"This is what comes of trust and friendship, loyalty and love. Betrayed...wounded so deeply you can barely breathe and sometimes it kills you."
Something killed Jane Neal, and it wasn't natural causes. But was it trust or even friendship? She certainly had a lot of both. A gentle soul, Jane lived contentedly among the villagers of Three Pines, Quebec. The little town, a few miles from Montreal, is shocked at the loss of one of its oldest residents and mourns her passing deeply. Once a beloved schoolteacher, Jane had been retired many years and long numbered among the myriad artists living in Three Pines. However, there was only one time that she entered one of her paintings in the Arts Williamsburg show. Shortly thereafter, she was dead. Her art seemed harmless enough, almost simplistic some would say. What could possibly have led anyone to murder over Jane Neal's picture? Maybe it was just coincidence.
And maybe it wasn't murder. It could have been an accident. Certainly, L'Inspecteur Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec starts with that assumption in mind. Three Pines is, after all, a bucolic village worlds away from the big city troubles of Quebec. The mere thought that any of the townfolk could be capable of a cold-blooded murder goes against his grain in the midst of the peace and beauty of the tiny community.
The many very charming --- and a few not so charming --- people who knew Miss Jane Neal step up to assist L'Inspecteur Gamache with their personal theories, most of them pretty wild and unrealistic. But Clara, one of Jane's dearest friends and a gifted artist in her own right, provides Gamache and his team with some excellent food for thought. Clara's insights are astute and her intimate knowledge of the dead woman seems invaluable. As they all work to unravel the mystery of Jane's death, formerly buried secrets of some Three Pines' residents are revealed, and they are real doozies.
Author Louise Penny is a master of creating delightful characters --- frankly, even the most evil among them, for they are delightfully horrid. STILL LIFE is a great slice of small town life, with a thorny mystery driving a solid, uncomplicated plot.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 23, 2011