Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
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.