Monday, 30 June 2008

Still Life by Louise Penny

This is the first in a new Canadian mystery series, and a first novel by the author. She was the winner for the CWA New Blood Dagger (ie new writer) for Crime Fiction 2006. So I was very curious about how good it was, that it got noticed in England. And, this is a satisfying mystery. I love the setting, the fictional Three Pines - set in the Laurentians, a area west of Montreal that is filled with rounded hills and tiny villages hidden in them, and lots of pine trees (among others). I've been there, long ago, and I fell in love with it. It is beautiful rural Quebec. (In Canada, every province is different, so rural PEI where Anne of Green Gables is set is quite different from Quebec, both of which bear no resemblence to rural areas in say, British Columbia or Manitoba. Part of the uniqueness of Canada, I think.) The main detective is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec (the provincial police), and he is one of the best detectives creations I've read in a long time.
'So, what are you telling me,Chief Inspector? From now on you'll only arrest people if you're guaranteed a conviction? You've arrested people before who turned out not to have committed the crime. Just last year, remember the Gagne case? You arrested the uncle, but it turned out the nephew had done it?'
'True, I was wrong. But I believed the uncle had done it. That was a mistake. This is different. This would be deliberately arresting someone I believe did not commit the crime. I can't do it.'
Brebeuf sighed. He'd known from the first minute of this conversation that Gamache wouldn't change his mind. But he had to try. Really, a most annoying m

This is an intelligent mystery, with well-rounded characters and believable motive. It is billed as an Agatha Christie Miss Marple-like mystery 'that perfect village touched by death', as the Toronto Globe and Mail gives in a blurb on the back. I just like the perfect village part, because part of the delight of this mystery is the very Canadianess of it. Three Pines is the quintessential village in the heart of the countryside west of Montreal,made up of old English and old French families that settled long ago in the area. I enjoyed this mystery and Inspector Gamache so much that I was looking for the second book, Dead Cold, but it wasn't in. Very good, highly recommended, especially for those who want a taste of Canada.

I read this for the Canadian Book Challenge, which is set to end tonight. I am halfway through the last book - Piece of my Heart by Peter Robinson - I will get to for the challenge, which means I"m not going to finish the challenge, alas. But I will get Piece of My Heart done! Tonight! This also catches me up on my book reviews, so I think that's Weekly Geeks # 8 or 9 finished, hurrah!!!!


GeraniumCat said...

I left some gaps in my list for the Second Canadian Book Challenge so that I could look for recommendations - your review makes me want to read this and it sounds as if I'll be able to get it here in the UK, too:)

Susan said...

geraniumcat: oh, good! Like I said, I really enjoyed it. I hope you do too. At least you'll get a feel for the Eastern Quebec countryside. I think village life is the same everywhere, which is why the setting is what adds a bit to these cosy village murder mysteries. Let me know if you get it! i'll come see your list now :-)