Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review: Still Life

Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
ISBN: 978-0-312-54153-8
Pages: 312
Release Date: July 11, 2006
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Crime Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Publisher: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté due Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, 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 this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bow hunter.

My thoughts: Still Life is the first of Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. The murder of 76-year old Jane Neal shocks the residents of the picturesque, quaint village of Three Pines, where everybody knows each other and many of the residents have lived for years. But as the investigation begins and residents are questioned, animosities come to light and trust between them begins to pale. They start to wonder: how well do they really know each other? Do you ever really know someone completely? Chief Inspector Gamache and his team attempt to discover the answer to these questions about trust and identity, as well as why people keep secrets, even from the ones they love most in this world. They ask what these secrets mean as they work to unravel the puzzle of Jane Neal’s death.

Louise Penny has a wonderful talent for creating fascinating, unique characters who bring the story to life. I love the setting, ie; the village of Three Pines, but it was the characters in Still Life that were my favorite part of the book, even the few I found aggravating.

The main character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, is unlike most detectives one finds in crime novels. He is gentle, thoughtful, observant and kind. Even after years of investigations, he is still surprised every time someone is killed. He is respectful of others and patient with people but will not tolerate rude behavior and ineptitude. Inspector Gamache leaves no stone unturned. He is a gentleman of strong principles and unwavering values. He demands the best from the agents who work under him but is willing to teach those who want to learn the finer points of investigating crime. It is a shame that the young agent, Yvette Nichol, doesn’t understand how much she can learn from him and fails to understand the wisdom Chief Inspector Gamache imparts. Although this is her first murder investigation, she is arrogant and impatient with neighbors of the victim and the people who knew her. She shows no respect for Inspector Gamache and her other colleagues. These are just two of the many intriguing and enjoyable characters found in Still Life.

I read and reviewed The Brutal Telling, Louise Penny’s fifth novel in her Chief Inspector Gamache series after I received it from the publisher. I enjoyed it so much that I bought Still Life, which I liked even better. The books stand on their own and don't need to be read in order. But most of the characters are in both books and it was a little disconcerting to know the future of some of them. On the other hand, it was interesting to read the beginning of the character's story already knowing what happens later on. Both books are very good and their stories unique.
Louise Penny has written a unique and ingenious murder mystery that questions who we can trust and how well we know other people. Still Life is filled with deceit, greed, anger and a myriad of secrets that must be unraveled to find out who killed an elderly woman in the charming village of Three Pines. If you enjoy mysteries that are as much psychological thriller as crime novel, then Still Life is a must read.


  1. Ooh! It's been a long time since I read a good mystery. This looks terrific. I love the way you write, Amy.

  2. You're the 2nd person I've seen who has bought another one of Penny's books after reading The Brutal Telling. I must make time to try this author's work. Great review.

  3. Just read this review over at Gavin's, and you both really liked it. Of all the mystery series I've read, I'm constantly amazed there are probably a thousand more out there I've not heard of. Your review was excellent!

  4. make it three Kathy, because I bought this one too, after reading and loving The Brutal Telling.

  5. Sounds like its right up my alley!! I'm putting it on my must read list!

    I also have an award for you!!
    Happy Friday,
    Natalie ;0

  6. I love mysteries and this series sounds like one that I would enjoy. Thanks for the review.

  7. I am really interested in reading this. It's gotten such great reviews. I love that it is set in Canada, a country I don't think I've read a mystery set in before. Thank you for your great review.

  8. I've received The Brutal Telling from the publishers too. It is great to hear that you bought this one after reading it, and that this one is better.

    Hopefully I'll get round to Brutal Telling in the next week or so - I really hope I like it as much as you. Great review!

  9. Laughing Stars: Thank you! I think this is a wonderful mystery series!

    Bermudaonion: I really think you will like Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series. There are so many good elements in her stories.

    Sandy: Its amazing how many there are and how many good ones there are. I am constantly impressed by the authors ingenuity and creativity.

    Caite: Yay Caite!

    Willoughby: If you have a chance, try Louise Penny's books. But there are so many good books out there!

    Fiona: Thank you so much. I'm a bit delayed getting back here but will come check it out!

    Natalie W.: Thank you so much! Oh I hope you like these books. I was afraid I might not like the second one of Louise Penny's books as much as the first but I did!

    Sweet Virginia Breeze: I hope if you get the chance to read some of the books from this series that you enjoy them!

    Literary Feline: Thank you! The setting is unique, at least as far as I know, and I love how it contrasts with the awfulness of the crime. This mystery series struck me as very different from many others I've read and I liked that. I hope you like these books if and when you get a chance to read them!

    Farmlanebooks: Thank you! I hope you enjoy Brutal Telling when you get a chance to read it. But either way, I look forward to your thoughts as I always enjoy your insights on the books you read.