One of my first books of the New Year was Still Life by Louise Penny, a crime fiction novel from a writer I hadn’t tried before. It was a very enjoyable whodunnit, set in rural Quebec at Thanksgiving (which comes a month earlier than the American one), amidst a community of French and English Canadians, many of whom are artists. Having been to small towns in Canada, including the one where my mother was born during the second world war, I could well imagine the leaves crunching under my feet and the cosy coffee shops and beautiful hills where loggers had once been based.
Jane Neal has been found dead, soon after submitting a painting to the upcoming Arts Williamsburg show. She is a much loved pillar of the community, but clearly with something to hide, as her close friends and neighbours have never been let into her home beyond the kitchen. It’s always possible this was a tragic accident, Jane shot by an arrow by a hunter mistaking her for a deer. Or is there something about the painting that has got Jane killed? It takes a lot of good sleuthing on the part of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to find out. He is not helped by an unusual sidekick in detective fiction – an inept junior officer, Yvette Nichol. Gamache is keen to mentor her, but gets increasingly frustrated as she fails to learn and treats the local community with disdain. There is nothing to like about her and she is not redeemed.
The ending is satisfying and unusual. It certainly made me want to read the rest of the series.