- File Size: 3293 KB
- Print Length: 314 pages
- Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (September 30, 2008)
- Publication Date: September 30, 2008
- Sold by: Macmillan
- Language: English
- ASIN: B001OLRMZA
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,867 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 314 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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“A rare treat.”
“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.”
“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.”
“A stellar debut novel. The setting is entrancing… Well done!”
“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 ...
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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In my very humble opinion Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series are far superior. I hate when people mention other authors in a review. But there it is.
”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.
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Armand Gamache is such a refreshing change from your usual police inspector, in that he and his wife love each other very much, he has a stable and strong home life, and he doesn't seem to possess any of the inner demons and hauntings that so many others in this genre do. So pleasant to read of someone with what could be termed a "normal" life both at work and at home.
Although Gamache is a somewhat gentle and easy going character, he also shows the stronger, stricter side of him at various points throughout the story, both when disciplining his underlings and also when interrogating suspects and witnesses who he knows are telling bare faced lies. This is a good portrayal, again, of someone who is just like the next person.
The story itself is intricately woven, characters introduced here and there to build a marvellous picture of the inhabitants of the town of Three Pines, and how they interact with one another in every day life. Some characters are fleshed out more, and rightly so since they form an integral part of the main plot. Others are mentioned briefly but this for me is just right in getting the balance between who is essential to the story and who is there just for back ground.
All throughout this book, I was taken to a beautiful place, picturesque, wild, tranquil.... all sorts of adjectives spring to mind, so good was the author's descriptions. I feel now as if I have learnt something about Canada, both in terms of it's political structure and it's breath taking landscape.
So all in all, I would highly recommend this book. Stunning for a debut novel, and I am so looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and getting to know more about Gamache, his team and also the quirky and often hilarious residents of Three Pines.
The opening lines of the novel states. ”Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round." The surprise is, who could unexpectedly murder a well-loved elderly artist and ex-teacher, and why? Jane was killed with an arrow and we are treated to an informative overview of bows and arrows – which I found very interesting.
Throughout the story, I was drawn towards different suspects for quite legitimate reasons and I would say that if you guess the murderer early on, it will be as much luck as investigative deductions. To give equal credence to several possible murderers is a real craft in writing a whodunit. It’s all about creating motive, opportunity and the capability to carry out the horrific act of murder. In the story, Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying that “Conscience and cowardice are the same thing. What stops us from doing horrible things isn’t our conscience but the fear of getting caught.”
Gamache has an engaging style that is really appealing, he listens, he observes, he has an analytical mind. He helps develop his team and has a fundamental desire to support new recruits and imparts wisdom on assessing a person’s character and principles, such as our ability to make choices.
“I watch. I’m very good at observing. Noticing things. And listening. Actively listening to what people are saying, their choice of words, their tone. What they aren’t saying. … It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. So when I’m observing, that’s what I’m watching for. The choices people make.”
He is also pragmatic and firm and will make tough choices when necessary. As a consequence, his team are extremely loyal and cohesive. Well, the established team members are!
This book is not a psychological thriller but a book I highly recommend as a murder mystery.
I dislike the term 'Cozy' it has something of the crazy cat woman about it. However for the sake of clarity I will say it towards the cozy end of the crime spectrum. But it is not bland. Penny has a deft touch with facing the realities and consequences of the death at the heart of the book, without dragging down the generally positive tone. There are interesting hints towards some long term series arc's that are intriguing. I can't wait to read more.
A definite recommendation for fans of Martha Grimes, Anne Cleeves and Agatha Christie.
It's overall rather a 'polite' book, but the plot is nothing special. As for the characters - I felt we got to know the three main cops a bit, but many of the villagers were so sketchily drawn that I couldn't remember who was who most of the time, with a few exceptions. The first chapter introducing these 'characters' (hardly personalities) was pretty slow going... things got a bit better later on.
The author has by now published quite a few books in this series, and has presumably improved her craft... maybe I'll try a later book, maybe not.
The plotting, however, and some of the exposition, needs more than a little polish. Ultimately, it just doesn’t quite hang together in the satisfying way of the very best crime stories. One example: Near the end, it is mentioned almost in passing that a phone call played a role, and yet the police apparently neglected to check the victim’s phone records, which would surely be standard procedure.
Also, as others have commented, the central character, Chief Inspector Gamache, is rather bland and unmemorable. He’s certainly a welcome change from so many middle-aged detectives of popular fiction - he’s happily married, no drink problem, doesn’t break the rules or take huge personal risks in the name of justice - but what’s left? He’s smart but not off-the-charts brilliant, a shrewd observer of people, patient and....er that’s about it.
As for the structure, well it’s all a bit Agatha Christie: an isolated group of people who’ve know each other for decades, so plenty of festering jealousy and resentment; speculative conversations prompted by the awareness that there’s a killer in their midst; a painting that may or may not reveal the identity of the guilty party; and an approaching storm for good measure.
This is the first in what became an extended series, so I’d like to think the author’s craft improved over time, and that her later efforts demonstrate this. Certainly there are many glowing reviews, and I wish her well. But for me, the acid test is when you get to the end, and your Kindle invites you to purchase the next in the series. As of now, I’m still deciding, hence 3 stars.
Taken alone, this is a fairly routine crime novel. The plot isn’t complex and it’s easy to work out who committed the crime and why. After reading reviews and articles, I believe that the series gets a lot better and I will definitely read more to find out if I’m right.
I loved the quirky characters and how they all fitted together perfectly. The storytelling itself was fantastic, and I felt myself really drawn into it. The ‘reveal’ happens quite near the end, and from there the wrap up is pretty quick, but I still really enjoyed this book and it had just the right amount of suspense and really kept me guessing until the end!
I disliked the stereotypes, the humour that never quite worked, the twee village life setting, perfect and annoying Clara, and the respected police leader who can’t even effectively mentor the try too hard junior policewoman. The plot was as contorted and artificial as a snake embalmed for exhibition.
Unlikely to choose to read another in the series, but the wisdom offered by Myrna about why you can’t help some people was a pearl to save.
I was excited to have discovered a new writer but I have not founf the next in the series to be as good. Too dark and increasingly less credible.
The story is both delightful and delightfully written. Three Pines is a quaint town/village where nobody ever really leaves – as if they do, they come back again. There are characters you know and love from your own experience – or wish you knew. There are couples with secrets and old ladies with lies. The characterisation is excellent, with occasional bon mots of wisdom thrown in. I was fascinated by Myrna’s theory of loss – that all our troubles are caused by some type of loss, and most of us recognise that and move on, but some just wallow in it.
The denouement is done well – I was right in my selection of the villain some way from the end, but it did not stop my enjoyment of the further red herrings and the eventual realisation of the rest of the protagonists in a thrilling conclusion. Whether it is too obvious I can’t tell, but I think not.
Will I read more of this series – yes, probably, but I’m not in a rush. I docked it a 5th star for a combination of the irritating rookie and some irritatingly poor formatting (why don’t these big publishers pay enough attention to the typos in their ebooks?). It was fascinating to learn more about French Canadian culture and politics, too.