Still Life is the first book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, series. It is a great murder mystery that has a depth of possible suspects and expands to encapsulate human psychology and community dynamics. The number of characters and plot twists were really well balanced so the reader isn’t overwhelmed with complexity yet it’s extensive enough to keep our imagination wondering who the murderer is and what the motive might be.
The opening lines of the novel states. “Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all around.” The surprise is, who could unexpectedly murder a well-loved elderly artist and ex-teacher, and why? Jane was killed with an arrow and we are treated to an informative overview of bows and arrows – which I found very interesting.
Throughout the story, I was drawn towards different suspects for quite legitimate reasons and I would say that if you guess the murderer early on, it will be as much luck as investigative deductions. To give equal credence to several possible murderers is a real craft in writing a whodunit and Louise Penny achieves that really well. It’s all about creating motive, opportunity and the capability to carry out the horrific act of murder. In the story, Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying that “Conscience and cowardice are the same things. What stops us from doing horrible things isn’t our conscience but the fear of getting caught.”
Gamache has an engaging style that is really appealing, he listens, he observes, he has an analytical mind. He helps develop his team and has a fundamental desire to support new recruits and imparts wisdom in assessing a person’s character and principles, such as our ability to make choices.
“I watch. I’m very good at observing. Noticing things. And listening. Actively listening to what people are saying, their choice of words, their tone. What they aren’t saying. … It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. So when I’m observing, that’s what I’m watching for. The choices people make.”
He is also pragmatic and firm and will make tough choices when necessary. As a consequence, his team are extremely loyal and cohesive. Well, the established team members are!
This book is a highly crafted murder mystery that I highly recommend and managed to read it as part of my GR monthly group read. Thanks for nominating this book.