Still Life by Louise Penny
St. Martin’s Minotaur, New York, 2006
I read mysteries and speculative fiction for the sheer enjoyment of good stories. I appreciate good writing. I tend to like my mysteries dark and gloomy, think Mankell, Rankin or Pelacanos, and have never been drawn to “cosy” mysteries. I forget where I first heard about Louise Penny and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and maybe I decided to read Still Life because of the story’s location in Quebec. Whatever drew me to this book I am really glad I read it, it was great fun.
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all around. Miss Neal’s was not a natural death, unless your of the belief that everything happens as it is supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking towards this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She’s fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.
Still Life is a lovely mystery, well-written and full of a deep understanding of human nature. It is a typical drawing-room mystery, but one that is layered with complex relationships and human failings. Inspector Gamache leads his crew with clarity and is one of the kindest characters I have met in a novel in a long time. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Dead Cold.