The fictional Three Pines is a tiny village south of Montreal, the creation of Canadian author Louise Penny. "Still Life" is the first offering in her Three Pines series, and in it we meet the villagers and learn some of their foibles.
Penny's detective, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, gets the call to Three Pines at the usual inconvenient time, on his way to a family christening on Thanksgiving Sunday (mid-October, in Canada). But there's no convenient time for murder, so he assembles his team and heads for Three Pines. An elderly unmarried woman, Jane Neal, has been killed in the woods bordering the town and the circumstances are suspicious. The townspeople are shocked and can't believe that one of their own could be the murderer but the evidence does point that way.
Gamache gives early evidence of his characteristics as a homicide detective: thoughtful, insightful, respectful of his team, willing to go to the wall for what he believes is right. He misses his wife and their comfortable life in Montreal. Three Pines offers some surprises, though, being rich in art, poetry and valuable antiques. There is a sense of richness and culture to this book, a counterpoint to the usual greed and ugliness of human nature that always features in police procedurals.
Though Still Life (Three Pines Mysteries) is a literary and satisfying read, it does disappoint slightly in the resolution to the mystery. The crime itself "makes sense," if you can say that about a crime, but the path to the solution involves a deductive leap that's just a bit too great. As a debut crime novel it does hint at a fine future for Gamache and his team; I've read one later book and will now work my way forward through the series. Penny's writing style and the atmosphere of tiny Three Pines will bring me back for more. Good as this book is, if the characters evolve and the plot resolutions hone a bit, the series will be among the very best.
Louise Penny has done Canada truly proud with a debut mystery novel that can be characterized as roughly halfway between the cozy mysteries of Agatha Christie and the deeper, psychological much darker mysteries starring the likes of angst-ridden detective Harry Bosch. Three Pines is a small, primarily English-speaking town in Quebec's Eastern Townships, the beautiful wooded area bordering on the more rugged White Mountains of Vermont. The citizens of Three Pines are … more
A debut mystery novel set in rural Quebec that can be characterized as roughly halfway between the cozy mysteries of Agatha Christie and the deeper, psychological much darker mysteries starring the likes of angst-ridden detective Harry Bosch.