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Still Life (Armand Gamache Series #1)

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Overview

"Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, 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 in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter." Still Life
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Still Life (Armand Gamache Series #1)

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Overview

"Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, 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 in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter." Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces - and this series - with integrity and quiet courage, but new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.
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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
… like her neighbors in the picturesque Canadian village of Three Pines, the dear old thing had hidden depths, courtesy of an author whose deceptively simple style masks the complex patterns of a well-devised plot - rather like the subtle designs of Jane’s "primitive" pictures. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, who is as bemused as we are by life in Three Pines, has the wit and insight to look well beyond its idyllic surface.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Canadian Penny's terrific first novel, which was the runner-up for the CWA's Debut Dagger Award in 2004, introduces Armand Gamache of the Sorete du Quebec. When the body of Jane Neal, a middle-aged artist, is found near a woodland trail used by deer hunters outside the village of Three Pines, it appears she's the victim of a hunting accident. Summoned to the scene, Gamache, an appealingly competent senior homicide investigator, soon determines that the woman was most likely murdered. Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight. She deftly uses the bilingual, bicultural aspect of Quebecois life as well as arcane aspects of archery and art to deepen her narrative. Memorable characters include Jane; Jane's shallow niece, Yolande; and a delightful gay couple, Olivier and Gabri. Filled with unexpected insights, this winning traditional mystery sets a solid foundation for future entries in the series. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

The body of Jane Neal, a much loved retired school teacher in Three Pines, is found lying in the woods. Jane was apparently shot by a stray arrow during deer-hunting season. Armand Gamache, chief inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, along with his team, moves into the small Canadian village to investigate. As Armand searches for the murderer, he uncovers the complex relationships and secrets of Three Pines' colorful inhabitants, including an amusing gay couple who run the local café; Jane's estranged niece, who thinks she will inherit her aunt's property; and a spiteful local poet who caused the breakup of Jane's engagement some 60 years ago. Besides being an engrossing detective story, Still Lifeis a psychological study of the lives of Penny's complex characters—their friendships, insecurities, loves, hates, and regrets—and people are not always what they seem. The book is expertly narrated by Ralph Cosham, who imbues the characters with depth and emotion. Highly recommended for all public libraries.
—Ilka Gordon Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
Three Pines, an appealing Quebecois community, is shaken by the death of a beloved longtime village schoolteacher and unsung artist. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team find that Miss Jane Neal has been shot through the heart with an arrow. Is it a hunting accident or murder? Gamache sets up shop in the charming village B&B owned by a gay couple but is suspended when he refuses to arrest a local bowman who confesses after his sullen son is fingered for the crime. His longtime associate Beauvoir takes over while Gamache ponders the case. Jane, who never exhibited her work, had just had an astonishing folk art painting accepted for a show. Her obnoxious niece Yolande, who can't wait to get into Jane's house, gets a court order to keep the police out. Meanwhile, an equally arrogant trainee has not done her job checking wills, and a new one turns up leaving almost everything to Jane's neighbor Clara Morrow, a married artist who'd been like a daughter to Jane, whose youthful romance had been quashed by her parents. Because no one had ever been allowed past Jane's kitchen, everyone's dumbfounded to find walls, recently covered by Yolande in appalling wallpaper, full of murals. The slight difference Clara notices between the murals and Jane's painting holds the clue to her murder. Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut.
From the Publisher
“A rare treat.”

People magazine

“It’s hard to decide what provides the most pleasure in this enjoyable book: Gamache, a shrewd and kindly man constantly surprised by homicide; the village, which sounds at first like an ideal place to escape from civilization; or the clever and carefully constructed plot.”

Chicago Tribune

“Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don’t miss this stellar debut.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Terrific. Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A gem of a book.”

Booklist (starred review)

“[An] auspicious debut… [Penny’s] deceptively simple style masks the complex patterns of a well-devised plot.”

—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“A perfectly executed traditional mystery.”

Denver Post

“A stellar debut novel. The setting is entrancing… Well done!”

Deadly Pleasures

“A gem of a debut novel—clever, charming, with perceptively realized characters… and the enormously appealing Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. I can’t wait for the next installment.”

—Deborah Crombie, author of Water Like a Stone

“An excellent, subtle plot full of understanding of the deeper places in human nature, and many wise observations that will enrich the reader long after the pages are closed.”

—Anne Perry, author of Long Spoon Lane

“Georges Simenon kept Maigret going for over a hundred books. It will be a delight for all of us who love detective fiction if Louise Penny can stay around long enough to do the same for Gamache.”

—Reginald Hill, author of The Stranger House

Still Life is a masterpiece of a traditional drawing room mystery, repainted in the autumnal colors of the Canadian countryside. Louise Penny is a storytelling artist.”

