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Still Life

Chief Inspector Gamache Book 1
Narrated by: Adam Sims
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 38 mins
4 out of 5 stars (86 ratings)

Non-member price: $28.09

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Publisher's Summary

The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines - a place so free from crime it doesn't even have its own police force. But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets....

Coming soon: Book 2 in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, Dead Cold. Winter in Three Pines, and the sleepy village is carpeted in snow. It's a time of peace and goodwill - until a scream pierces the biting air. A spectator at the annual Boxing Day curling match has been fatally electrocuted. Despite the large crowd, there are no witnesses and - apparently - no clues.

©2005 Louise Penny (P)2006 Isis Publishing Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Magnificent

Enthralled from the very first chapter. Am now a fan of Gamache. Book 2 awaits, I am so excited.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Quirky writing but keeps you thinking..

Took a bit to get into the story but once I did it was entertaining. A bit "off the wall" but I'm now looking forward to the second in the series.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Carol
  • Mid North Coast - NSW
  • 01-08-2018

Different, quirky

The plot was a pleasant departure from the norm. Though it started well, slow but steady, I felt towards the end the story got away from the author and we were left with some long winded explanations in order for the reader to believe what was happening.

I’m not interested in book2.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Will continue with this series

I’ll start this review by apologising to any Canadians out there. I always thought I knew a bit about Canada and its history and way of life and peoples but after reading Still Life, this is obviously not the case. I didn’t realise the French sections of the country were so dominant and determined to stay French, for starters. I kind of just assumed everyone spoke English with some older sections speaking French on the side. I feel dumb. I also didn’t think about the US War of Independence affecting Canada and the people that fled there during that campaign. Again, seems rather obvious now and makes me again, feel stupid. So, thanks Louise Penny for making me feel like an ignorant Antipodean.

Still Life introduces us to Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache. He’s a lovely character, despite the fact he often takes too much of a back seat in this book for my liking. Like many other mystery books I’ve read of late, Penny focuses more on the townsfolk where the murder took place. Using this small town setting successfully narrows down the suspect pool to the people who live there but perversely widens the suspect pool to everyone who lives there. Great fun. It also creates that dimension of isolation which is always an added bonus in mysteries.

Unfortunately, as I said, focusing on the plethora of suspects, potential victims and witnesses means I didn’t get to know Gamache and his team as much as I would have liked. I felt like I knew nothing about JeanGuy Beauvoir, Gamache’s second in command, for example, at the end the book.
In fact, the only detective Penny did focus on other than Gamache was rookie Yvette Nichol and I must admit, her part in the story made little sense apart from giving us a few clues when it came to the personality of the murderer and one of the continuing themes running through the book of the evilness of narcissism and arrogance.

Some of the townsfolk were a little cliched but overall fun. I did guess the murderer but I wasn’t completely sure about the details.

The method the murderer uses to kill their victim is unique and I really enjoyed the mystery regarding the actual mechanics of the murder as much as the whodunnit mystery.

The title of the book is perfect. Just because a victim is heading towards the end of their life -- it’s still life. One of the main clues in the book is a painting -- a still life. The style of the painting is one which only includes people from real life -- a still life. And there are various characters thinking/in denial about their personalities and quality of life and their ability to change and go forwards with their lives; they’ve stopped or are blind/have become stationary -- a still life.

I did listen to this via Audible and it took me a little while to warm to the narrator but once I did, I was hooked and found myself really enjoying the audiobook version. I have been searching for a nice long series to listen to as I commute and this might tick all the boxes.

4 out of 5

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Kept me guessing until the end!

A very enjoyable story and great characters. Lots of plot twists to try and work out who did it.

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Wonderful character development

The character development and beautifully eloquent descriptions made this book fabulous. So gentle, yet such powerful imagery.

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  • bg
  • 28-03-2016

Worried for nothing!

