Still Life

Louise Penny

Published January 2005

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1
First and foremost, I want to apologize for slacking off on writing this week.  I actually had an eventful weekend and everything was pushed to side other than spending time with my best friend who came into town to visit me.  Being separated from your BFF by 600 miles is hard, and you have to take advantage of the time you are able to spend together. Anyways!
I love detective stories. Maybe my soul is older than my 26 year old body, but the coziness of the “whodunnit” stories always feels like home.  In the novel Still Life, Louise Penny has done a fantastic job of grabbing me and pulling me into her quaint town, and even quainter characters from page one.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called to the scene of a suspicious death in the small village of Three Pines. Poor Jane Neal, a lovely elderly woman, and town favorite, 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, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bow hunter.

When I finished this book, Detective Gamache became, hands down, one of my new favorite characters in the literary world. He is intelligent, wise, moral, and a great leader. I loved how much his team of detectives looked to him for guidance. He radiated this kind authority through the pages, that left me in awe.

“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. And as powerful. so when I’m observing that’s what I’m watching for. The choices people make.”

Louis Penny took such care with the writing and shaping of all of her characters though, not just the Chief Inspector.  No one was left underdeveloped, and everyone seemed had a purpose.  While some of the characters seemed a little cliche, or exaggerated to paint a more vivid picture, for the most part, everyone was life like.  The quirks and uniqueness of all the townspeople of Three Pines served to drive the plot ever forward, with no lull in the plot pace to even better describe the setting.  As even the minor characters were flushed out to some extent, I felt like I knew even Jane Neal intimately, even though she was dead the entirety of the novel.

The only problem with this eccentric cast of characters was that there were quite a few of them.  I found myself flipping back through previous pages to make sure that I was thinking of the right person when I was reading about another.  But that is a small complaint in a sea of happiness.

I cannot believe there are ten more of these to go.  I love starting a series that I don’t feel pressured to plow through and finish immediatel.  With these types of stories, it is just lovely to know that whenever I am looking for a great detective or police procedural novel to satiate my lust for justice, there will be a good reserve of Louise Penny books I can fall back onto.

I really enjoyed Still Life. It was not a roller coaster of emotion, it was just a steady mystery and the path in solving it. While the actual killer seemed a little far fetched, overall the book was a fun and interesting read. I am most certainly looking forward to spending a little more time with Chief Inspector Gamache.




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