—Julia Spencer-Fleming, author of To Darkness and to Death

“What a joy it is to discover a detective like Armand Gamache, strong, calm and charismatic and at work on a good mystery in a believable setting.”

—Peter Lovesey, author of The Circle

“What a joy to read a crime novel written with such skill and integrity, strong on character and atmosphere...I couldn't put it down.”

—Margaret Yorke, author of False Pretences

Still Life is a lovely, clever book and I hope I shall be reading a lot more by Louise Penny!”

—Ann Granger, author of That Way Murder Lies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786146369
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2006
  • Series: Armand Gamache Series , #1
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Meet the Author

Louise  Penny

LOUISE PENNY is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of ten Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (five times) and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.

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Read an Excerpt

Still Life


By Penny, Louise

St. Martin's Minotaur

Copyright © 2006 Penny, Louise
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0312352557

Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round. Miss Neal's was not a natural death, unless you're of the belief everything happens as it's supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She'd fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûrete du Quebec knelt down; his knees cracking like the report of a hunter's rifle, his large, expressive hands hovered over the tiny circle of blood marring her fluffy cardigan, as though like a magician he could remove the wound and restore the woman. But he could not. That wasn't his gift. Fortunately for Gamache he had others.


Continues...

Excerpted from Still Life by Penny, Louise Copyright © 2006 by Penny, Louise. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this website.

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Reading Group Guide

Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, 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 in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 376 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(167)

4 Star

(105)

3 Star

(64)

2 Star

(20)

1 Star

(20)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 377 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    Very disappointed, Poorly researched

    I don't usually write reviews on books, but I had to this time. This is one of the worst books I've picked up in a very long time. Rarely do I ever put a book down without finishing it, but this time I did, and it went straight into the trash. The author really should have done more research. If you know anything at all about archery, or if you are a hunter of any kind, you will probably find this book quite irritating. The author spent a whole chapter supposedly explaining different types of bows, arrows, tips, and "feathers," and in the process made very general statements about the equipment that are simply wrong. Considering the murder being investigated was committed with a bow and arrow, she should at least have tried to get her terminology right, and learn something about the murder weapon. The author also has a problem with hunting, which she makes abundantly clear with ridiculous stereotypes, painting all hunters with a broad brush as all being mindless, blood-thirsty, illiterate, poaching criminals who would just leave someone on the ground to die in the event of an accidental shooting. If you're into mindless tripe, this is the book for you. If you're looking for a well-written thriller of a detective story, don't waste your time and money on this book.

    41 out of 94 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    More than just a mystery...

    Penny is Canadian, lives in Quebec, and that's her setting. Her detective is Armand Gamache, chief inspector of an elite branch of the state police in charge of investigating murders. Gamache believes the seeds that lead to murder are planted in the murderer's past, something emotional that most people would get over but in this particular individual, they remain and fester and eventually lead to the person committing a murder. The investigation, therefore, has to involve getting to know all those involved and delving back into the suspects' and victim's past to find the cause that eventually led to the murder.

    Her setting is the very small and seemingly idyllic village of Three Pines. It is not shown on any map; those who find it do so either by accident or while exploring randomly in the area south of Montreal but still north of the border with the USA. The village is home to artists and poets, very interesting characters.

    Penny is brilliant at including all the detail - when they eat, you get hungry - and presenting very interesting characters. Some of them feel that Three Pines is a sort of Brigadoon, the Scots village that magically appeared on earth for only a single day many years apart - a magical place apart from the rigors and ups and downs of the rest of the world. And yet, it is the site of murders which bring Chief Inspector Gamache and his eclectic team of investigators in to delve into everyone's lives because in Three Pines everyone is involved in all that goes on.

    Highly recommended. This work and the entire series.

    28 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2009

    Faith in Modern Mystery Writers Restored !!!

    A great fan of the Golden Age of Mysteries, I am frequently disappointed when I try new writers of this genre. There seems to be an abundance of modern authors who write in a style that is horrifically violent, and even more who weave a "cutesy" humor in and out of the fabric of the crime yarn. Louise Penny is above all this, a great story teller with intriguing and believable characters, grand plots, and settings that make you go put the kettle on and get comfortable for a good night's read.

    27 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2011

    So much more than you think

    I'm so glad that the NYT Book Review introduced me to this series last week. This book was wonderful. I was so excited when I checked it out and saw it was $2.99, so I got it immediately and devoured it. It is so much more than a "cozy" mystery - no cutsey gimmicks, no horribly convenient plot twists, no stupid coincidences. Just solid writing, engaging characters, and plenty of surprising, insightful lines of prose that definitely should make a reader step back and recognize that this goes well above and beyond most mysteries. I immediately downloaded book two, and I'm excited that I have several more waiting for me after that.

