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Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life (2005)

by Louise Penny

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,2233051,766 (3.84)706
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache 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 nothing more than a tragic hunting accident, 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.… (more)
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» See also 706 mentions

English (298)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  Polish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (305)
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
I've been waiting a long time to dive into Louise Penny, and I wasn't disappointed. This book was wonderful, and I love Inspector Gamache. So glad I have so many more to read! ( )
  joliek | Oct 8, 2019 |
Very good mystery. definitely going to read the next one. Agatha Christie meets Colin Dexter I would say. ( )
  akbooks | Sep 12, 2019 |
Loved this book. Incredible writing, wonderful character development, couldn't wait to go on to the next in the series. ( )
  ilovemycat1 | Sep 9, 2019 |
I’m guessing that reading Louise Penny’s first Inspector Gamache novel, Still Life, only after having read half-a-dozen of the latest books in the series has given me a whole different perspective on the novel than someone meeting Gamache for the first time here would have. After all, I already know Gamache, his family, his fellow Canadian cops, and his Three Pines neighbors pretty well. For that reason, Still Life read more like a prequel for me than it did an introduction to a whole new series of detective novels.

Still Life introduces the little Canadian village of Three Pines both to readers and to Inspector Gamache who prior to being called there to investigate what could turn out to be a murder was unaware of the village’s existence despite living within a relatively short drive of the place. Jane Neal, one of the little community’s most respected and loved members, has been found dead in the surrounding forest. If there had actually been any snow on the ground, one could be forgiven for wondering if Jane had died while in the process of creating a snow angel. Gamache and his team determine quickly enough that the woman has been shot through the heart by an arrow. Now they need to determine whether she was murdered or killed in some kind of a tragic hunting accident. If murder, who could possibly have had a motive to kill the kindly woman? If a hunting accident, why has no one taken responsibility for what happened?

Gamache moves the core of his investigative team to Three Pines for the duration, primarily Jean Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle LaCoste, but including an arrogant rookie investigator whose laziness and insecurities come close to undermining the whole investigation long before it closes in on the killer. There are lots of twists and turns leading to a succession of possible suspects (including some of the characters who will go on to become series regulars), and I thought I had the case solved twice before the real culprit was finally revealed – and I never did figure it out on my own.

For me, the unexpected fun of Still Life came from watching Inspector Gamache get acquainted with all the central characters from the succeeding books in the series. Despite having to consider just about everyone in the village a suspect at one time or another, Gamache slowly comes to the realization that he likes these people and feels comfortable around them. And they reciprocate the feeling. By the end of the novel, it begins to seem as if Gamache is at least a little bit sad to have to leave Three Pines and return to the big city atmosphere of Montreal. At one point in the second half of the novel, Penny shares Gamache’s thoughts with us this way:
“Looking around he realized how much he liked this place and these people. Too bad one of them was a murderer.” (page 208)

Then as the investigation began to make real progress, Gamache had time for further reflection on the village and its inhabitants:

“Gamache again marveled at the people who chose to live in this area. Was Margaret Atwood a garbage collector perhaps? Or maybe Prime Minister Mulrooney had picked up a second career delivering the mail. No one was whom they seemed. Everyone was more.” (Page 285)

And finally, in the book’s last two sentences, Penny makes it very clear that Inspector Gamache has fallen in love with just about everything about Three Pines:

“Life was far from harried here. But neither was it still.” (Page 318)

And the rest is history.

Bottom Line: Still Life is an excellent introduction to a crime fiction series that has grown into one of the best ones out there. The mystery solved is a solid one that will keep readers guessing while introducing them to the various characters they will become so familiar with in later Gamache books. I recommend both the book and the series. ( )
  SamSattler | Sep 7, 2019 |
Like science fiction, murder mysteries are a genre I rarely if ever read; so when I do, the novelty is very pleasant and I find myself thinking, “Why, this is so clever!” But the important thing for me is that the “genre-ness” not interfere with it being a well-written story. STILL LIFE is only occasionally cheesy; the gay characters were a little over-exaggerated, for example. I really wanted to get back to it every night, though; and no, I never did guess "whodunit." ( )
  Tytania | Aug 21, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
The beauty of Louise Penny’s auspicious debut novel, STILL LIFE, is that it’s composed entirely of grace notes, all related to the central mystery of who shot an arrow into the heart of Miss Jane Neal,...

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Louise Pennyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cosham, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eggesvik, AstridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kõrgvee, EdeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nagano, KiyomiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ram, TitiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruiz Jara, BeatrizTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saint-Germain, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salminen, RaimoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stumpf, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tse, EdwinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werbeck, GabrieleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is given, along with all my heart, to Michael
First words
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday.
She also felt a stirring that suggested she didn't actually like her son. Love, yes. Well, probably. But like?
Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table. (From the third verse of 'Herman Melville' by W. H. Auden, quoted by Jane Neal in chapter one)
Every year the hunters shot cows and horses and family pets and each other. And, unbelievably, they sometimes shot themselves, perhaps in a psychotic episode where they mistook themselves for dinner. It was a wise person who knew that some hunters -- not all, but some -- found it challenging to distinguish a pine from a partridge from a person. (Chapter 1)
[Gamache is talking with Myrna Landers]

'The funny thing about murder is that the act is often committed decades before the actual action. Something happens, and it leads, inexorably, to death many years later. A bad seed is planted. It's like those old horror films from the Hammer studios, of the monster, not running, never running, but walking without pause, without thought or mercy, toward its victim. Murder is often like that. It starts way far off.' (chapter 7)
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