Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1), by Louise Penny

Nine stars

A strong recommendation from a friend helped me decide to embark on a binge of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, penned by Canadian author Louise Penny. Her writing style and setting this novel in the bucolic community of Three Pines, Quebec, pulled me in early and kept me enthralled until the very end. Local artist and retired teacher, Jane Neal, was loved by many, which made the discovery of her body all the more troubling. With no known enemies, Jane’s death could only have been an accident, though the small pool of blood and no visible weapon open many questions and require some police presence. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, is called to Three Pines to investigate. Alongside his regular team is Agent Yvette Nichol, so new that she has never worked a scene. Gamache is sure to have his hands full trying to teach her while wrapping things up swiftly. With Thanksgiving turkeys cooking in ovens across town, no one wants to spend much time on what looks to be an accidental shooting with an arrow. While this might be the case, Gamache is worried that no arrow was found at the scene—it having been removed from Jane’s body—and no one has come forward to admit to the accident. As Gamache and the rest of the Homicide Squad begin piecing things together, they are confronted with a number of local citizens, all with their own flavourful take on events and tidbits about others in town. Gamache must parse through what he is being told and, at times, sift through the lies that some present to protect the more vulnerable in this community. Still, with Agent Nichol bumbling along and ostracizing herself from her superiors and others pushing for an open and shut case, Chief Inspector Gamache must be thorough and patient, for that is how one catches a killer! Penny pulls the reader in with this stunning debut story, which has me eager to see what else she has in this lengthy series. I will definitely be grabbing Book 2 in short order. Fans of police procedurals and Canadian mysteries will also find something worthwhile.

I am so pleased to have found yet another Canadian author whose work falls within one of the genres I enjoy so much. Set in rural Quebec, the series opens with a lovely Canadian flavour, something that will enrich the reading experience and have it stand out in the genre. With this strong debut novel in the series, Penny provides the reader with some interesting backstory and some character development of Armand Gamache that will likely develop more thoroughly as I delve deeper into the series. Gamache is highly intelligent and down to earth as he investigates the crime before him, but seems to expect much from his team, no matter their time under his tutelage. He does not appear to suffer fools, but can extract information out of an unknowing suspect while enjoying his Tim Horton’s coffee. Penny’s descriptive nature has me highly interested in learning much more about the entire homicide team, all of whom will surely play important roles as the full series develops, but have laid the groundwork for being full of their own nuances. The story moves slowly, but there is no lack of momentum as Three Pines comes alive with each passing segment of the story. Penny keeps the reader in the middle of the investigation, dropping hints throughout as she pushes towards the reveal, which ties the entire experience together. With a new novel set to come out soon, I am happy to commence binge-reading to catch up in time to enjoy the latest release alongside series fans. I cannot wait!

Kudos, Madam Penny, for intriguing me greatly. I am ready to take the challenge and see what Gamache does for me.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: