Tag Archives: crime novel

‘Still Life’ by Louise Penny

still-lifestarstarstarFinally getting around to this popular Canadian series that has worldwide recognition. What a great introduction to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the residents of Three Pines. Watching him enter the small town and sift through the dark secrets and murder clues, was just the thing for these cold January evenings. Crime fiction often comes in series, and getting to know the detective who solves the mysteries is a big part of the attraction. There’s always lots of details floating about with the reader unsure about which facts and theories are important and which are not, but in the end it doesn’t really matter, because you can depend on the trusty Inspector to sort it all out in the end. There’s a grand comfort in that.

Louise Penny offers a nice balance of action and reflection, making this feel ‘more than’ the usual whodunit. Her work has been paralleled with British whodunits which tend to have (according to wiki) “murders by unconventional means, bucolic villages, large casts of suspects, red herrings, and a dramatic disclosure of the murderer in the last few pages of the book.” Loved the Canadian setting outside of Montreal (just like Kathy Reichs’ Bones series; if you liked that, you’ll love this) and looking forward to more from this author–since I bought the three book starter set at Costco, the next two instalments are likely imminent! Judging by the reviews, future instalments keep getting better and better. And after all, it’s still going to be cold and dark for awhile yet…

There is a movie based on Still Life. It’s available on youtube.

 

‘Cross Bones’ by Kathy Reichs

Cross BonesstarstarstarEvery year or two I read another Kathy Reichs crime novel. I’m reading them in order so that I can also keep tabs on Temperance Brennan’s personal life. Recently I was excited to be in the audience at a BBC radio interview with the author, and got to ask her a question. She is a forensic anthropologist who divides her time between Canada and the US, sits on various boards, and is often a witness in court cases where an expert is needed to testify. Where does she find the time to write novels as well? I asked her if the topics from her series actually come from her own work, and they do. Not surprising, but still nice to know. I’ve actually never watched the popular TV series Bones, based on Reich’s books, mostly because I don’t want to alter the image of the novels in my own mind.

‘Cross Bones’ has an archaeological focus and takes place mostly in Jerusalem. Masada features briefly as well. Temperance and Ryan actually go on the trip together because there is police business to attend to as well. In addition to the taut drama around solving the case, it is obvious from sidebars in the story and in reading between the lines, that the author was affected by her trip to the Holy Land. It is hard not to be, when you see firsthand how conflict is splitting the region apart.

Reichs writes a story with a smart sassy narrative. And Temperance always finds herself in trouble somewhere along the line. But what I enjoy most about her novels is what I learn about the human anatomy from the authentic examination of the bones in her lab. She sort of honours these dead people with her curiosity about who they were and how they lived. As a result she almost brings them back to life.

When an author cranks out a novel a year, you know that it is going to be slightly formulaic and have some repetitive stylistic qualities. Some readers may become irritated by her ‘end of chapter cliffhangers’ and her tendency to sum everything up in lengthy explanations towards the end of the book. But I still find the series quite enjoyable.

Kathy Reichs Website