Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: St. Martin's, 2005
Three Pines is just a quiet village not far from Montreal. But when a beloved member of the community turns up dead, the Surete sends in Chief Inspector Gamache to solve the problem. A first look suggests it's just a tragic hunting accident, but Gamache just has to look farther. Despite the detective's official standing, this is a cozy, relying as much on the villagers and Gamache's instincts as police procedure.
This proved to be a very well-written mystery, with largely likeable but human characters, and a sufficiently complex plot that avoids the obvious killers. The setting is wonderful--the small Quebecois village sounds beautiful, and is populated with folks I hope to get to know better in future books (I took a sneak preview of the next book and it does look like we come back here; I was a bit worried, since I don't see how the Inspector can keep getting cases in such a small place. . . ).
Language, writing, and presentation of the culture all seem to me to be top-notch, and there are plenty of moments of very good writing and several thought-provoking lines. Also several laugh-provoking lines, some of them being the same. My favorite was "we should all eat what we kill. That would put an end to war."
The main sour note for me was provided by one of Gamache's investigative team, the rookie with an attitude. I kept wondering exactly what she was doing there, especially as we are shown inside her head from time to time. I wanted a little more resolution of her story, instead of what felt like just using her to make a point about Gamache. I should also note that the book does use an omniscient--or nearly so--perspective, allowing us to see from the perspective of many characters. This isn't necessarily bad, and is handled well enough to prevent confusion. For better or worse the shifting perspective makes the book more about the whole village and less about the detective.
Overall, I consider this a very promising first book in a new (for me--I realize the book has been out nearly a decade) series.
For mystery fans who like a good village and a good plot.
Full Disclosure: I checked Still Life out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."