Still Life by Louise Penny


Crime fiction can be so addictive when it is well done. Still Life is the first novel I have read by crime fiction writer Louise Penney and already I am a follower. In fact, I have purchased another two of her novels to add to my ever growing bedside hoard of ‘books to be read’.

Still Life is the first of a dozen or so novels in the Inspector Gamache series. Like all good crime novels Still Life has a mysterious murder imbedded in odd circumstances. In this case, the murder takes place in a wooded area and if one were not as astute as the insightful Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sureté du Quebec one might be fooled into thinking it was more of a hunting accident than a murder. However the Chief Inspector has enough experience to trust his police instincts and pursues the case stubbornly even when his superiors think his methods are out-dated and he is wasting police time to the point of insubordination.

There is a cast of interesting characters and principal among these it the little town of Three Pines in the eastern townships of Quebec; an idyllic place, with comfortable old cottages and Victorian homes. It is set in a quiet area surrounded by greenery, abundant in gardens and close to woodlands that invite the inhabitants to stroll among the maple trees and pines of southern Quebec. Three Pines also has the advantage of having a little ‘downtown’ area with a few boutique style shops for the tourists and a café where patrons can enjoy an excellent espresso. Life could not be more perfect in such a location except there is more murderous activity in this little corner of the world than occurs in all of Canada as a whole. However, that is the charm of crime fiction. Evil lurks like a smouldering dragon behind the facade of a little Paradise and then along comes an eponymous Saint George, such as the Chief Inspector, to do battle and roust Evil out and send him off to gaol.

There is a risk of such a work becoming prosaic and boring but Louise Penney has provided the twists and turns and the diverting, cul-de-sacs that make this a good read. It also instills a strong desire in the reader to go and visit this beautiful area of Quebec with the hope of enjoying the serenity of walking through its forests without the  misadventure of discovering a corpse behind every second tree.

This is a pleasant read that does not require too much concentration and the blood spilling is minimal. I am inclined to save such reading for a foul weather afternoon at home in a comfortable chair. Still Life, can be read in about two sittings. Be prepared to be entertained.



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