Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards. 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.
St. Martin's Minotaur 312 pages
almost 6 years ago
well, this was a treat! i thoroughly enjoyed still life, the town of three pines and the cast of characters. this is a charming book. which seems a bit odd saying about a murder-mystery novel. but there you go. i am not widely experienced in the genre (my mystery reads tend towards scandinavian noire and agatha christie, heh) but i suppose penny's novel is one of those 'cozy mysteries' sub-genre works.
there was so much to like about the novel:
* armand gamache - he seems so awesome and i enjoyed how penny developed him through the story and gave us a hint or two about his past without explaining further
* the people of three pines - what a bunch of quirk-a-doodles. i love them! i hope we get to hear more from them in future novels...but that might involve gamache having to move to three pines. hmmm???
* the setting - i attended university in the eastern townships of quebec. reading all of the references to the area was great and i could picture things so easily, granby and cowansville, for example. or the drive from montréal to the townships. it was all so clear in my head and really added to the read for me.
* the mystery - was fun! i had figured it out fairly early on, which happens, but i think penny did a wonderful job weaving this story together.
* the fact that if i had a small 'yeah but..' with something in the book, penny then addressed it. the perfect example: nichol started our like just a keen officer wanting to do well and succeed with gamache. but without explanation she all of a sudden became like a petualnt child. it sort of bugged me. but then, late in the story penny used the exact same expression in describing nichol and so i know she knows and now i know there is more about nichol we will learn in future books.
* the supporting characters - i felt they were really well done.
so, YAY! i am glad i have now read the first book in the 'armand gamache' series. my mum has long loved these novels and i can now fully appreciate why. the book was some great escapist reading.
also -- HBO needs to make this into a series. STAT! :)
about 5 years ago
about 4 years ago
2.5 stars rounded down.
I had heard good things about this book so when the audio version came available at the library, I nabbed it. Unfortunately, my experience wasn't nearly as positive as many reviews had promised.
Before going into why it didn't work for me, I want to say that I enjoyed the narration. Lots of French in this book so I appreciated being able to hear proper pronunciations and a nice accent. I also found myself connecting with some of the characters and chuckling here and there or feeling some empathy for them. The mystery, itself, was sort of fun to follow. Even though I pegged the killer very early on, I didn't have much evidence. But to be fair, there wasn't much evidence to go on for that person.
Now for the things that made me groan and, at one point, move the book to my "quit but will go back" shelf. I dropped it for a couple of days but, in the end, wanted to find out why Jane had been killed.
First off, the jumping POVs drove me crazy. Some authors can make it work - I've heard JK Rowling is a head hopper with the Harry Potter series. (No, I've not read them - YET!) I don't remember it being an issue in her Robert Galbraith books or with Casual Vacancy though. Anyway, the head hopping is what ultimately made me put the book away. It still bothered me when I decided to keep going but I did my best to ignore it.
Another thing that bothered me was that some of the clues - particularly toward the end when it seemed pretty obvious how to identify the killer - were completely missed by the detectives. I understand that the reader gets more info than any individual character but it was right there.
So, I'm glad I finished the book but unless the POV switching was eliminated in later books in the series, I don't see myself reading another.
over 3 years ago
I have promised myself the treat of catching up on some mystery reading this summer and I started with this one because I have never read a Louise Penny and folks are always raving about her books. It has been a long time wince I have read a more cozy type of mystery, and I really enjoyed this one. It took me a little while to get to like the detective. He reminded me a little bit of Hercule Poirot and at first I found him a little hard to take. Like Poirot did, he grew on me and by the end I didn't even really see him like Poirot at all. Recommended read if you like being introduced to interesting villages and mysteries with an artistic flair.
over 3 years ago
Excellent, excellent, excellent. I love Louise Penny's Gamache mysteries!
This is the first book of the series, about the murder of local artist Jane Neal. It's Inspector Gamache's first visit to the town, so it includes a heavy dose of introduction to Three Pines' quirky characters (imagine a slightly more subdued citizenry from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil).
Having read a later book in this series first, I was fairly bored with the first 20% or so of this book but for readers starting at a more logical position in the series (ahem) it would be enjoyable. Once Gamache arrives and casually gets to know the townsfolk, the pace and plot pick up and the pages fly by.