Summary: A town too small to show up on most maps has a woman shot dead by an arrow.
After talking about my love of the Bruno Chief of Polic series, Sheila Brennan suggested I try the Inspector Gamache books. I was vaguely aware of the series (it had come up as an Amazon recommendation) and somehow I got the impression that it was an older series. (I think I may have confused it with the Jules Maigret series). But as much of my reading lately, Still Life was on Scribd so I picked it up.
Still Life opens up with the characters in Three Pines, a small village outside of Montreal. After a fairly quick introduction to several characters, Jane is found dead and Chief Inspector Gamache is called in to investigate the death. Like the Bruno series, at least part of the interest for me is comparing the different legal systems. Gamache is the head of a team of homicide detectives for a regional police system. It is his job to go to the area and set up shop until the crime is solved.
Because Gamache basically moves in to the community, and sees his job as primarily watching and listening to people, there is a lot of space for character development and understanding the setting. There are more main characters than in the Bruno series. And at least initially in this book, there is a lot of assumed backstory for Gamache that is hinted at, but not actually revealed. My assumption is that more of the back story will come up later in the series. The tenth book in the series was published last fall.
The actual mystery is about the death of Jane, a retired school teacher and life long resident of Three Pines. She was shot and killed with an arrow. Because there is an archery club in town and it is hunting season, the first task is to determine if it was a crime or accident (of course it was a crime). The presentation of the rest of the mystery feels like it is straight forward. The author leads us right to one solution, then another, and another. Each of the solutions seem reasonable but end up being wrong until the end.
For me the mystery is secondary to the characters and setting. And while this is less focused on the food and wine than Bruno, it still has the small town cozy mystery feel but without reducing it to a throw away story. The writing is good and I am interested to see where the series goes, although this first book did not grab me quite as much as the first of the Bruno series. But the ratings of these novels seem to go up each book (for at least the first 5 or so.)