Thursday, May 21, 2009

'Still Life'

by Louise Penny
Fiction/Mystery, 2005
Headline UK, mm pb, 402 p.
Inspector Gamache series, Book 1
Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel (2006), the Anthony Award for Best First Novel (2007) among others.
As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life – all except one…
To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident – a hunter’s arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead?

In a long and distinguished career with the Sûreté du Québec, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has learned to look for snakes in Eden. Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watched closely enough, Three Pines will begin to give up its secrets…
I guess Still Life would be considered a ‘cozy’. Although I usually prefer my mysteries to be a bit more thrilling, this was truly a pleasure to read. It’s the first in Louise Penny’s series with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and takes place in the small Quebec town of Three Pines.

I have to say that after reading this book I was almost ready to pack up and move to Three Pines! The perfect opposite of hectic, crowded Tokyo, that’s for sure! The setting and the cast of quirky characters that live in the town really added to the charm, making it a fun place to spend a few days, via the pages of the book. And I was thrilled to learn that several of the other books in the series again return to Three Pines. I also liked the character of Gamache, with his moral conviction and quiet but authoritative manner, and I look forward to getting to know him a little better.

I found the writing occasionally a bit awkward, and the subplot with the bungling young female police officer unnecessary and slightly distracting, but it wasn’t enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series.

Final verdict: Wonderful characters, and a great beginning to a promising series.

Louise Penny's website
Louise Penny's blog
Author Profile in the Quill & Quire
Article in Macleans magazine
Interview with Louise Penny

First sentence: Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday.

My rating: 3.5/5
(#30 for 2009, Book Awards II Challenge, 2nd Canadian Book Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Tip of the Iceberg
Thoughts of Joy
You Can Never Have Too Many Books
A Reader's Journal
Framed and Booked
If you've read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. This sounds like a great series!! I'll have to keep it in mind when I'm looking for a new mystery series. Right now I'm reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice and I'm in love with I will of course have to read all of them!!! Great review!!

  2. Staci - That's the bad thing about reading and liking the first book in a series, isn't it!? It means we just have to read the rest of them! LOL. It was a fun one though so I hope you have a chance to try it someday.

  3. I agree that it may not necessarily be a "thrilling" mystery series, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Knowing about its pace, I hope you enjoy the rest more. :)

  4. Joy - The characters really made this a fun read, and I did really enjoy it, don't get me wrong. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. :)

  5. Yay, so glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I guess it is a bit of a cozy but I thought compared to other "cozy" reads this one had more character development. At least for the main characters. And, I just loved Gamache. I thought the second in the series was really good too but unfortunately couldn't get into the third one. I think that may have been a timing issue though so I'll definitely give it another go one of these days!

  6. I bought this book and started it but just couldn't get into it. I guess it was too much of a cozy for my taste. I was disappointed because Penny is a local-ish writer and she has a great website!

  7. Iliana - It was definitely the characters that made me enjoy the book as much as I did. I'm glad to hear you liked the second one too. I'll have to see what I think of the third one if/when I get to it.

    Avis - I know what you mean, I'm not usually a fan of cozies either, but I did enjoy it. I think it was a case of the right timing to fit my mood.


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