up as intelligent, open-minded, happily married, and a lover of good food. Gamache and his team are called to the remote village of Three Pines, where an elderly woman has been found dead in the woods, shot by an arrow. Because it’s hunting season, the residents want to believe it was a hunting accident, but Gamache is not so sure. This is a nicely plotted mystery, with plenty of procedural detail, but mostly, it’s about people, those living in Three Pines and those investigating this possible crime. Gamache relies heavily upon his finely honed powers of observation, and he’s great at listening too. His insights into those he questions rarely fail him. During this case, he’s also working on training his two newest assistants, and one of them, brilliant though she seems at times, isn’t cutting it with Gamache, which causes him no little distress.
Still Life has a satisfying ending in which all is not what it seemed. The Inspector decides to lay his lengthy and successful career on the line, rather than make an arrest that appears obvious, but that he knows is wrong. If you pick up a Louise Penny novel, prepare to be drawn inside the heads and hearts of its characters. Best of all, prepare to come to know Armand Gamache himself, better and better with each book.