Still Life by Louise Penny

My first review is of Still Life by Louise Penny, a book I have wanted to read for a long time, and am tackling with my Book Club – for that reason, the review might be a work in progress – I hope you will enjoy discovering the book with me!

Originally, I found the opening lines of Still Life to be disappointing, and I had to make myself read past them. While scene setting, my first thought was that the description was a little bland. However, after reading on, I realized how well crafted that opening was. It introduces us to the main characters, Inspector Gamache and the victim Jane, and the situation, a death in a sleepy little village in Quebec with succinctness.

I found the first chapter to be an overwhelming introduction to a swathe of cast and characters and my only criticism here is that there are a few too many to keep track of. After that, the plot had drawn me in and I was asking too many questions about what happens next to notice any shortcomings. The further I read, the more drawn into the story I became.

The characters lead a merry dance around Gamache, volunteering only what they are prepared to give as he seeks to determine their secrets and how they might relate to the death of Jane. With such a large cast of characters it might appear that there is no room for their development, but many of them have their own arcs and story.

Important clues are dropped throughout but so well that I think this book is worth at least one more read to make sure I have spotted them all.

I found the side story of Gamache’s new aide, Nichol, to be an entertaining breather from the merry dance, and I laughed out loud in a couple of places as Gamache strives to assist her development.

The book is subtly humorous in places, a nice contrast to the underlying bleakness of the death, and reminding the reader why they are reading this for entertainment, although the humor waxes and wanes as the story progresses, like the mood of the characters that are followed.

A thriller of an ending finishes off a rather good book. I’m still in two minds about the opening line and I look forward to reading another book by Penny to see whether that is a trademark of hers.

Overall 4.5 stars. I would read this book again, but it might stay in the TBReR pile for a while.

Favorite Quote: “Nichol immediately began searching the area behind her, the area reflected by the mirror, because the problem was there.”

Favorite Character: Ruth Zardo

Number of Stars: 4.5

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