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Still Life: Louise Penny

Book: Still Life: A Three Pines Mystery
Author: Louise Penny
Pages: 325
Age Range: Adult (mystery)

I don't generally review the adult titles that I read (because I can barely keep up with the children's and young adult reviews, and those are the ones of primary interest to this blog's audience). However, I did want to draw your attention to Still Life, the first book in Louise Penny's Three Pines mystery series. Still Life is a cross between a village cozy and a police procedural. The story is set in the picture-perfect village of Three Pines, south of Montreal, and involves the murder of elderly local resident Jane Neal. The mystery is solved in part by local resident Clara Morrow, an artist, and in part by Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.

Still Life contains more in-depth characterization and quirky characters than many police procedurals, and more involved detail than many cozies. Chief Inspector Gamache is a thoughtful older man, who attempts to be a mentor to younger officers, and does his best work by sitting and thinking. His second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, notes that "When he looked at you, you were the universe." As for Jean Guy, he is "loosely wrapped but tightly wound," and highly competent. The two men's strengths balance one another admirably.

Three Pines is idyllic, and up until the start of the novel, relatively crime free. Clara reflects that "The only reason doors were locked was to prevent neighbors from dropping off baskets of zucchini at harvest time." Well, there is the slight issue of residents who grow marijuana, but "those not involved tried to turn a blind eye." Jane's murder, however, is preceded by an ugly incident of gay-bashing, and the village proves to hold more secrets than are apparent on the surface. The village also holds several artists, a famous poet, an archery society, and an exceedingly comfortable B&B. I will look forward to returning to Three Pines, when I read the next book in the series, A Fatal Grace.

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Publication Date: July 2006 (hardcover edition)
Source of Book: From my Mom (a book which I originally recommended to her after reading the review from Mystery Scene magazine)
Other Blog Reviews: Blogging for a Good Book, thorasbook
Author Interviews: InkSpot, Poe's Deadly Daughters

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