October 22, 2006

Still Life

Still Life by Louise Penny
MysteryFinished on 10/13/06Rating: A- (8/10 Very Good)

Winner of the New Blood Dagger in Britain and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada for best first crime novel.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Qu&#233bec 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 a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, 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.
Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces – and this series – with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

It took me a few chapters to settle into this debut novel, but once I got a handle on all the various characters (many of whom were possible suspects in the death of Ms. Neal), I couldn’t put it down, anxious to get back to my reading and trying to solve the crime as I went about my daily activities.Still Life is not a hard-boiled thriller, but rather a gentle “drawing room” mystery in which the chief investigator relishes a warm café au lait and flaky croissant as he ponders the details of the crime, while enjoying the peacefulness of the village as dawn breaks.
Gamache is a likeable character, reminding me a little bit of John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport (although, not quite the womanizer and much more well-read). I have a feeling Gamache and Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir will become another favorite duo and I look forward to Penny’s next installment (Dead Cold), due out next spring.


  1. Not being able to pronounce the main character's names tend to bother me, but this does look like a fun mystery.

  2. Anonymous6:04 AM

    This sounds like a series that I would really enjoy. Thanks!

  3. Anonymous8:26 AM

    I can't wait for the second installment! This was such a great mystery. Glad to hear you enjoyed it as well.

  4. I've requested Still Life from the library. Thanks for the tip.


  5. Believe it or not, my library has this one. I'm going to be reading mysteries the next couple of months before I start the classics challenge. This one sounds good. Thanks, Lesley.

  6. Anonymous2:51 PM

    Lesley, I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read a mystery in years and years. I read a lot Agatha Christie's when I was younger, but after that -nothing! Yesterday, I was at the library and saw a brand new "Maisie Dobbs" novel and picked it up. It looks good and I am hoping it will rekindle my love of mystery books. Yours looks good, too and I like the fact that it was set in Quebec, a province I am quite familiar with!

  7. Love the sound of this one, although I'm still an infrequent mystery reader. I like the "cozy" sound - the only kind I seem to be able to handle, anymore. Mind if I ask where you find your reads? Are you a library browser?

  8. Angela, I struggled a little bit with the names and some of the French (it's been decades since my high school French!), but I quickly settled in and realized it wasn't an issue after a few chapters.

    Jenclair, I think this might be just your type of read. It's always fun to discover a new author.

    Iliana, it was good, wasn't it? I think I enjoyed the setting and main characters more than the actual mystery, though. To me, that was really just secondary.

    Mary, hope you enjoy it! My husband read it after me and thought it was entertaining and very well-written (almost lyrical).

    Booklogged, enjoy! I've never really considered myself much of a mystery reader, but I've read quite a few over the past few years and guess I should redefine myself as one. I don't know if I'm much of a "cozy" mystery reader (I lean more toward the thriller/police-procedural genre), but this was definitely worthwhile. Quite evocative.

    Lotus, I've only read the first in the Masie Dobbs series. I thought it was good, but not as wonderful as some of my friends did. I'll get to the rest in the series one of these days. I'm a bit partial to Quebec, too. Although I was born in Ottawa, my younger brother was born in Sherbrooke (sp?) and we lived in Lenoxville for a bit. I would love to visit Quebec someday.

    Bookfool, I think this would be right up your alley. I hope you get a chance to read it. Hmm, I think I heard about this from one of my good friends. I saw it on the New Release shelf at the library and remembered her mentioning it in a recent email, so I snatched it up. The cover caught my eye, too, but I try not to let that tempt me too much, as I've been burned by pretty covers in the past. Part of the appeal was the Canadian setting, which I'm a bit partial to. To answer your question, though, I think I get most of my reading ideas from other readers or newsletters from Powells and Bookreporter.com.

  9. Oh, yes, I used to be a Powell's addict--I think I dropped off their mailing list when my family-domain addy died on me--and I've been burned by a pretty cover, also.

    Okay, so on the list it goes. Thanks! :)


I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!