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Still Life (2005)

by Louise Penny

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,1033531,582 (3.83)749
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 749 mentions

English (346)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Polish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (354)
Showing 1-5 of 346 (next | show all)
The discovery of a body in the village of Three Pines leads Chief Inspector Gamache to investigate. But was it a hunting accident or murder. What possible motive could there be if it was murder, of such a loved person.
An enjoyable well-written mystery, a good solid start to the series.
( )
  Vesper1931 | Jul 29, 2021 |
Well, there's that. It's a bit out of genre for me--read by group choice, so I really don't know how it compares to it's peer books, but I enjoyed it well enough. It was certainly fascinating to read at the same time as [b:Six Wakes|28962996|Six Wakes|Mur Lafferty|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1483175828l/28962996._SY75_.jpg|46869174] (which, to be honest, I enjoyed rather more).

Overall, the plot is fine. It's a murder mystery. There are a few decent bits of interesting world building. It's a small town with what seems to me an unusually large art scene and number of bow hunters. There are some witchy bits which really made me wish this was actually subtle urban fantasy. And a few twists and turns along the way.

The setting is interesting. I grew up in a small town (smaller than this), but don't know much about Quebec. It's interesting.

In Quebec it was far from unusual that people spoke both languages, even fluently. But it was unusual to find a francophone speaking like a hereditary member of the House of Lords.

It's all about contrast:

The service was entirely in French, though Jane herself had been English. The service was entirely Catholic, though Jane herself had been Anglican. Afterwards Yolande, Andre and Bernard accompanied the casket to a ‘family only’ burial, though Jane’s friends had actually been her family.

Characterwise, I did enjoy most of the townspeople. They were certainly an odd varied bunch, which works. You get a lot of interesting descriptions and wording (to the point of distraction at times; I wonder if this is a feature of the genre or just this author):

Rummaging through the cupboard like a wartime surgeon frantically searching for the right bandage, Peter swept aside Yogi Tea and Harmony Herbal Blend, though he hesitated for a second over chamomile. But no. Stay focused, he admonished himself. He knew it was there, that opiate of the Anglos. And his hand clutched the box just as the kettle whistled. Violent death demanded Earl Grey.

I did quite enjoy Inspector Gamache. He's competent and amusing, if a bit overbearing at times.

Conversely, my least favorite--and I really do not understand the character at all--was Yvette Nichol. A young detective shadowing Gamache, she's ... just abrasive and annoying throughout the entire book.

‘Repeat them for me, please.’

‘I’m sorry, I don’t know, I need help and I forget.’

‘I forget? Where did you get that?’

‘From you this morning. You said, “I forget”.’

‘Are you seriously telling me you thought “I forget” could be a life lesson? I clearly meant that I had forgotten the last sentence. Yes, I’m sure I said, “I forget”. But think of the context. This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with that good brain of yours. You don’t use it. You don’t think. It’s not enough to hear the words.’

Here it comes, thought Nichol. Blah, blah, blah. You’ve got to listen.

And it doesn't build to anything. She just disappears at some point. I supposed it could be a series level thing, but for just the book... I don't get it.

Gamache's complete inability to deal with her certainly doesn't help.

Overall, it's a good enough book. It's a quick read. I doubt I'll be reading the sequels though. Just not my cup of tea.

Onwards! ( )
  jpv0 | Jul 21, 2021 |
I have either become an easy grader (not likely) or I am on a roll because this is another fantastic book. This is a very different type of book from those I have been reading so I'm going to trust my judgment. I so loved the feel of this book, it has a warm and inviting soul that starts on the first page and goes to the end. I love the people created and the way the pace of the small village is imparted. Everything is effortless in the writing which means of course a lot of effort probably went into writing it. It has been probably 40 years since I last read an Agatha Christie book (and I read a LOT of them) so I'm not sure about the resemblance in the details, but reading this brought back the "feeling" stored in my memories of those books. I understand why they are often called "Cozy Mysteries." There is so much kindness and basic human decency in most of the characters. There is one scene near the end where three adults silently communicate a secret about a youngster and all work together to help rather than harm. It almost brought a tear to my eye. I hope we all can find that same impulse inside us all. I will definitely read more of this series. ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
Wish I could give half stars. Would give 3 1/2. Good read, Louise Penny's writing made me want to keep reading. The story was easy to get through.
I thought the characters were a bit extreme-maybe that is the artist in them? I am not an artist myself.
Three Pines sounds like a place I would love to live, so I enjoyed descriptions of the town. But as I was thinking it was portrayed as a small town-not even on the map, I was also thinking: How did they get Szechuan food and Pizza Pizza (a large chain) in such a small town.
Overall, a good enjoyable read. I will probably continue with the series. ( )
  debfung | Jul 12, 2021 |
Started strong, then kind of lost momentum. I'd definitely try another, and Chief Inspector Gamache is an intriguing character, but the Hollywood ending to this one didn't quite work. ( )
  CaitlinMcC | Jul 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 346 (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)
"There are four things that lead to wisdom. They are four sentences we learn to say, and mean."

I don't know.

I need help.

I'm sorry.

I was wrong.

(p. 81-82)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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