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.
Welcome to the picturesque little town of Three Pines, Quebec, not far from the city of Montreal. A colony of mostly artists, quaint shops, a misplaced black woman who owns a charming used book store, a cranky and aging poet laureate, a couple of gay men who own the B&B and a restaurant where everything is for sale, including the chair youâ€™re sitting in. The complete cast of characters is a fascinating study of small town inhabitants and the author draws a compelling storyline that demonstrates a deep understanding of human motives and relationships.
Itâ€™s Thanksgiving week and the unheard of has happenedâ€”the dead body of retired school teacher and aspiring artist Jane Neal has been found in the woods. Everyone assumes there has been a hunting accident; however, it is up to the charismatic Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to determine what, if any, crime has been committed here. He travels from his headquarters in Montreal with his associates and begins his investigation. He is an investigator who has many gifts that he employs in his line of duty, none as important as his uncanny observational and listening skills. He tries to impart his knowledge and expertise to his young female trainee, but her resistance to his advice provides an additional storyline to the narrative.
We follow Gamache and the town residents on the investigational journey which leads to many possible suspects and theories. Just when you think you have it figured out, the plot twists and youâ€™re left going in another direction. I loved the fact that I couldnâ€™t figure it out right away and a couple theories I had didnâ€™t pan out. Very entertaining. I know this is the first in a series and I will be looking for the next volume very soon. Highly recommended.
A wonderfully rich small-town setting and deftly painted characterizations enliven this mystery, giving it appeal beyond the whodunnit aspect. Cerebral and insightful, Chief Inspector Gamache is an engaging and winning character whom readers will be pleased to be reacquainted in later volumes of Pennyâ€™s well-written mystery series. Recommended for fans of both literary fiction and mysteries.
I'm late to the party with this one. A co-worker of mine named it as one of her favorite reads last year, and several people here on LibraryThing have sung its praises much more skillfully than I. All I can say is its one of those stories that gripped me from the first sentences. The blend of humor and seriousness, wonderfully vibrant characters and compelling mystery made this an incredibly difficult book to put down. I'm glad it's the first in a series, because I don't want to leave Three Pines behind. What else can I say? Still Life is definitely on my list of favorites for the month, and will probably make my list of top reads for the year.
Review written January 2011
Well, I'm certainly going to try again with the next in the series. And I'll keep trying till I get it right! (Just my excuse to read more of these delightful books.)
I appreciate the lack of graphic violence, blood and gore. This book proves it is not necessary for a good story. There were despicable characters and a tense, creepy scene at the end. Even idyllic settings need the elements of mystery and fear to keep those pages flying to reach the climax. Whew! Good stuff.
Fleaâ€™s picks for me take me out of my comfort zone this year. The village cozy is virtually virgin land for me. Iâ€™m somewhat surprised that this book charmed and gripped me the way it did. Penny has populated Three Pines with charming, unusual characters, all of whom know each other really well. This creates a certain ambience, the growing unease in knowing one of your neighbors is a killer, but also the annoyance of trying to conduct a police investigation in a place where word gets around like a wildfire. Many of Pennyâ€™s rather large cast are memorable, and make this a place to revisit. One or two might be slightly over the top â€“ eternally wise-cracking Gabri and perhaps especially Nichol, whose utter lack of self-awareness is a bit much to swallow at times.
The tendency of swapping perspectives between characters completely haphazardly is also a little distracting, especially since Penny needs to keep secrets from the reader even when we enter someoneâ€™s mind. Thereâ€™s a bit too much of â€śHe thought about the thing he knew he couldnâ€™t sayâ€ť going on. And, as often seems the case, the red herrings are perhaps a bit more interesting than the actual solution. But with the charm, wit and tenderness at the core of this book, such flaws are easily forgiven. Getting a small sliver of information on the tension between French and English speakers in Canada along the way was a nice bonus too.
Still Life, is in essence what its name tells you it is. It is painting of a small town made up of pieces that make up the still life. Within it is another painting as well. A palimpsest of art that tells a story is written within this book. You could look at this book in the same way you would look at a still life painting. It is made up with everyday objects that you would not give a second look at until they are grouped together. Louise Penny brings this story to you as a painter brings simple objects to your attention. The light, the composition, the relationships of the objects all come together to leave you in love with the entire portrait, not just the detective. Having it set in a small town just outside of Montreal lent it a tiny bit of foreignness to this stateside girl. All in all I really like this novel. The characters were complex yet believable, the quirkiness of the village was realistic and the evil not so horrid as to be unreadable. The villains were the criminals and the saviors and I fell in love with the little town of Three Pines.
I'll immediately hunt out the next in the series.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the SurĂŞtĂ© du QuĂ©bec is summoned to the small town of Three Pines to investigate the death of 76-year-old Jane Neal. While everyone in town loved Jane and the locals are certain it is a hunting accident, Gamache senses there is more going on in the tiny hamlet than first meets the eye. But even Gamacheâ€™s own team disagrees about what has happened and who might be responsible for shattering the placid little village. It is going to take a lot of perseverance and quite a bit of help for Gamache to piece this mystery together.
