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Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Paperback – May 22, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 2,252 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Canadian Penny's terrific first novel, which was the runner-up for the CWA's Debut Dagger Award in 2004, introduces Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. When the body of Jane Neal, a middle-aged artist, is found near a woodland trail used by deer hunters outside the village of Three Pines, it appears she's the victim of a hunting accident. Summoned to the scene, Gamache, an appealingly competent senior homicide investigator, soon determines that the woman was most likely murdered. Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight. She deftly uses the bilingual, bicultural aspect of Quebecois life as well as arcane aspects of archery and art to deepen her narrative. Memorable characters include Jane; Jane's shallow niece, Yolande; and a delightful gay couple, Olivier and Gabri. Filled with unexpected insights, this winning traditional mystery sets a solid foundation for future entries in the series. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The residents of a tiny Canadian village called Three Pines are shocked when the body of Miss Jane Neal is found in the woods. Miss Neal, the village's retired schoolteacher and a talented amateur artist, has been a good friend to most of the townsfolk, so her loss is keenly felt. At first, her death appears to be a tragic accident--it's deer-hunting season, and it looks a stray hunter's arrow killed her. But some folks are suspicious, and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Montreal Surete is called in to investigate. Accompanying Gamache are his loyal assistant Beauvoir and Yvette Nichol, a new addition to Gamache's team. The trio soon finds that the seemingly peaceful, friendly village hides dark secrets. The truth is both bizarre and shocking, even to the jaded Gamache and his team. This is a real gem of a book that slowly draws the reader into a beautifully told, lyrically written story of love, life, friendship, and tragedy. And it's a pretty darn good mystery too. This belongs in the same league with such other outstanding Canadian mysteries as Eric Wright's Charlie Salter series. Emily Melton
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Special edition, Value Promotion edition (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250000645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250000644
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,252 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,189,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Still Life," by Louise Penny, takes place in Three Pines, a small rural village south of Montreal. This placid and beautiful hamlet is shaken to its core when a beloved and gentle seventy-six year old woman named Jane Neal is shot through the heart with an arrow. Was Neal's death the result of a hunting accident or was it murder? If it was an accident, why has no one come forward? If Jane was deliberately slain, who could have wanted her dead? One suspect is Jane's estranged niece, Yolande Fontaine, a cold, unfeeling, and greedy woman who is desperate to get her hands on her aunt's property. In addition, Yolande's husband is an obnoxious boor with a criminal record, and their son is a known delinquent.

In charge of the investigation is Chief Inspector of Homicide, Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec. Although he is in his mid-fifties, "violent death still surprised him." Gamache is a man of integrity with keen powers of observation, and he is an excellent listener with an uncanny ability to make people reveal their innermost thoughts. Assisting Gamache is Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir, who has been Gamache's second-in-command for over ten years. Agent Yvette Nichol, an arrogant and impulsive young woman, is new to the team, and she quickly annoys her superiors with her irritating and smug attitude.

The varied cast of townspeople includes Clara and Peter Morrow, who are local artists; Clara, who was extremely close to Jane, is devastated by the old woman's death. Olivier and Gabri are gay partners who run a bistro and a bed and breakfast, and early in the book, they are victims of a vicious assault by three boys who mock the pair's sexual orientation. Myrna Landers is a former psychologist who has deep insight into the human condition.
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By Tom S. on May 17, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the most powerful debut mystery I've read in years. Meet Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sureté de Québec, the most capable, intelligent, and charming detective to come along in a very long while. His first case takes him to the tiny town of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, where someone has killed a much-loved elderly woman with a bow-and-arrow. Who? Why? Gamache must sift through the complex relationships of a colorful group of local citizens to find the surprising answers.

Here are my favorite current mystery series authors: P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes...and Louise Penny. Yes, she's that good. Trust me. Read STILL LIFE, then read A FATAL GRACE, the second in the series and every bit as good as the first one. I can't wait for #3. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although this is by no means a bad book, I didn't like it nearly as much as the other reviewers. To me, the writing was sometimes disjointed and did not flow smoothly, in particular in the conversation between characters and sometimes when jumping between the present and the past. For a first novel about a village and the police officers called there to investigate a suspicious death, there was too much detail to absorb about all the different characters. A good series peels the layers away gradually, allowing depth to be revealed over time. I thought this book tried to reveal too much, too soon.

Inspector Gamache IS an appealing and intelligent character. All of the officers are supposed to be sharp in intellect. That made it strange (and annoying) to see how young officer Nichol misunderstood her superior's advice. It was also mystifying how Gamache, who is so observant and understanding of human nature, could not see how his advice to Nichol had gone wrong.

Finally, I just didn't "buy" the villian of the book. There were enough other plausible suspects to make it interesting, but, in the end, I couldn't believe that the killer could have kept his or her true nature hidden from so many intelligent people for so long. How could the other villagers have not seen something to make them know the nature of this callous individual over the many years they had lived together closely? In a big city where you nod hello to the other people in your apartment building, then I buy that you say "He seemed like such a nice guy." I grew up in a small town, and I found it hard to believe that almost no one really knew the killer. I want to read a mystery that makes sense and that is internally consistent, but I felt this book fell a bit short in that regard.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Louise Penny has written a wonderful "cozy murder mystery." The mystery is intriguing and well laid out. It is the characters, though, that you will fall in love with. They make the story! In this book that is the first in a series, Penny does a great job "hooking" the reader so that you want to read more about Three Pines. I bought Fatal Grace (the second book) at the same time as this one, and I am glad I did. I jumped right into it when I finished Still Life. Definitely worth your while!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had read that this was a "superb" mystery series (in the NY Times, even) and to be fair, this is Ms. Penny's very first book in the Inspector Gamache series. Maybe she came on strong in later books. But "Still Life" seemed pretty terrible to me -- full of unbelievable dialogue, wooden characters, and nutty descriptions of emotional trauma. ("Clara felt that someone had scooped not just her heart but her brain right out of her body.") Inspector Gamache isn't much fun to hang out with. The big clue left by the murder victim that's revealed at the end makes no sense at all.

The Kindle edition has study questions at the end, and one is "Which character in Three Pines would you like to have coffee with?" I honestly (and sadly) couldn't think of one. I could barely remember anyone's name.

Sorry to be such a negative nellie. I just wanted to warn any potential readers who (like me) had heard how wonderful these books are not to get their hopes up too much. This first one, at least, is very weak tea.
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