Still Life is set in the present day fictional town of Three Pines, Quebec. It's a charming village off the beaten path where the residents are smart, civic minded and many have an artistic bent. There is Ruth Zardo an accomplished poet with an abrasive personality, Olivier and his partner Gabri who run the bed and breakfast in Three Pines, collect antiques and serve delicious food. Myrna a retired psychologist who runs the bookstore. Clara and Peter who make a living through their artwork. Ben Hadley and his mother Timmer. Matthew Croft, his wife Suzanne and their son Phillipe. These are some of the residents and many have lived in Three Pines all their lives. They grew up together and don't t bother to lock their doors
But then Jane Neal, the town's elderly retired school teacher ends up dead. Her body is found in a wooded hunting area, killed with an old fashioned bow and arrow. At first Chief Inspector Gamache and his colleagues Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and Agent Yvette Nicol assume it was a hunting accident but as Inspector Gamache tells us "the problem with a bow and arrow is that you have to be too close. Close enough to see what you're aiming at". And the injury that Jane sustained was a direct hit.
Three Pines is a town in other words with secrets and motives and Jane was also mysterious. She loved to paint but never showed anyone her artwork. She was social and a good friend to others but no one had ever seen the inside of her home. These two aspects of her life remained private. And then a few days before she died Jane suddenly decided to submit her paintings to the Arts Williamsburg Museum but before the night of the unveiling, she was murdered.
I have always felt that a mystery series rises or falls on the lead detective and Inspector Armande Gamache is smart, observant, compassionate, a good home life. But he also has a tense relationship with the young agent Yvette Nicol on his squad. They don't get along and Gamache has serious doubts about her abilities to listen and take orders which will probably be explored in subsequent novels in the series. And as I understand the series will continue to be set in Three Pines and the villagers we are introduced to in Still Life will carry over and I am glad of that. There is much more to learn about this little town and its mysteries.