Sunday, April 22, 2018

Still Life by Louise Penny *****

Still Life by Louise Penny is the first Chief Inspector Gamache novel. Armand Gamache works for Sûreté du Québec. A hunting arrow killed Miss Jane Neal, aged 76, early Thanksgiving morning. Traditionally murderers are identified with motive, means and opportunity. Gamache is faced with a surfeit of imperfect suspects. As Jane was well loved in the small town of Three Pines, motive was the main challenge. Much of the novel concerned difficult family relationships and communication difficulties.

Suspects are drawn from two groups. The first is teenage boys. Jane identifies three teenage boys who throw duck manure at Olivier and Gabri, a gay couple who own a local restaurant. These boys also have a history of bullying and fighting with their parents.

The second group is inheritors. Shortly before Jane met his untimely death, another lady died in hospice. Both women left sizeable estates. In both situations, intergenerational problems suggested motives.

Jane had a secret. She never let anyone into her house past the kitchen and mudroom. She was an artist, but never let anyone see her work. Shortly before her death, she entered a painting into a local art competition. Everyone suspects the painting is important, but none can figure out why.

Three Pines is an escape from the big city, Montreal. Ruth Zardo, a famous poet, under another name, is hiding out as an angry old lady. Myrna Landers, the sole black person, owns the bookstore but was a therapist until she tired of patients who had no desire to change.

Diversion is provided by the frustratingly arrogant and incompetent Yvette Nichol, a novice agent, who somehow manages to contribute to the final solution.

If you like your mysteries cozy with interesting characters and relationships, this is a series for you.

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