â€śClara shrugged and immediately knew her betrayal of Peter. In one easy movement she'd distanced herself from his bad behavior, even thought she herself was responsible for it. Just before everyone had arrived, she'd told Peter about her adventure with Gamache. Animated and excited she'd gabbled on about her box and the woods and the exhilarating climb up the ladder to the blind. But her wall of words hid from her a growing quietude. She failed to notice his silence, his distance, until it was too late and he'd retreated all the way to his icy island. She hated that place. From it he stood and stared, judged, and lobbed shards of sarcasm.â€ť
Still Life is the first installment of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache crime series and I must say right from the outset, I love Louise Pennyâ€™s writing. There is a quiet, composed beauty to the way she uses language. She doesnâ€™t write a story as much as she weaves it together with subtle hues. Written as a closed-room mystery, the best part of Still Life is how Penny begins with what appears to be a town full of people who love each other and everyone gets along. Slowly, but surely we find out that this isnâ€™t necessarily the case. There are many simmering feuds and relationships that only require the slightest bit of kindling to bring to a boil.
In addition, Gamache is a subtle, highly nuanced lead character, in contract to the never-ending parade of hard-edged detectives in literature these days. Frankly, as someone whose brother is a detective, I must say that Gamache is the most realistic detective Iâ€™ve seen in fiction in a long time. Coupled with Pennyâ€™s writing, it fits so perfectly. The flow of the story telling in Still Life meshes well with the story itself. The plot is well done and the conclusion wraps up so well.
If you are looking for a wiz-bang thrill ride of a story, Still Life isnâ€™t the book for you. However, if you are looking for a treatise on what happens to people and close relationships when an unexpected death takes place, you are in for a real treat. I completely enjoyed Still Life and am looking forward to continuing Pennyâ€™s series.
A few years ago, I read the 5th book in this series and really enjoyed it. This one, not so much. Still Life is just too slow and ponderous for me, and the leaps from clues to deductions are just too great. I would not have read more in this series if I had started here.
This is not a traditional who dunnit. It's an exploration of human relationships and foibles, the inner currents that motivate us: we are all fallible, and some of us fail and succumb. What's best are the parallel tales, this time with Philippe and his father, but also that curious Arnot case which is already rearing its ugly head. A wonderful setup for the stories to come... I can't wait for more!
Since this is book one of many in this series, I loved the bits and pieces of backstory we get of our main character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. I'm sure that as the series goes on the reader gets to discover and explore more of his character. For now we know he's a mentor of sorts for his team, and principled to his own detriment. He's been passed up for promotion but not bitter about it, loves his wife, and is observance personified. He is an incredible listener for what is said, and what is not. He sees what many do not which, of course, are tools of his expert trade.
â€śLife is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It's as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. so when I'm observing that's what I'm watching for. The choices people makeâ€ť
There is a fundamental need for people to be heard - at a customer service desk to complain, as a teacher of young, malleable minds, a wise friend with broad, proverbial shoulders, or a parent to a strong-willed child. Listening. Patience. The hero to storm a building is as important as the mastermind to plot out the best plan of attack. I rather see our Chief Inspector as the seemingly nonchalant, patient observer, listening and planning his next step. What makes him so intriguing is the subtle way he goes about it, reminding me of other great detectives I have read, like Sherlock, Poirot, or Cormoran Strike.
With such a great main character, the story can be in any setting...this one in a cozy and traditional town where everyone knows your name, temperament, quirks, and at times, some secret or two. In a nutshell, the locals of the town own a piece of the puzzle to solve the murder. Isn't that always how it goes? But even with, for lack of a better word...this formula, characters make or break a story. This is where Louise Penny shines and hooks the reader. Its no wonder she's amassed so many awards for her writing.
I was surprised to see genres in mystery: cozy, crime, hard-boiled, detective, whodunit, etc... I much prefer logic-driven "cozy" mysteries above action-fueled thrillers. I'm certainly going to be reading more of this author.
"He always felt a pang when looking at the hands of the newly dead, imagining all the objects and people those hands had held. The food, the faces, the doorknobs. All the gestures they'd made to signal delight or sorrow."
Still Life is a wonderful book and a good mystery. I'm happy to know there are more stories set in the village of Three Pines.
The villagers at the lovely village of Three Pines are shocked when a beloved neighbor is found murdered by an arrow through the heart in the woods. Was it an accident by hunters or is there a murderer amongst them? There is no shortage of murder suspects and possible motives, and the team has to sift through the secrets that many keep.
In this book though, I did sort of suspect who the murderer was by the time I was halfway through, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the unraveling of the story anyway.
By the time you get through this book, the folks at Three Pines will have already have won their way into your heart.