Still Life is the first Inspector Gamache novel in Louise Penny’s series, and for me it’s a backtrack- I started with the second novel, Dead Cold (alternate title: A Fatal Grace), back in February. Still Life introduces us to all the main characters that show up in the later books, including the town of Three Pines and its close-knit community members. (For such a quaint and friendly town, I get the feeling there are a lot murderers in Three Pines’ midst, if the length of the series is anything to go by).
The particular murder in Still Life is that of an older spinster painter, shot with an arrow to the heart on a walking path next to the village. Gamache and his team arrive to investigate what at first they suspect is an accident, and in the course of their investigation they meet most of the town inhabitants. It will be a surprise to no one that Gamache eventually solves the crime, and in additional to that satisfaction there are the characters that Penny gives a lot of attention to- Three Pines feels like the Stars Hollow of detective novels.
I enjoyed getting to know Gamache from the beginning- having started with the second novel and backtracked I can definitively say that this is a series I would read in order. I was a little puzzled that we didn’t get to learn more about the illustrious ‘Arnot case’ that Gamache is still feeling the repercussions from. What happened? Why was Gamache sanctioned? There are some additional details, but the matter isn’t explained like I thought it would be. I also do have more empathy for some of the rougher townspeople that I found unnecessarily abrasive in the second book (Ruth Zardo in particular feels hard but was explained better for me here, so I liked her more).
I picked this one up again after seeing Kayleigh’s article on the series on the Pajiba Book Archive. It was perfect timing- I needed a Pajba CBR11bingo square, this novel was sitting unread on my bookshelf, and I got to read a book set during Canadian Thanksgiving during actual Canadian Thanksgiving! Win, win, win.