Still Life by Louise Penny

still lifeTragedy hits the idyllic Canadian village of Three Pines when Jane Neal, one of their much-loved citizens, is killed by an arrow while walking on a wooded path close by.  The victim had no known enemies, but bow hunting is an established sport in the area – might a stray arrow have hit her?

When Chief Inspector Gamache and his team take on the case, it becomes clear that the killing, if an accident, was a mighty precise one.  The problem is finding out who had it in for Jane, a former schoolteacher and mainstay of the community.  It seems that everyone close to Jane has potential motives, but finding these isn’t easy – it’s up to Gamache & Company to tease them out.  There’s dirt to be found behind the visage of Three Pines, and it turns out that there is plenty, at least to keep the pages turning.

Louise Penny is a completely new discovery; I had never heard of her until an online recommendation and a recent article in Booklist about her latest book coming out in August.  She takes what would at first be a traditional cozy setting, and makes it menacing.  I also really enjoyed the character of Gamache.  He’s a gentle yet hardboiled soul who uses subtilty and intelligence instead of brute force to get what he needs.  He has great respect for his staff, but finds a challenge with its youngest member, Agent Yvette Nichol, a twenty-something newbie who has the smarts for detective work, but is decidedly green with people skills.

I’d recommend Still Life as a good vacation read.  It’s the first mystery novel I have read with Quebec as the setting, and it’s very interesting to read about the interactions between French and English-speaking Canadians in the book.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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