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4.1 out of 5 stars
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2012
I picked this up at a charity stall for 25 pence and spent half a second glancing at the back-cover blurb and took it to be an English police procedural. In fact, it is a cosy village whodunnit set in Quebec. The police are certainly involved but you don't read much about them plodding through computer files or the SOCOs' painstaking work.

The characters are credible and the author is either insightful about people or just has a great imagination. There are plenty of suspects, clues and red herrings. There isn't as much psychological business as there is in, for instance, most U.S. and Scottish crime thrillers (the ones I've read, anyway). Penny successfully misdirected me away from the culprit(s).

I am a slow reader but galloped through this in about four evenings and immediately ordered the second one in the series. As long as you don't mind your crime novels populated by nice, creative, artistic middle-class people (I don't, as I read this kind of thing for escapism), there is plenty here to enjoy. This one is being made into a film with Nathaniel Parker so that sounds rather like Inspector Lynley being relocated but it will probably be watchable. Now let me go off to Olivier's bistro for a coffee and croissant.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2011
A beautifully written Agatha Christie style mystery with a sympathetic Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in the style of Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti.
Set in an idyllic village in Quebec with a terrific atmosphere. It has enticed me to buy the next two in the series. Louise Penny also produces a good blog with a monthly newsletter.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Tragedy strikes Three Pines, an elderly village hidden away in Quebec. Delightful seventy six year old former teacher Jane Neal is found dead, slain by an arrow. A hunting accident or something more sinister? The timing is curious, between two unprecedented events. Just submitted by Jane to an art exhibition has been an extraordinary painting that stunned the judges. Friends have also been amazed by an invitation to her living room, yet to be seen by anyone - for decades a mystery.

Although Jane perishes at the book's start, she dominates all that follows - her artwork the key to everything. Chief Inspector Gamache investigates - soon to be charmed by the village and its quirky inhabitants.

A first novel? This surprises, Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir so firmly portrayed they seem well established characters from a long running series - especially with so many references to previous cases. In fact, everybody here is vividly depicted - many most likeable, some decidedly not. Gamache himself proceeds with insight and compassion (unlike the team's newest recruit Agent Yvette Nichol). The occasional humour enhances - as with Nichol so perplexed by that mirror sticker, "You're looking at the problem."

Like Gamache, many readers may be captivated by Three Pines full of friends so loyal - moved and enchanted by the way Jane has ensured she will always be around.

A truly satisfying read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2011
Another really well-written novel from this Canadian writer. The story is full of suspense and the characters are well portrayed. I would highly recommend this book to crime-reading enthusiasts like myself.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2011
I am now on my seventh (sequential) book by Louise Penny in the Armand Gamache series and there is not a "dud" one amongst them. With such a high standard of creative writing from this author I suppose it is a little insulting to expect there might be a below standard book in the series.
Each one is a 'gem' of detective fiction. I'm still wondering how I managed to pass by this author for so long.
Chief Insp.Gamache is in a similar vein to Donna Leon's Brunetti but he is a certainly not a pastiche. Her writing style is very creative and pleasingly individual and the humour - not an overused aspect of the genre - is a welcome treat. The characters are so well realised that you become really involved with them as the novels progress (and they are a mixed and fascinating bunch). At the same time their village of Three Pines draws you in.
There is a sort of Brigadoon feel about Three Pines and despite the murders in the area, it is a place where one could happily go and live. There is no gratuitous violence or reliance on crudity in the novels but neither are they prudish.
Obviously, like any series of books, I can't guarantee that they will be to everyone's taste but i am sure there will be many, like me, who will get thoroughly involved, entertained and be glad they discovered Gamache, Three Pines and its inhabitants.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Louise Penny has gone against the latest trends in modern crime fiction, blood, gore, forensics, post-mortems, shock tactics and has instead relyed on her talent as a good writer. This novel and author are a refreshing additon to the crime genre.

Her characters and setting are so well created that you can't help but get lost amongst the inhabitants of Three Pines.

The story is interesting and well thought out, with enough hints and clues to keep us guessing.

The only downfall was having to finish it but thnkfully there is more on the way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2013
I stumbled across the novels of Louise Penny whilst I was browsing. What a wonderful discovery! Louise Penny's novel has such a sense of place and character, which never lets the reader go from beginning to end. A real tour de force of the genre. I highly recommend her to anyone looking for a great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2013
The Three Pines novels are so much more than cozies. Don't get me wrong -- these books are built around a tidy mystery with enough twists and turns to entertain, but the beauty in these books is the characters. Their inner lives and relationships are the real strength of these books. If some people read them and walk away thinking "oh just another cozy" then they have missed the real story. And as lack of character development in book one has been commented upon -- remember this is just book one.
I cannot think of anything I have enjoyed more in the past several years than growing to know and love these people.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Still Life is the opening novel in Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series. The book won the CWA New Blood Dagger in the UK, the CWC Arthur Ellis Award in Canada, and an Anthony Award in the US. The book is a modern twist on the kind of cosies written by Agatha Christie and her ilk, though a police procedural rather than an amateur detective. Cosies are not my favourite kind of crime novel and I wasn't sure how I was going to get on with the story and its telling. The cosy feel lessened as the book went on, and the read was entertaining. Part of the story hinges on an unlikely coincidence, though the puzzle itself is clever enough, and Gamache is a plausible and engaging character. Some of the characters are a little clichéd and the character of Nicole seemed underdeveloped and her subplot doesn't really go anywhere. Overall, a book that will appeal to readers who like their police procedurals with a cozy bent.
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on 27 July 2014
We open with a dead body, shot by a bow and arrow. And for a short while we are introduced to the people of Three Pines, and guess who might have done it. Shortly after that we meet Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, his side-kick Jean Guy Beauvoir, the rest of his team and the rookie on it, Yvette Nichol. She’s trying to prove herself, and just like the sidekick in Elizabeth George’s first Inspector Lynley mystery, she has a huge chip on her shoulder, a big mouth, and good brain which she doesn’t use properly. They could be twins.

The story is both delightful and delightfully written. Three Pines is a quaint town/village where nobody ever really leaves – as if they do, they come back again. There are characters you know and love from your own experience – or wish you knew. There are couples with secrets and old ladies with lies. The characterisation is excellent, with occasional bon mots of wisdom thrown in. I was fascinated by Myrna’s theory of loss – that all our troubles are caused by some type of loss, and most of us recognise that and move on, but some just wallow in it.

The denouement is done well – I was right in my selection of the villain some way from the end, but it did not stop my enjoyment of the further red herrings and the eventual realisation of the rest of the protagonists in a thrilling conclusion. Whether it is too obvious I can’t tell, but I think not.

Will I read more of this series – yes, probably, but I’m not in a rush. I docked it a 5th star for a combination of the irritating rookie and some irritatingly poor formatting (why don’t these big publishers pay enough attention to the typos in their ebooks?). It was fascinating to learn more about French Canadian culture and politics, too.
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