Review : Still Life
What it’s about :
The community of Three Pines is, to say the least, unprepared when the death of one of its most loved member is discovered. In this small village where no crime of any sort ever happens, most want to believe it was simply an unfortunate accident.
Chief Inspector Gamache is then called to investigate. Trying to find out what really happened in the woods where Jane Neal died, the inspector isn’t one to easily accept the accident theory. Sooner than later, he is determined to find who is responsible, and what exactly happened there.
My Thoughts :
So, I absolutely adored this book in a manner that is almost impossible to explain.
I’ve always enjoyed mystery novels and thrillers. It’s something that comes from watching a lot of those with my mom when I was a kid, or from seeing her read of lot of those, too. Over time though, my interest for this type of books has changed a little, and I’ve found myself looking more for action, intricate plots and complicate schemes rather than the simple whodunit that cozy mysteries often offer. I love when politics and money get thrown into the mix, when science is used to get proofs or when the motives are so dark and twisted that it’s impossible to guess who’s guilty.
Still Life doesn’t fit in this description. It’s a whodunit alright, although I found that there was more to the plot and to the characters than in most cozy I have had the chance to read. Inspector Gamache is determined to find the truth, and it takes him a good measure of human psychology to do so. He watches people and analyzes what he sees with talent. He’s also a likable character with a past that is still unclear, but that aspect doesn’t make him a dark and tortured man. In fact, he’s quite charming and I just loved the glimpse we had of the relationship he has with his wife. I’m certainly hoping we’ll see more of those two along the way.
Gamache isn’t the only one investigating the death of course, and the newest member of his team is Yvette Nichols, a young recruit who knows everything. And by that I mean, of course, that she knows nothing and is a bit of a pain you-know-where. What’s interesting about Nichols is her relationship with authority, or in this case with Gamache. Their dynamic was fun to watch, and I was glad that Gamache wasn’t being manipulated by her attitude.
I’ll only go quickly over the plot to say that it was good. I felt there was a bit of predictability about who did it, but the why and the how were more complicated than that. And so, the novel offers an ending with enough action and twists to keep things interesting.
But what really, really got to me was the setting. This book was like coming home for Christmas, and I don’t know how to explain this feeling since I’ve never exactly lived in a little village like this! Three Pines is located in the French province of Canada, Quebec, and though its inhabitants are mostly English-speaking, the setting was completely recognizable to me. Having grown here, I could see the forest Penny described, the architecture, the roads, the characters… it was all so true to the province I know that I felt absolutely comfortable there.
Penny even touches, very lightly, the situation between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians in Quebec : this is one touchy subject here, but I thought the author did great job of describing it without advertising a political agenda of her own. Her love for the province is obvious, and so her novel is filled with its beauties and quirks. I loved that, and I think it’s obvious that my not-so-objective review had a lot to do with how fun it was to read a story taking place in a universe I really know.
I already have the next two novels on my TBR pile and I am itching to get to them!
Series Reading Order :
- Still Life
- A Fatal Grace (or Dead Cold)
- The Cruellest Month
- A Rule Against Murder
- The Brutal Telling
- Bury Your Dead
- A Trick of the Light