Still Life by Louise Penny

This was chosen as our next book club reading. I vaguely remember hearing about the series (it’s the first book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series) on What Should I Read Next as being awesome, but that’s all I knew about it going into the book.

Published: 2005

Genre: murder mystery

Length: 312 pages

Setting: Three Pines, near Montreal, Quebec, present day

Summary: Clara and Jane are best friends. Clara is thrilled because one of Jane’s paintings (the first one she’s ever shown anyone) was accepted into the town’s next art show. Then, Jane is found dead in the woods by her house. Inspector Gamache and his team are brought in from Montreal to solve the case. At first, they aren’t even sure it is a murder. Jane was killed by a hunting arrow from a recurve bow, so it’s likely that it was just a hunting accident. However, further evidence points to murder, which gives the Inspector and his team access to Jane’s house. Jane’s narcissistic niece, Yolande, had covered all the walls and ceilings with hideous wallpaper or paint to cover up Jane’s paintings on them. Clara figures out that someone altered Jane’s painting she submitted to the art show. Eventually, everyone figures out Ben killed Jane to hide the fact that he accelerated the death of his mother.

Final thoughts: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Mysteries generally leave me cold, but I was immediately drawn in to the story. I think it helped that it was set in a small town, so I could picture many of the interactions from my own life. I also liked the format of the book. We find out in the first chapter that Jane dies, but then go back a few days to learn who all the characters are and see their interactions. The reader is not omniscient, and doesn’t even get all the information the characters do. At several times, we know the characters have a document or go see someone, but not the details of who or what. Then, I’m trying to read between the lines and figure out what’s happening, before the author tells me explicitly.

The characters really came alive for me, but my favorites were Olivier and Gabri, the gay couple who ran the bistro and B & B. I would love to have friends like them in my life to keep things lively and fun. I also loved the friendship between Clara and Jane. They didn’t necessarily look like they should be friends, but they were. The only person I didn’t understand in the book was Nichols. She was part of Inspector Gamache’s team, but didn’t fit in, and was ultimately sent packing. Why include her in the book at all? She was just a distraction from the other characters and interactions. Even so, I totally enjoyed the book and plan to read more in the series.

Awards won: New Blood Dagger Award and the Arthur Ellis Award in 2006, and the Anthony Award and Barry Award in 2007

Title comes from: The last two lines in the novel (“Life was far from harried here. But neither was it still.”) contrasting with Jane’s death.

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #14 for the year, and an S in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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