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Still Life

Cover of Still Life

Still Life

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series, Book 1

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.

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.

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  • Copyright © 2005 by Louise Penny. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written...

    Still Life

    ONE

    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 Sûreté du Quebec knelt down; his knees cracking like the report of a hunter's rifle, his large, expressive hands hovering 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. The scent of mothballs, his grandmother's perfume, met him halfway. Jane's gentle and kindly eyes stared as though surprised to see him.

    He was surprised to see her. That was his little secret.Not that he'd ever seen her before. No. His little secret was that in his mid-fifties, at the height of a long and now apparently stalled career, violent death still surprised him. Which was odd, for the head of homicide, and perhaps one of the reasons he hadn't progressed further in the cynical world of the Sûreté. Gamache always hoped maybe someone had gotten it wrong, and there was no dead body. But there was no mistaking the increasingly rigid Miss Neal. Straightening up with the help of Inspector Beauvoir, he buttoned his lined Burberry against the October chill and wondered.


    Jane Neal had also been late, but in a whole other sense, a few days earlier. She'd arranged to meet her dear friend and next-door neighbor Clara Morrow for coffee in the village bistro. Clara sat at the table by the window and waited. Patience was not her long suit. The mixture of café au lait and impatience was producing an exquisite vibration. Throbbing slightly, Clara stared out the mullioned window at the village green and the old homes and maple trees that circled the Commons. The trees, turning breathtaking shades of red and amber, were just about the only things that did change in this venerable village.

    Framed by the mullions, she saw a pick-up truck drift down rue du Moulin into the village, a beautiful dappled doe draped languidly over its hood. Slowly the truck circled the Commons, halting villagers in mid-step. This was hunting season and hunting territory. But hunters like these were mostly from Montreal or other cities. They'd rent pickups and stalk the dirt roads at dawn and dusk like behemoths at feeding time, looking for deer. And when they spotted one they'd slither to a stop, step out of the truck and fire. Not all hunters were like that, Clara knew, but enough of them were. Those same hunters would strap the deer on to the hood of their truck and drive around thecountryside believing the dead animal on the vehicle somehow announced that great men had done this.

    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 challenging to distinguish a pine from a partridge from a person.

    Clara wondered what had become of Jane. She was rarely late, so she could easily be forgiven. Clara found it easy to forgive most things in most people. Too easy, her husband Peter often warned. But Clara had her own little secret. She didn't really...

About the Author-
  • LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (six times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 1, 2006
    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 Sûreté du Québec. 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.

  • People magazine

    "A rare treat."

  • Chicago Tribune "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."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Terrific. Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight."
  • Booklist (starred review) "A gem of a book."
  • Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review "[An] auspicious debut... [Penny's] deceptively simple style masks the complex patterns of a well-devised plot."
  • Denver Post "A perfectly executed traditional mystery."
  • Deadly Pleasures "A stellar debut novel. The setting is entrancing... Well done!"
  • Deborah Crombie, author of Water Like a Stone "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."
  • Anne Perry, author of Long Spoon Lane "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."
  • Reginald Hill, author of The Stranger House "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."
  • Julia Spencer-Fleming, author of To Darkness and to Death "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."
  • Peter Lovesey, author of The Circle "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."
  • Margaret Yorke, author of False Pretences "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."
  • Ann Granger, author of That Way Murder Lies

    "Still Life is a lovely, clever book and I hope I shall be reading a lot more by Louise Penny!"
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    St. Martin's Press
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Louise Penny
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