Review: Still Life

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache: #1

Well, there’s that. It’s a bit out of genre for me–read by group choice, so I really don’t know how it compares to it’s peer books, but I enjoyed it well enough. It was certainly fascinating to read at the same time as Six Wakes (which, to be honest, I enjoyed rather more).

Overall, the plot is fine. It’s a murder mystery. There are a few decent bits of interesting world building. It’s a small town with what seems to me an unusually large art scene and number of bow hunters. There are some witchy bits which really made me wish this was actually subtle urban fantasy. And a few twists and turns along the way.

The setting is interesting. I grew up in a small town (smaller than this), but don’t know much about Quebec. It’s interesting.

In Quebec it was far from unusual that people spoke both languages, even fluently. But it was unusual to find a francophone speaking like a hereditary member of the House of Lords.

It’s all about contrast:

The service was entirely in French, though Jane herself had been English. The service was entirely Catholic, though Jane herself had been Anglican. Afterwards Yolande, Andre and Bernard accompanied the casket to a ‘family only’ burial, though Jane’s friends had actually been her family.

Characterwise, I did enjoy most of the townspeople. They were certainly an odd varied bunch, which works. You get a lot of interesting descriptions and wording (to the point of distraction at times; I wonder if this is a feature of the genre or just this author):

Rummaging through the cupboard like a wartime surgeon frantically searching for the right bandage, Peter swept aside Yogi Tea and Harmony Herbal Blend, though he hesitated for a second over chamomile. But no. Stay focused, he admonished himself. He knew it was there, that opiate of the Anglos. And his hand clutched the box just as the kettle whistled. Violent death demanded Earl Grey.

I did quite enjoy Inspector Gamache. He’s competent and amusing, if a bit overbearing at times.

Conversely, my least favorite–and I really do not understand the character at all–was Yvette Nichol. A young detective shadowing Gamache, she’s … just abrasive and annoying throughout the entire book.

‘Repeat them for me, please.’

‘I’m sorry, I don’t know, I need help and I forget.’

‘I forget? Where did you get that?’

‘From you this morning. You said, “I forget”.’

‘Are you seriously telling me you thought “I forget” could be a life lesson? I clearly meant that I had forgotten the last sentence. Yes, I’m sure I said, “I forget”. But think of the context. This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with that good brain of yours. You don’t use it. You don’t think. It’s not enough to hear the words.’

Here it comes, thought Nichol. Blah, blah, blah. You’ve got to listen.

And it doesn’t build to anything. She just disappears at some point. I supposed it could be a series level thing, but for just the book… I don’t get it.

Gamache’s complete inability to deal with her certainly doesn’t help.

Overall, it’s a good enough book. It’s a quick read. I doubt I’ll be reading the sequels though. Just not my cup of tea.