Louise Penny, “Still Life”

Is there anything more tricky than choosing the right escape reading? Satisfaction depends so much on your mood and on fine shades of difference in narrators, in action, in setting. I read Tana French but not the Swedes, Patricia Wentworth but not Agatha Christie. At first try, Still Life seemed to be too cute. The body of an elderly woman is found in a beautiful patch of Quebecois woods. Flash back a few days: an appealing woman artist is waiting for an older woman to show up to have coffee with her in their idyllic Canadian village and they discuss the village art show. My heart sank, and I read no further. Still Life seemed awfully cutesy, or “twee” as our English friends might put it.

Fortunately Chief Inspector Gamache of Montreal put some backbone into the proceedings and once it was discovered that the murder weapon was a hunting arrow, I relaxed. Odd, really. Why should cuteness bother me in a genre that is so artificial? Why does the arrival of a nasty steel-pointed arrow, which makes the novel more sinister, also make it more appealing?

For his part, Gamache is tall, handsome, Cambridge-educated, intuitive, occasionally at odds with his bosses in the Sûreté of Quebec. Pretty much the recipe for an attractive detective in a Canadian series. It was the suggestion of several friends that put me onto Louise Penny in the first place although I don’t feel she’s a treasure (hello, Julia Spencer-Fleming!) five more perfectly fine novels about mayhem in Canada are good news.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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9 Responses to Louise Penny, “Still Life”

  1. Annie says:

    Keep going, Carol, Penny is one of those remarkable writers who grows in stature with each book. I’ve only read one of the Julia Spencer-Fleming so far and while on balance I would agree that her first is better then Penny’s first, Penny’s more recent books are In my opinion at least, far better than ‘In The Bleak Mid-winter’. I’m glad to have both of them.

  2. carolwallace says:

    Oh, Annie, that’s very helpful to know, because Penny was not at the top of my list. I always like it when good writers improve!

  3. motheretc says:

    My crime fiction is pretty much restricted to Michael Connelly, but a murder mystery set in Montreal has piqued my interest (it’s my home town)!

  4. carolwallace says:

    Well, the Montreal part of “Still Life” is limited to driving out of it, but Inspector Gamache is based there. There’s also a fun Fred Vargas novel set in Canada, “Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand,” — mostly rural, but Quebec for sure. I don’t know Connelly at all. Should I?

  5. PaulaFarmer says:

    Still Life is definitely not at the level of any of the Tana French novels or Fred Vargas, but it was a pleasant surprise. Per Annie’s comments I look forward to the next installment.

  6. carolwallace says:

    Yeah, I put the next Penny on my Kindle for my trip to Atlanta today. Annie is very reliable, I’ve found!

  7. Pingback: Follow my book blog, “Book Group of One” | | Carol Wallace BooksCarol Wallace Books

  8. Pingback: Louise Penny, “A Fatal Grace” « Book Group of One

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