Is there anything more tricky than choosing the right escape reading? Satisfaction depends so much on your mood and on fine shades of difference in narrators, in action, in setting. I read Tana French but not the Swedes, Patricia Wentworth but not Agatha Christie. At first try, Still Life seemed to be too cute. The body of an elderly woman is found in a beautiful patch of Quebecois woods. Flash back a few days: an appealing woman artist is waiting for an older woman to show up to have coffee with her in their idyllic Canadian village and they discuss the village art show. My heart sank, and I read no further. Still Life seemed awfully cutesy, or “twee” as our English friends might put it.
Fortunately Chief Inspector Gamache of Montreal put some backbone into the proceedings and once it was discovered that the murder weapon was a hunting arrow, I relaxed. Odd, really. Why should cuteness bother me in a genre that is so artificial? Why does the arrival of a nasty steel-pointed arrow, which makes the novel more sinister, also make it more appealing?
For his part, Gamache is tall, handsome, Cambridge-educated, intuitive, occasionally at odds with his bosses in the Sûreté of Quebec. Pretty much the recipe for an attractive detective in a Canadian series. It was the suggestion of several friends that put me onto Louise Penny in the first place although I don’t feel she’s a treasure (hello, Julia Spencer-Fleming!) five more perfectly fine novels about mayhem in Canada are good news.