Still Life by Louise Penny
Published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks on May 1, 2007 (first published 2005)
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1
Genre(s): fiction, crime, mystery
Format & Length: paperback, 293
Find on Goodreads
Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du 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 bowhunter.
With this award-winning first novel, Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces–and this series–with power, ingenuity, and charm.
I’ve heard a lot of high praise for Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, including comparisons to Agatha Christie (my personal favorite author), so I was really excited to dig into Still Life. While I did enjoy it, I think this was a case where my expectations were too high going in.
“Life 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.”
After reading this, I can understand the Agatha Christie comparison. Between the small town vibes, the mature detective, and the insightful glimpses into everyday drama, I could easily see Miss Marple finding her way on to the scene to steal the show. I believe this was Penny’s first novel, and I’m just not sure she’d found her stride yet. The writing was inconsistent, with some sections being way too wordy for my taste. But there were also some very nice moments as well, showing clear potential.
Still Life presented a compelling story. It had great depth and all of its layers were peeled back little by little throughout its course. Although it’s a detective story about solving a murder, that wasn’t its sole focus, allowing other plot lines to add a well rounded and realistic dynamic. There was a nice balance of plot and character development, but the strength of the story was in its characters and their relationships.
“Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead. Most of these people are very immature. They lead “still” lives, waiting.”
Still Life may not be my favorite book, but I did enjoy its character study of human nature. I’ve heard this series gets better as it progresses and I’m not done giving it a chance.