Nancy's Reviews > Still Life

Still Life by Louise Penny
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's review
Jan 25, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: mystery-or-something-akin-to-it
Read in January, 2012

I am a little surprised that I liked this book so well. Not that it isn't without flaws. But kudos for a 1st try. I have read quite a few 1st novels, some apparently award winners, and hated a great many of them.

I thought she did the characterizations quite well in relatively short order, in fact by the end of chapter 2, the revelation of Jane's death to Clara, seemed fully realized and impactful, which surprised and impressed me.

I suppose this is a cozy, but I wouldn't compare this to an Agatha Christie, myself. Christie's books were fun, and often clever to me (well, not Endless Night), but the characters were generally not particularly fleshed out except for what we needed to know for the purposes of the plot. The mystery in this book, while about a central character really, is nearly outshone by the characterization of most of the cast to some degree.

The weaker elements of the book were Agent Nichol, as a character and as a plot element. I wondered if there was an editorial request for some other kind of conflict, to balance Gamache's seeming perfection, but her motivations and reactions were poorly developed and simply too self-destructive and inexplicable to accept, except, I suppose, as a counterpoint about self-knowledge, but a bit too heavy-handed to go over well. Young Phillipe's behaviour was also somewhat poorly developed with respect to the degree of destructiveness. These characters stood out for their relative roughness in comparison to most of the other characters. Even the murder victim was more fully realized than these two characters.

There were some very nice observations and the bits of poetry were quite effective, especially for something written specifically for the book - as is rarely the case for created art within a book... in my experience. This was a bit of a slow story though, but I suppose as unrushed as the Inspector is and almost as focused on the small details as well. However, I will point out I know more than a few Quebecois, and I am not sure they think les Anglais are any crazier than les Quebecois - not based on their family tales, that's for sure.

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