What a beautiful, sunny weekend we had in the Seattle area! Much of my time was spent sitting on the deck reading a really good book. That’s after I swept away the new spider webs (they love my deck as much as I do) and cleaned the winter grime off my reading chair. Then I settled in with Louise Penny’s first book in her Armand Gamache mystery series.
I’d never heard of Louise Penny until just recently when I read a number of references to her on friends’ blogs. But I love mysteries and haven’t read one in quite awhile, so when I saw this at the bookstore on Friday, I decided it was time to give her a try. I’m so glad I did because it ended up being a book I couldn’t put down, and a very enjoyable read! I’m off to the library today to find more of her books.
Still Life takes place in an imaginary Canadian village called Three Pines, south of Montreal, where one of the townspeople has been found dead in the woods on Thanksgiving morning. Was it a hunting accident or murder? The circumstances of the death were suspicious enough to call in Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec, a detective with great insight and compassion.
Armand Gamache sat on the bench, watching the birds but mostly watching the village. Before his eyes the village of Three Pines seemed to slow right down. The insistence of life, the bustle and energy became muffled. The voices dropped, gaits slowed. Gamache sat back and did what he did best. He watched. He took in the people, their faces, their actions, and where possible he took in what they said, though people stayed far enough away from his wooden bench on the grass that he couldn’t hear much. He noticed who touched and who didn’t. Who hugged and who shook hands. He noticed who had red eyes and who gave the appearance of business as usual…
…As he sat quietly and let the village happen around him he was impressed by how beautiful it was, these old homes facing the green, with their mature perennial gardens and trees. By how natural everything looked, undesigned. And the pall of grief that settled on this little community was worn with dignity and sadness and a certain familiarity. This village was old, and you don’t get to be old without knowing grief. And loss.
At the center of this mystery is a controversial painting by the victim, Jane Neal, retired school teacher and amateur artist. It is a painting of Fair Day in the village, and hidden within the painting are answers…
This book won the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards. I read it for pure enjoyment, and also, because it is a story about art, I’m counting it as a book read for my Art History Reading Challenge.