Ann's Reviews > Still Life

Still Life by Louise Penny
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's review
Oct 06, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: mystery
Read in August, 2011

This is the first in a series of mysteries set in the tiny, perfect Quebecois village of Three Pines, starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, his team of police detectives, and the village's motley crew of inhabitants.

Except maybe the village isn't so perfect: it appears to house a murderer. From the moment you find a body in the fall woods, the apparent victim of a hunting accident, you know something is amiss, and so does the intuitive Gamache. But who would kill the beloved, elderly Miss Neal? And more questions: Why, after a lifetime of refusing to allow anyone to see her painting or enter her house, did Miss Neal submit a strange and ugly painting to the prestigious regional art competition - and invite everyone to a party at her home when it was accepted? Why did half the village love, and the other half hate, a desperately ill woman, and why did she die at the one moment when her sickbed was unattended? And what troubles lurk in Gamache's own past, and those of his team? Inspector Gamache warns that everyone has secrets, and that he will discover them all, whether or not they're connected to Miss Neal's murder; and more is uncovered than stray arrows in the woods.

Penny draws her characters and situations with detail and flair, and her writing about Quebec, its French-English struggles and its relations with its near neighbor across the southern border are fascinating, although I wonder whether a francophone Quebecoise would tell the story rather differently. The resolution of the mystery is interesting, if perhaps just a little too melodramatic to be 100% credible. The only fly in the ointment is a nagging feeling that Three Pines has a little bit of Brigadoon (which Penny acknowledges) and also, less fortunately, of Cabot Cove, Maine (which she does not) creeping in around the edges.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Mersereau Maybe I am missing something, but I don't get the 5 star ratings. The author tries to craft a toothsome story and somehow misses the mystery mark and the plot mark....basically all of the marks.

message 2: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann Elaine, in retrospect I agree - somewhat - that the plot has quite a few flaws. Many of the stories in the series do. And yet I remain hooked. Mysteries, I think, may be the most idiosyncratic of genres - I don't like the very best hard-boiled mysteries, for instance, and I love this series even when I know the books aren't great. Go figure.

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