I love this series and author dearly. But I was afraid to buy these in audiobook format as I couldn't have stood listening to the French get all mangled up. Thankfully the narrator made me feel right at home. I am very impressed and glad to know I can safely continue to purchase this series!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • DIANE
  • 04-06-2014

Love Louise Penny's writing

I read Still Life out of order. I had already read a number of books in the Inspector Gamache series and decided that it was a good idea to go back and start from the beginning. One of the disappointing things about this decision was hearing the rendition by Adam Sims. Had I not heard Ralph Cosham's masterful rendition in later books, I would not have had anything to compare this book to. But I have, and Mr. Cosham brings something special to Ms. Penny's books that Mr. Sims was not able to accomplish, despite a good performance overall. As usual, this was a twisted, convoluted story that left the reader wondering "who dun nit" until quite far into the story. I just love the characters... especially Ruth Zardo.
This is a fascinating group of people and I will keep reading until I have caught up. Can't wait to read the new book!!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Susan Moore
  • 25-07-2017

Better the second time around.

I read this book first and then decided to listen to audio version several years later. While I actually enjoyed the story more the second time around, I did not enjoy the performance. I found the english/french versions of Gamache very distracting, irritating and unnecessary. I know Penny indicates that he speaks like a British royal in english, but I found the switch too jarring.

The story is wonderful. Penny has great storytelling ability. If you enjoy cozy mysteries then this series does not disappoint.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Tammy Sheedy
  • 21-12-2015

Realistic and brilliant

Beautiful story of Life, and friendship. Very well written, narrator was brilliant. Slow beginning but then was sucked in, transfixed till the last word.

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  • angi4262
  • 27-08-2015

Loved it

So glad to find the beginning of a great series. I'll be looking up more!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Lyn
  • 15-06-2015

Easy Listening

Outcome not as obvious as you expect, Intrigued me enough to listen to the 2nd book and now I am hooked on the series

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  • S. Howarth
  • 05-06-2015

Good story - just one thing drove me crazy...

This was a good story, with interesting characters. The one thing that drove me nuts was that the narrator did not have a consistent voice for the main character (Inspector Gamash). He kept alternating back and forth through the whole book: sometimes the Inspector had a thick French accent, and sometimes he had a thick British accent. I found this very annoying. Otherwise I was happy with the book and the performance.

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  • connor
  • 25-08-2017

dreadful

I disliked all the characters from the start. This never improved. Had a dull ending.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • D. L. G.
  • 11-07-2015

Great story spoiled by the narrator

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

This is the first in a wonderful series of books which I would recommend wholeheartedly to anyone. The village of Three Pines is a character in itself, the villagers who live there are 3 dimensional, engaging and flawed - being believably human. Despite the village setting, however, this is not a 'cosy' crime series. It is much darker and more profound than that.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Obviously Gamache, so fascinating! Ruth Zardo is also compelling. What I love about the characters is their wholeness - no-one is completely good or nice, no-one is completely awful or spiteful. Penny's characters are fully grown, complex adults and during the course of the series one becomes very attached to them.

What didn’t you like about Adam Sims’s performance?

Sadly, Adam Sims does not appear to have read the books before narrating them and therefore has no understanding of the characters. He makes the most basic mistake in giving Inspector Gamache a French accent for the first couple of chapters, then as he reads another character describing Gamache's British accent he changes it accordingly. This only lasts for a couple of chapters, however, before he's back to a French accent again. Most disappointing. His lack of knowledge of the characters really spoils things for me, rather than portray any complexity he makes most of them sound merely bad tempered.

Did Still Life inspire you to do anything?

I was inspired to read the rest of the series!

Any additional comments?

For £15 I expect a professional recording wherein mistakes are rectified rather than just ignored. When the book clearly describes the main character's British accent and the reader has given him a French accent surely someone in the recording studio could say "Oops, better do the first two chapters again."?

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Anne
  • 15-04-2014

Enjoyable

Would you listen to Still Life again? Why?

Yes. I like the setting, characters & philosophical musings.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The investigator in this series isn't a troubled man. He loves his wife and his colleagues and doesn't have too many issues with authority. Canada is beautifully evoked through landscape & characters. These are gentle, thoughtful books.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs
  • 18-10-2014

Keep with it - it's worth it!

I had to start this book 3 times as at first I just couldn't get into it. On one final try before I asked for a refund I understood the good reviews that I'd read. The characters really do have character, the story had enough twists and turns to keep me interested a and the narrator was really good. Will now be moving on to the second bookin the series.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Cawley
  • 17-01-2015

Delightful

A sneaky peek into the life of French Canadians and the English who live in Québec. A who dunnit with a difference, a Chief Inspector with a difference and an insight into people that was surprising and welcome. I look forward to listening to the series as read by Adam Sims , who is a talented voice actor.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Barbara
  • 01-02-2017

Brigadoon with Dead Bodies

Any additional comments?

