I couldn't keep myself from looking online for reviews immediately after finishing this book. Normally, I wouldn't do that until I'd written my own review. In this case, though, I was so conflicted by what I read that I had to look to see if others felt the same way.
My number one complaint about this book is that it should not have won the Anthony (best first mystery novel). If I were reading an Anthony, I would expect stellar writing, characterizations and plot line. I'd say Penny was able to manage about 1.5 out of the 3 of those, so if I had picked it up solely on the basis of the award, I'd be rather pissed off.
The plot is pretty decent because she tries hard not to hold true to the Agatha Christie method of interview-rumination-interview-rumination-repeat-reveal. Besides the fact that it is set in Quebec, which I know little of even though I live so close by, the location is not enough of a draw. The characters are mysteries even by the time you finish the book. They're not realized, they have odd thoughts that jump out at various moments, and perhaps worst of all, you start a paragraph thinking a particular character is talking and this switches partway through the paragraph! I can't imagine a more lazy way of writing. I don't need to be challenged by having to pick through the sentences to figure out who's talking.
And suffice it to say, she doesn't move far enough way from the beaten path of mystery writing, which means that I figured out whodunnit a little more than 1/3 of the way into the book.