Still Life, Part 2
Recap (Starting with Chapter 7)
While Chief Inspector Gamache’s team waits for the results of lab tests, he turns to the bookstore, and Myrna, for inspiration and answers. While they talk, he asks about the other woman who died recently, Timmer Hadley, and he realizes Myrna knows more than she’s saying. So, he comes away from that conversation with more questions, and a book that forces him to search for answers in a place that makes him confront another fear. He has to climb to the hunting blind, and he’s afraid of heights. But, it’s there he has a conversation with Clara that opens her eyes that someone local is a killer, and their feelings have been festering.
As Gamache waits, he learns more about the villagers. Ruth Zardo is one of Canada’s most famous poets. And, Clara and the villagers have a different view of the deceased Timmer Hadley than Myrna did. They’ve known Timmer longer, as Ben’s mother, a hateful woman who terrorized her son.
And, as the villagers wait, they once again gather at Clara and Peter’s where they deconstruct the crime, and realizing one of them is a killer, they know someone killed Jane Neal on purpose. Readers who want to continue the series should watch the scenes in which the villagers gather because there are glimpses of their true characters in these moments.
When the lab results come in, the team once again visit the Crofts, where Philippe turns on his father, but Matthew Croft’s confession isn’t enough to convince Gamache of his guilt, and he refuses to arrest him, going against orders. Gamache is suspended, and Beauvoir is forced to take his gun and badge from him.
It’s while attending Jane Neal’s memorial service and reception that Gamache realizes one of his officers lied to him, and didn’t check on Jane Neal’s will. And, when the women of the village hold a prayer ritual, they discover another piece of evidence, an arrow that was still in a tree. That piece of evidence exonerates Matthew Croft, proves Jane Neal really was murdered, and it wasn’t an accident, and brings about the reinstatement of Gamache as officer in charge of the investigation.
And, it was the will, leaving everything to Clara, that opens Jane Neal’s house to the police. They find horrific wallpaper and paint in the house, but, when they look beneath it, they discover Jane Neal’s gift to the community. Her paintings on her walls reveal the history of Three Pines. And, Gamache knows that the murderer was someone on those walls as well.
But, it’s Clara, the artist, who is the first to realize who the killer is. And, her attempt to confront the killer leads to a horrifying scene, and a rescue attempt during a hurricane. The discovery of the murderer would change the villagers forever.
Louise Penny, a master storyteller, foreshadows so many of the relationships and actions in future books when she talks about her characters. Remember the characters, their reactions, their feelings, as you read future books. And, remember Three Pines. “And the pall of grief that settled on this little community was worn with dignity and sadness and a certain familiarity. This village was old, and you don’t get to be old without knowing grief. And loss.”
But, also remember Armand Gamache’s last view of Three Pines. “He looked down at the village and his heart soared. He looked over the rooftops and imagined the good, kind, flawed people inside struggling with their lives….Life was far from harried here. But neither was it still.”
Matthew 10:36. “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
Conclusion and Discussion Questions
As we read the other books in this series, it’s important to remember what we’ve learned about the characters. Keep in mind what you’ve learned about Gamache, Beauvoir, and Nichol, as well as about the villagers themselves; Clara, Peter, Olivier, Gabri, Ruth and Myrna. And, remember what Louise Penny said. Her books are not really about murder, but what murder dislodges in a community.
In a 2007 interview with author G.M. Malliet, Louise Penny said, “I think of Three Pines as a state of mind. A village occupied by people who have made conscious choices in their lives. Not because they’ve never been hurt, not because they’re too protected, or foolish, or shallow to know that the world can be a dreadful place. No. It’s for that very reason they’ve all made their choices. They’ve all been hurt. As have we all. But when wounded some people become embittered, cynical, sarcastic. They hurt back. But some, and I sometimes think they’re the ones most wounded, make another choice. They know nothing good comes of giving in to our darker instincts. And so they turn to what Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address called, ‘The better angels of our nature.’ Three Pines is a place where kindness trumps cruelty, where people help each other, and care. Where sharing isn’t a word to be laughed at and even an embittered old poet is welcomed.”
1. What happened to the Three Pines community as a result of Jane Neal’s death?
2. Gamache has a fear of heights, and shows unexpected anger. He also refuses a direct order. Do these flaws make him more human, or indicate weakness?
3. What did Clara mean by having “Surprised by Joy” engraved on Jane Neal’s tombstone?
4. Louise Penny says this book is about choice. What did she mean by that?
5. Three Pines is Louise Penny’s ideal village. What is your ideal village like?
6. Penny uses poetry throughout the book. Is there one poem or line that resonates with you?