My mom got me the first two Inspector Gamache books for Christmas, and they are delightful! I saw that book seven showed up on a Cannonballer’s Best Of list for CBR9, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
Inspector Gamache solves crimes in Quebec, and these books are COLD. Both books take place in a tiny village called Three Pines, in the dead of winter, and Penny does an excellent job of building the atmosphere and setting. I wanted a croissant and a cup of tea every time Gamache had one. The supporting characters are all interesting and well-defined, but I kept wanting to make Gamache himself into Gregor Demarkian from Jane Haddam’s mysteries. I think it’s the constant description of his size (I think both detectives would definitely shop at the Big & Tall section), and overcoats. Plus a reliance on a smart, sweet wife at home to run cases by.
In Still Life, retired schoolteacher Jane Neal is found in the woods, shot with an arrow. The townsfolk try to dismiss it as a hunting accident, but Gamache senses otherwise. It’s a very limited pool of suspects, with such a small village, further complicated by the complete lack of any kind of motive. With the help of his right-hand man, the hindrance of a new trainee, and the possible over-involvement of the townsfolk (shouldn’t these people be suspects??), Gamache gets to the bottom of the tragic death.
In A Fatal Grace, Gamache is again called back to Three Pines, this time with the opposite problem of too many suspects and a totally obvious motive. CC de Poitiers was a pill: mean, vain, self-involved, and quick to tell others how they were living their lives wrong. She was a recent transplant to the village, and her weirdly complicated murder leads the investigative team off in several erroneous directions.
In both books, the reader gets to know the murder victim before the crime happens. I’m not sure what I think about that. Penny has a knack of getting you to know and like a character in a very short amount of time, so even though Jane is only alive for part of the first chapter, it’s really sad when she dies! But it makes for a good, well-rounded story. I also like how Gamache makes himself at home wherever he is, then uses his keen observation skills to help him solve the murders. It may be strange to have dinner and walk dogs with possible suspects, and to eat in their bistros and stay at their B&Bs, but it works for him.