Tuesday, July 28, 2009

STILL LIFE - Louise Penny

After many years, Jane Neal, a former school teacher, has finally decided to enter her art in the local event. She's never shown her art to anyone, not even those closest to her but she has decided to enter her "Fair Day" piece in the contest. But Jane will never see her work revealed. When she is found dead in the woods of the small town of Three Pines on Thanksgiving, her death is believed to be a hunting accident. However, when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache comes in with his team to investigate, he begins to believe there is more to Jane's death than meets the eye.

This is yet again another series I'm late to the game on. But this is definitely a case of "better late than never." I'm thrilled to have finally found myself in the town of Three Pines. If murder and mayhem can be deemed delightful, Louise Penny has definitely achieved it.

The title of this book may be STILL LIFE, but the characters are far from a flat representation. They are amazingly dimensional and their intertwining lives make the absence of even one seem unfathomable. In many police procedurals the focus lies primarily on the investigator. Not so in STILL LIFE. Armand Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir, as well as the rather arrogant Yvette Nichol, are important roles in the plot. But they aren't the sole, main focus. And that approach adds more depth to the other characters of Three Pines.

Olivier and Gabri are an absolute stitch. I want to spend my days in their bistro simply to watch: watch the people, watch the life. And if I were really lucky, I could join in as well.

As much as I enjoy character, this book isn't simply a collection of wonderful character. There is a rich depth to the plot that takes it beyond good to the realm of excellent. A plot that keeps you engaged and on the edge waiting to find out what happens next. There is wonderful symbolism and a theme that definitely focuses on seeing what is right in front of you. Add in Penny's fantastically dry humor and you have hours of engaging entertainment at the tips of your fingers.

I listened to STILL LIFE on audio book read by Ralph Cosham. I'm not sure if it is the amazing writing, his reading or a combination of both that brought Three Pines to life in my car for a week. The type of audio book that makes you want to drive around the block a couple more times than you actually have to. Cosham's dialects and pronunciations were magnificent; inflections and tone were precisely placed and never overused. This is a stellar recording and I highly recommend it.

STILL LIFE was published in 2006 by St. Martin's Minotaur Books, and the audio recording was produced by Blackstone Audio, Inc.


Corey Wilde July 28, 2009 at 9:45 AM  

This is one of the rare cozies that made me want to read another. The author not only has exquisite prose but she created rich characters. Excellent review, Jen, you nailed it.

le0pard13 July 28, 2009 at 1:19 PM  

Blackstone Audio seems to be coming up with a lot of good stuff lately, and matching them up with good narrators. Thanks, Jen.

Karen Olson July 28, 2009 at 5:51 PM  

I was late reading this series, too, and I just finished up with the third. It just gets better.

Thoughts of Joy July 29, 2009 at 1:07 PM  

I love this series. I received the latest ARC a week or so ago and can't wait to get to it.

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