Perhaps the best way to indicate what I thought of this book is to say that immediately after I finished it, I ordered the next book in the series.In some ways it's old fashioned: set in an Elysian village, the contemporary Canadian equivalent of St Mary Mead, so beloved of Miss Marple fans. When we were children, perhaps we yearned for ponies, or to be prima ballerinas or cowboys or astronauts: as adults, we long to live in villages like Three Pines, where bistro owners leap from their beds at dawn to dart from their kitchens and proffer freshly-baked croissants and flasks of cafe au lait; where there are archery clubs, and where famous artists and poets live; where people recite Auden at the dinner table and no-one thinks it odd; where you have to google a word before you realize that someone was swearing. The mist clears every hundred years or so, and there is Three Pines.In other respects, it's most definitely of our era. In its analysis of what moves people to act as they do in particular, it reflects contemporary psychology. Why do teenagers sometimes act like cave trolls, brutalizing the people who treat them most kindly and with the most tolerance? Why do some people gracefully accept the most appalling affronts whilst others seem unable to forgive the smallest rebuff? Even the use of the word "girl" as opposed to "woman" was subjected at one point to a surprisingly subtle analysis, which I'm still a little unsure about. Not many crime thrillers have the ability to drop passages into your head and leave them there to hatch/fester.Most importantly, it's a good yarn. After you've been led up plausible dead ends a couple of times, you realize that the author is an expert in laying a false trail and you settle back to enjoy the story.As other reviewers have commented, the narrator switches accents for the main character with hilarious results. At some points he is as English as Lord Peter Wimsey: at others, though I'm not entirely sure how a French Canadian accent differs from a French accent, he can definitely no longer be pictured in tweeds striding across a grouse moor. Once I had got used to this odd phenomenon, it became truly funny, and I found myself laughing out loud every time it happened. At first though, I was baffled, wondering if a) there were two different policemen or b) the one police officer adopted different accents according to whom he was with. A lot of us do that, don't we?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • L
  • 28-05-2015

Good story

I really enjoyed this book. The story is fun, the characters are quirky and the Inspector kind of reminded me of a Canadian Poirot. The narrator did a fantastic job and really bought the story and characters alive. Worth a listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Liz... Bristol
  • 14-06-2015

Gamache has potential, but a narrator with more to offer would improve things.

A good story which doesn't overvalue it's central detective figure, but at the same time doesn't quite make the best of him either. Gamache runs a team, he isn't a Sherlock Holmes figure. An apprentice-type falls out with Gamache, again showing him as not perfect as well as patient. He has potential for Penny to develop (whether she has or nay, I don't know as I've not read/heard any).
Sadly, I'm not sure that I like Adam Sims's voice; you might. To me he sounds a bit strangulated, tending to make some characters sound rather tetchy or bad-natured. I can say that I did get used to his tones and was able to get past actually disliking them.
If this was Penny's first novel or her first with these detectives, then she managed quite well; if she is already established in other ways then she should have done better, I feel. The story itself has good characters amongst the suspects/townsfolk, who were perhaps more rounded than the investigators. I'd listen to another of her novels to see what she has done with the detectives, but I'd be hoping that someone other than Adam Sims reads it, to suit my tastes.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Gill Le Fevre
  • 08-05-2014

endured this; not bad in the end

Would you ever listen to anything by Louise Penny again?

Probably not. I almost gave up after the first couple of chapters but was sufficiently interested in the whodunit to persevere. The main police characters were reasonably engaging but the "suspects" were pretty much entirely annoying and unsympathetic. And there were a number of loose ends (e.g. the junior police officer) that weren't answered. Unfortunately I don't care enough to read the second book.

Would you be willing to try another one of Adam Sims’s performances?

The performance here was really irritating. Every sentence was read with huge amounts of drama... "And then he poured himself a cup of tea!!!!".

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • alison mottram
  • 24-09-2019

Interesting characters

Interesting characters. Good sense of Canadian village atmosphere. I will continue with this series. Recommended.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Linda
  • 30-08-2019

Oh dear

I was looking forward to starting what was a new series for me but I am afraid I found this like wading through mud and I finally abandoned after about three quarters of an hour.