Review: Still Life by Louise Penny

still-lifeStill Life
by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1
Genre: Contemporary Mystery (police procedural)
Published by Minotaur Books, 2005
E-book, purchased
377 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

With this award-winning first novel, Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with power, ingenuity, and charm.

Every year the hunters shot cows and horses and family pets and each other. And, unbelievably, they sometimes shot themselves, perhaps in a psychotic episode where they mistook themselves for dinner. It was a wise person who knew that some hunters–not all, but some–found it a challenging to distinguish a pine from a partridge from a person.


It was, reflected Gamache, one of the fundamental differences between anglophone and francophone Quebecers; the English believed in individual rights and the French felt they had to protect collective rights. Protect their language and culture.

. . . . Gamache remembered reading in the Montreal Gazette a few years ago an article by a columnist who observed that Quebec worked in reality, just not on paper.


  • I already listened to book 4, but I definitely had to go back and read book 1. I love this series!
  • I love the characterizations and the descriptions of the village and surrounding area as well as the mystery.
  • Gamache likes quotes: “When thou hast done, thou hast not done, for I have more,” quoted Gamache. “John Donne.”
  • Gamache is part of the quiet, thoughtful detective genre–something like Hercule Poirot
  • Gamache’s second-in-command. Jean Guy Beauvoir, is very different from Gamache–more a man of action, but he’s devoted to Gamache even when he thinks Gamache is wrong or making a mistake.
  • Gamache has a habit of taking young police officers under his wing. He’s very generous with his knowledge and gives them the opportunity to show they could make good homicide detectives.
  • During this case Agent Yvette Nichol is given this opportunity. Beauvoir is always against Gamache trying to bring someone new into their team. He’s always sure it’s a waste of time.
  • Even though the book takes place in Canada which doesn’t seem that exotic, the French part of Canada seems very  foreign. The author does a great job showing the differences between the English and French citizens.
  • The village of Three Pines seems almost mythical–a beautiful small village filled with distinct characters. As in all mysteries and in “real” life everyone has secrets.


  • I wanted to know more about what happens to Agent Nichol.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’ve had several of Louise Penny’s books for a while and am so glad I’ve started reading them!


  • Barry Award for Best First Novel (2007)
  • Anthony Award for Best First Novel (2007)
  • Dilys Award (2007), Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel (2006)
  • The Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger (2006)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Louise Penny is the author of the Inspector Armand Gamache series. The first book was published in 2005 and a new book, the eleventh in the series, is due out in August 2015. She lives in Canada in a small village south of Montreal with her husband and a golden retriever.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a popular author’s first book)