If you haven’t yet read a mystery by Louise Penny, my Five Star Friday recommendation is to start at the beginning with Still Life. Her current NY Times bestseller, A Great Reckoning is the twelfth book in the series.

Publisher Summary:  As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes still-lifeof Three Pines come to life – all except one…

To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found lying dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident – a hunter’s arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead?

In a long and distinguished career with the Sûreté du Quebec, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has learned to look for snakes in Eden. Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will begin to give up its secrets…

The world Penny creates in this quaint village of Three Pines is alive with unique characters with complex histories.  Still Life is smart and provides the reader an opportunity to savor the surface beauty of a rural town south of Montreal and appreciate the depth of human friendship, love, envy, greed, and the impact of loss.

Penny paints from the perspective of the English who live in Three Pines but also from the perspective of the French culture of Chief Inspector Gamache and his team. Gamache, the moral center of the series, is both stable and wise.  He does not heft the usual emotional baggage the trait of so many detectives in the genre.

Of the several themes in the book, one is choice. Gamache counsels the rookie detective, “Life is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful.”

It is no surprise that Still Life and the other Gamache books have won multiple awards.  A Publishers Weekly review summed it up best:    “Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight. She deftly uses the bilingual, bicultural aspect of Quebecois life as well as arcane aspects of archery and art to deepen her narrative. Memorable characters include Jane; Jane’s shallow niece, Yolande; and a delightful gay couple, Olivier and Gabri. Filled with unexpected insights, this winning traditional mystery sets a solid foundation for future entries in the series.”

Each of the books in this series is available through the O’Fallon Public Library. Below is the order starting with the first:

Still Life

A Fatal Grace 

The Cruelest Month

A Rule Against Murder

The Brutal Telling

Bury Your Dead

A Trick of the Light

The Beautiful Mystery

How the Light Gets In

The Long Way Home

The Nature of the Beast

A Great Reckoning

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