2005 - Still Life
In library school, I took a class called Readers Advisory. I learned there are various approaches to the art of recommending reading, but the one I found most accessible was a simple ranking of four elements: plot, characterization, style, and setting. These elements usually, but not always, align nicely with particular genres for fiction reading. Literary fiction emphasizes style. Thrillers focus on plot. Fantasy highlights setting. Most of the books that I've read for this project are literary fiction and therefore are heavy on style. I know this about myself, that I tend to choose writing quality over other potentially appealing aspects of books. But in Still Life, I got a refreshing dose of characterization and plot to spice things up.
Still Life is, plain and simple, a police procedural murder mystery. Inspector Armand Gamache is summoned to investigate the highly unusual murder of an elderly woman in the tiny town of Three Pines, a short drive from Quebec. Gamache's kind, inquisitive demeanor and his involvement of the townspeople in solving the crime make him remarkably human. He doesn't have all the answers; he isn't relying on random trivia from his past to surreptitiously solve the crime while the reader isn't looking. He hits roadblocks. He makes mistakes. But his humility and honesty win out. He is a character I am looking forward to reading again. Fortunately for me, there are more than a dozen books in this ongoing series.
The other characters in the book are just as appealing. The victim is a fascinating mashup of misunderstood artist and town socialite. She had a vile niece, a lovely pooch, and friends in town ranging from other artists to the owners of the town's combination antique shop, B&B, and cafe.
If you're in the mood for a quick, intellectually satisfying murder mystery with a charming detective, I recommend:
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan C. Bradley
- The Mistletoe Murder by P. D. James
- Death at La Fenice (Guido Brunetti #1) by Donna Leon
Keep turning the page,