Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1
Kindle Edition, 377 pages
Published: September 30, 2008 by Minotaur Books (1st published January 1, 2005)
Literary Awards: Barry Award for Best First Novel (2007), Anthony Award for Best First Novel (2007), Dilys Award (2007), Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel (2006), The Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger (2006)
Jane Neal, a retired schoolteacher and artist, is found dead in the woods outside the cozy village where she has spent her entire life. Residents of Three Pines, where people only lock their doors to prevent neighbors from dropping off baskets of zucchini, assume she was the victim of a tragic hunting accident. However when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called to the scene, they suspect foul play.
This intricately crafted mystery stands out for its literary richness and strong character development. Three Pines is populated by vivid, interesting and likeable characters. In a sense the artsy community of Three Pines is, in itself, the protagonist of the story, and it — along with its colorful residents — is described in loving detail.
Inspector Armand Gamache, hero of the series, is an interesting character, tough but compassionate, grounded, and intuitive. He is also a loving, devoted family man. Clara Morrow, an artist whose work — which includes paintings of warrior uteruses — is yet to be discovered — also stands out. We also meet Clara’s dignified and reticent husband Peter, a successful painter; Myrna, a former psychologist and bookstore owner; Gabri and Olivier, the couple who run the bistro and B&B; and Ruth, an acerbic alcoholic and gifted poet.
The point of view frequently changes, and while I enjoyed visiting the minds of various characters, I sometimes found these abrupt shifts confusing or distracting. However, this did not diminish my pleasure in reading this novel..
I also enjoyed learning a bit about the culture of Québéc — including a few interesting Québécois profanities which I was inspired to research on the internet.
I look forward to reading the rest of this series. This is an excellent choice for mystery aficionados, especially those who enjoy cozy mysteries.