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Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Mass Market Paperback – June 30, 2015
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“A rare treat.” ―People magazine
“It's hard to decide what provides the most pleasure in this enjoyable book: Gamache, a shrewd and kindly man constantly surprised by homicide; the village, which sounds at first like an ideal place to escape from civilization; or the clever and carefully constructed plot.” ―Chicago Tribune
“Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Terrific. Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A gem of a book.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“[An] auspicious debut… [Penny's] deceptively simple style masks the complex patterns of a well-devised plot.” ―Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“A perfectly executed traditional mystery.” ―Denver Post
“A stellar debut novel. The setting is entrancing… Well done!” ―Deadly Pleasures
“A gem of a debut novel--clever, charming, with perceptively realized characters… and the enormously appealing Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. I can't wait for the next installment.” ―Deborah Crombie, author of Water Like a Stone
“An excellent, subtle plot full of understanding of the deeper places in human nature, and many wise observations that will enrich the reader long after the pages are closed.” ―Anne Perry, author of Long Spoon Lane
“Georges Simenon kept Maigret going for over a hundred books. It will be a delight for all of us who love detective fiction if Louise Penny can stay around long enough to do the same for Gamache.” ―Reginald Hill, author of The Stranger House
“Still Life is a masterpiece of a traditional drawing room mystery, repainted in the autumnal colors of the Canadian countryside. Louise Penny is a storytelling artist.” ―Julia Spencer-Fleming, author of To Darkness and to Death
“What a joy it is to discover a detective like Armand Gamache, strong, calm and charismatic and at work on a good mystery in a believable setting.” ―Peter Lovesey, author of The Circle
“What a joy to read a crime novel written with such skill and integrity, strong on character and atmosphere...I couldn't put it down.” ―Margaret Yorke, author of False Pretences
“Still Life is a lovely, clever book and I hope I shall be reading a lot more by Louise Penny!” ―Ann Granger, author of That Way Murder Lies
From the Back Cover
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces---and this series---with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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”Still Life” is the first novel by Louise Penny. The book was published in 2007, and the twelfth book in the series will be published in August of this year. This should give you some indication of both the series’ success, and the work ethic of the author.
The book introduces the title character, Armand Gamache, a chief inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, as he seeks to solve a murder in a small village near Montreal. The village itself, and its eclectic denizens, becomes a character in the book, quirky and unique, always providing some background movement to draw the eye. The setting in a small village in the Canadian province of Quebec also adds interest, as Penny delves (a little bit) into the tensions, and friendships, between francophone and anglophone Québécois.
The supporting characters are also incredibly well done. From the strange and eccentric citizens of Three Pines, to the police officers tasked with solving the murder, each character is uniquely realized and speaks with a distinct voice. However, Penny tends to rely heavily on exposition to advance her characters in the story, rather than dialogue. Characters thought lines tend to spell out exactly how they are reacting to situations that arise in the book, rather than letting the subtext of their actions or dialogue advance the plot. The style is clunky and a bit disappointing, but hopefully can be chalked up to inexperience on the author’s part. (I certainly hope so, I started the second book in the series, A Fatal Grace, yesterday. I’ll keep you all posted)
The mystery itself is satisfying, red herrings and false flags abound. And while the clues to solving the mystery are there to be found, they don’t slap the reader in the face and scream “look at me!” This (I find) is a hard line for mystery writers to walk. Make the resolution too obscure, or the clues happen off screen, and the end is unsatisfying and feels tacked on. Telegraph the important stuff too loudly, and the mystery is solved by the read way too early, and takes a lot of the fun out of the read. Louise Penny does a great job sprinkling bits and pieces around, but blends them expertly into the background. It’s only when you go back and think about it that you put the pieces together.
In all, this is a satisfying “cozy-type” mystery, great for an afternoon’s read (and it is currently beach-reading season). The book is generally well written (barring the clunky exposition I mentioned earlier), and the characters engaging enough to encourage you to jump directly into the sequel. I also have to say that Penny captures the northeastern landscape in fall closely enough to cause some homesickness in this transplanted New Englander.
Check out more reviews by checking out my blog!