    21 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Still Life paints a wonderful portrait!

    Louise Penny's first Three Pines Mystery with Armand Gamache is WONDERFUL! I love the way she writes - and her analysis of human nature and the foibles and failings. I love the way she explores not only the mystery of the murder, but also uses simple vignettes to illustrate the tragedy the murder visits on the people of Twin Pines, from the friends to the victim's dog. She writes about people as they really are, not idealized versions of themselves.

    It's one of those books, that when you have to put it down, it whispers to you and you can't stop wondering what the characters are doing now, what Gamache will observe next to move the story along. You want to meet and interact with the characters of the novel and can't wait to get back to the story.

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ENLOYED!

    The story takes place in Three Pines, a small rural village south of Montreal where gentle seventy-six year old woman named Jane Neal is shot through the heart with an arrow. This is a humorous, thoughtful, and captivating study of close-knit friends and relatives who celebrate their successes and mourn their losses together. Miss Marple anyone?

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    Harriet klausner

    And of course we have harriet klausner along to ruin yet another book with her cliff note book report plot spoiler that totally ruins the book. Come on bn, when are you ever going to do something to this obnoxious postet. Ban her, delete her her posts, do something but get rid of her.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2010

    Great read!!

    I started reading this series with the latest book, The Brutal Telling, and fell in love with the characters in Three Pines. I had to get all the books in this series. Still Life is an awesome read and is well written and thoughtful. Inspector Gamache is like a great big teddy bear, but with some bite when necessary. The inspector goes about his discovery with a slow and steady approach to finding the real killer, but the truth comes out eventually. And they do love to eat. It always leaves me wanting to have lunch in Three Pines, just listening in on their conversations or reading a book at the bistro and feeling so comfortable. All the characters are strange and wonderful at the same time. Can't wait to start the next book.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2012

    Beautifully written - can't wait to read the rest of the series!

    Still Life was a murder mystery written in such elegant prose it seems to create a new genre. Delightful, eccentric characters in a unique environment, and so many suspects I couldn’t put it down.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    favorite

    Louise Penny is my new favorite author. It is no wonder she is winning awards. She writes true literature. My husband agrees.
    Read her books in order and fall in love with the characters.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    Wonderful Series!

    I absolutely LOVE these books! Each character becomes a part of your family while reading about them. After finishing this book I was sad to see my friends go...and looked forward to the next mystery awaiting me in 3 Pines.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A great mystery!

    I'm really glad I discovered this author. She has a great writing style and the characters are wonderful! The setting is different and the whole package is just a refreshing change from the mysteries I've been reading. The ending was a surprise. I have fallen in love with this town and the characters that live in it, and can't wait to read the rest of these books.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    offbeat not sure if I liked a lot or not

    While I had to finish the book to find out what happened, at times I disliked the book because of its 'darkness'. It just seemed a little off at times. However there were also some clever parts, like when the author kept you waiting for a few pages to find out what book had been read. I probably will read more books by the author but I'll get them out of the library rather than pay for them.

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2014

    I am so excited to have found this great series (Chief Inspector

    I am so excited to have found this great series (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache) by Louise Penny. I started and finished reading the first of the series "Still Life" in one day, have now ordered the second in the series. You are pulled into the life of Three Pines and its inhabitants in a compelling manner without being bombarded with needless obscenities or vulgarity.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Cozy Mystery

    Suprisingly good small town mystery. Anyone who likes to curl up with a good mystery full of interesting characters and strong main characters will love this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2014

    One of my new favorites!

    I love this book! A wonderful mystery filled with characters so richly detailed that I want to meet them some day! Can't wait to read more of the series.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

    Marvelous series.

    The first of a marvelous series of 9 books. Most wonderful writer. Could not put the books down.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Good read

    I read this a while back but I remember that I enjoyed it. So well written and engaging on many levels. Set in Quebec, the Chief Inspector is called in to investigate the death of an older woman, whose body is found in woods. He believes it's murder but the local think it's an accident.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Decent cozy

    This well written, well paced book just did not catch my fancy. I had some trouble keeping some of the characters straight, disliked one intensely, and didn't really care too much about the others. The setting was very nice, and very nicely written. The mystery was fairly plotted, but something fell short for me. I will read the next because I really don't understand what was lacking. This book should be a delight to any cozy reader.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2014

    I enjoyed this book so much I immediately ordered the second in

    I enjoyed this book so much I immediately ordered the second in the series and now am ready to start the third one.  The writing has a poetic quality that adds so much to the descriptions; I fell in love with Inspector Gamache, and the story  itself is compelling--an old-fashioned whodunit. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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