The fourteenth book I read for the book challenge (actually I read it awhile ago for the second time but I decided to include it since I read it again) was Still Life by Louise Penny. This is a Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery and is one of my favorite series. This is the first book in the series and I decided to read the series from start to finish and I’ll be ready for the next book when it comes out in August.
Still Life finds the spinster and much loved Jane Neal shot dead with an arrow through the heart near a deer-hunting trail in the woods near the small village of Three Pines, a tiny village near the Vermont border in Québec, Canada. Named for the three tall pine trees that marked safety for Union Loyalists escaping from American Revolutionaries during the American Revolution, the tiny village is not marked on any map. People just seem to stumble across it. Filled with characters that are lovable and unforgettable, the reader soon falls in love with the villagers of Three Pines such as Armand Gamache and his team become enamored of the village and the villagers even as they hunt a killer.
Jane Neal has submitted a still life to a juried competition and it was accepted. She has told all her friends that after the opening night of the show, she is inviting all her friends to her home, into her living room to see her art. This is a first, because no one has ever gone past the kitchen of Jane Neal’s house, so everyone is quite excited.
However, Jane has been killed by a hunting arrow which can’t be found. After an investigation, Gamache and his team zero in on a fourteen-year-old boy who was out hunting and who has Jane Neal’s blood on his clothes. He tells a story that it was his father who killed the woman and the bruise they think he got from the bow is actually from a beating by his father. The father is shocked, but confirms his son’s story. Gamache believes the father is covering up for the son and the team is sent on a fool’s errand for awhile. Then the actual arrow that killed Jane Neal is found and it is neither the father’s nor the son’s. They know they are looking for someone else as the killer.
To make matters worse, Jane Neal’s niece Yolande believes she holds the last will of her aunt and goes into the house and wallpapers over the walls and paints the floors and ceilings in garish colors and patterns. One of the villagers, Clara Murrow, remembers that Jane Neal had a newer will, and it is discovered that the house really belongs to Clara. Clara and her friends go into the house and begin to remove the horrible wallpaper and discover that Jane used the walls, floors, and ceilings for her art.
Meanwhile, Armand Gamache and his team must work to discover the identity of the real killer. And he thinks the identity is related to the picture she entered into the competition, “Still Life.”
I recommend this book. The identity of the killer is not revealed until the very end of the book and it is surprise. It is a very suspenseful ending, a real nail-biter, even the second-time around when I knew who the killer was. I had forgotten how Gamache had figured out how he was the killer and it was fun to see how he came to that conclusion. It was scary how close Gamache came to harm in the killer’s mother’s home in an ambush as they rushed to rescue Clara, who had been kidnapped. This was a wonderful book, even the second time around. I love the way Louise Penny writes. She includes both French and English phrases in her book, as a way to acknowledge Gamache’s French heritage and the French heritage of much of Three Pines and the members of the Sureté du Québec. She tells us about Gamache’s wife Reine-Marie, whom he adores, and it makes him more real and lovable to us. Of course, I’m biased. I love the series. I love these books.