Jane Neal, an elderly spinster and friend to everyone in the village of Three Pines in Quebec, has been found dead on a deer trail through a copse. She’d been felled by an arrow that passed straight through her chest. The hunting season has started and it’s not clear whether the death is accidental or deliberate. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec has been assigned to the case. Three Pines might appear idyllic, but Gamache soon uncovers tensions and secrets amongst its inhabitants. What is not at all clear is why anyone would want Jane Neal dead.
I picked up Still Life by Louise Penny whilst in Montreal. It’s opening novel in her Chief Inspector Gamache series. The book won the CWA New Blood Dagger in the UK, the CWC Arthur Ellis Award in Canada, and an Anthony Award in the US. The book is a modern twist on the kind of cosies written by Agatha Christie and her ilk, though a police procedural rather than an amateur detective. Cosies are not my favourite kind of crime novel and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with the story and its telling. The cosy feel lessened as the book went on, and the read was entertaining. Part of the story hinges on an unlikely coincidence, though the puzzle itself is clever enough, and Gamache is a plausible and engaging character. Some of the characters are a little clichéd and the character of Nicole seemed underdeveloped and her subplot doesn’t really go anywhere. Overall, a book that will appeal to readers who like their police procedurals with a cozy bent.