When seventy-six year old Jane Neal was found dead in the woods, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache was brought in from the city.
Before we learn more about her mysterious death, Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel takes us back…before. And shows us the quaint little country village of Three Pines and its residents. Into this seemingly placid community, could violence have descended?
Then we learn about the three teenagers that threw manure at the bistro owned by two gay partners, and we see that all is not necessarily well here. We see some history that is not necessarily good between some of the residents, and we catch a glimpse of overwhelming animosity in Ruth. But then she is angry at everyone, all the time. What is her story?
Jane was beloved, we are told. Single, she has quirks that others have become accustomed to, like the fact that nobody has seen into her home beyond the kitchen…ever. And that she has never submitted her art until now…and it is accepted by the Arts Williamsburg jury, to be shown. Those who saw it were astounded. Some thought it childish, while others said “brilliant.” Behind closed doors, startling secrets are about to be revealed. And something lurks within the Fair Day painting that Jane submitted; something that could lead to the culprit.
Who, if anyone, in the village could have killed Jane? Is it really a murder, or an accident? Why would someone kill her at all? And what can her friends, like Clara and Peter, or family, like Yolande, tell us about her life that would reveal the answers? And what about Ben Hadley, an old friend who seems kind…the one who found Jane’s body?
When Gamache strides into town with his inspectors, he is immediately a presence. He has a unique way about him, and the reader is soon caught up in his methods, his calm interrogations, and the way he deals with his underlings, especially one Yvette Nichol, a newbie, who has exaggerated ideas about her own abilities. And a smug arrogance that could cost her everything.
There were numerous red herrings, and amongst the villagers, possible suspects began to emerge. In this quote of a conversation between Gamache and Myrna, a former psychologist who owned the bookstore, we get a sense of something, a clue previously unseen:
`You described a personality type. The ones who lead what you called “still” lives. Do you remember?’
`Yes, I do. The ones who aren’t growing and evolving, who are standing still. They’re the ones who rarely got better.’
This was my first book in the Gamache series, and I am enthralled by his style, his techniques, and how he brings the reader into the midst of it all. And just when I thought I had everything figured out, I was stunned by the reveal. But then again, perhaps the signs had been there all along. 5 stars.