Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Still Life," by Louise Penny

I have written more than once about my lifelong enjoyment of mysteries, but I have also written of how I sometimes go “off” mysteries for years at a time. I have now gone through a long period, several years, without mysteries (with one or two exceptions) during those years. But a colleague who is an editor who reads very widely, K.S., recently told me about a mystery writer new to me – Louise Penny – and her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books. K. S.’s enthusiastic recommendation, plus the fact that the books are set in a small town in Quebec, Three Pines, convinced me to try at least the first one, “Still Life” (Minotaur, 2005) (K. had recommended reading them in order of publication). I may have mentioned to her that my favorite mysteries are British “village cozies” as they are known, with thoughtful and intriguing inspectors/investigators. Although this mystery is set in Quebec, the “village cozy” model is in evidence. A beloved older woman, a mainstay of the village, is found dead of a wound from a bow and arrow. At first it looks like an accident, but of course (this being a mystery novel) it is not. We get to know all the chief residents of the village, many of whom are quirky and eccentric, but who support each other despite some feuds. We find that their stories are entangled going back many years in their individual and town histories. Gamache is a good watcher and listener, and knows his psychology. He is also very likable. There is a satisfyingly surprising ending that once known makes complete sense. A side story is Inspector Gamache’s having to deal with an odd, ambitious, brash, socially inept assistant. Apparently there are a dozen or so more novels in this series, and I think I may be hooked. I will read at least one more…the next one…and see what happens.
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