Still Life Book Review

Still Life Book Review

Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Published: 2005, St. Martin's Press
No. of Pages: 312
Cover Price: $31.99 Hardcover, $13.95 Paperback, $7.99 Kindle

Three Pines is a tiny village just south of Montreal, and that's where the first novel in the Inspector Armand Gamache series begins. Still Life is Louise Penny's award winning debut as a crime fiction writer. Jane Neal, former schoolteacher, is found dead in the woods shortly after she enters her painting called "Fair Day" into a show put on by the city's fine arts association , Arts Williamsburg. Jane previously told her best friend, Clara Morrow, who is one of the judges, that it is a painting of the closing parade of the county fair.

Before her death, it was well known among those in the village that Jane spent much of her time painting, but this entry is the first time anyone has actually seen her work. When it is put before the judges, it generates gasps – and at first glance seems childish, complete with people who are one level above stick figures representing the residents of the village. After studying the painting however, both Clara and her husband, Peter, agree that it is brilliant, and they convince the other judges to accept it.

Armand Gamache is called to Three Pines to investigate Jane's death, which turns out to be a murder, and there are few clues; Jane was well-liked, and had no enemies that anyone knew about.

As Penny introduces her characters, it is easy to imagine them as real people in a small town. Gamache is not a superhero, but is a meticulous detective, and he and his team seem real, albeit human flaws. The people in the town are likeable, and Penny does a great job in her characterizations, as well as her descriptions of the town. The book is a fast read, partly because it seems upbeat and light, and partly because Penny's skillful storytelling makes it is difficult to put down. Even though the scenarios are not overtly violent like in some thrillers and mysteries, there are still twists and turns; the characters are often in danger throughout the novel, even though some are not aware that they are. As with all good mystery/thrillers, there is an underlying air of suspense, and there is, of course, a surprise ending.

For suspense/thriller/mystery lovers, Still Life is highly recommended. Readers will enjoy the naiveté of the characters – typical of a small town – and feel like they are actually experiencing the scenarios vicariously. Since this novel was published, there have been 10 Chief Inspector Gamache novels (all best sellers) published. If they are as well-written and delightful as Still Life, readers will surely want to collect and read them all.

This book was purchased with personal funds and no promotion of the book was solicited by the author or publisher.

This book may be purchased at Amazon:
Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries, No. 1) Hardcover
Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries, No. 1) Paperback
Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries, No. 1) Kindle

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