Still Life: A New Favorite Mystery Author

still-life

Every genre is it’s own specific art form. Fantasy and science fiction require a great deal of world creation that may include changing or modifying the very laws of nature. Horror stays mostly realistic while bringing us in as close as possible before the reality takes a horrifying twist. Meanwhile mystery lays a labyrinth for us to explore, keeping us just lost enough to give us hope to continue until the end when the truth is revealed. Nonfiction, historical fiction, and poetry are equally remarkable and every genre brings something different to the literary pallets of readers everywhere. So when an author brings something truly special to the table, it deserves to be tasted and savored. This might involve reading the book slowly, reading it a second time, or continuing to read the rest of the series in a binge reading frenzy. I like the latter, but, as is so often the case, I find myself in a predicament. I finished the book on Friday, Saturday I worked the whole day and couldn’t make it to the library, and it’s now Sunday. By the time I can make it to the library to hopefully find the sequel it will have been two days. Two days since I had a book I wanted to read.

But without further agonizing, I’ll get on with the summary.

Little of note happens within the boundaries of the quaint village of Three Pines. That is, until an elderly resident of the town is found dead in the woods, having been shot through the chest with an arrow. At first everyone assumes it was a hunting accident, but when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec arrives to investigate he has the distinct feeling that something is wrong. As he pushes further into the investigation he begins to discover that this quiet village holds a great many secrets, some of which will do anything to stay out of the light.

I first noticed Louise Penny when I stumbled upon her eleventh novel, The Nature of the Beast, in Barnes and Noble shortly after it came out. I read the inside cover and was intrigued. I was reading thrillers at the time and from the inside cover it sounded like it would be a good one. But as time passed I grew less interested and eventually I moved on. I had completely forgotten about it until I saw her newest book, The Great Reckoning, on display. I saw her name and it jogged my memory, but still I didn’t pick up any of her books. Then, a short while ago, I discovered an absolutely beautiful bookstore on the western edge of Salt Lake City and went to investigate (if you haven’t yet, you should read my blog post about this book store here), and while perusing the stacks I found the complete collection of Louise Penny’s books. When I asked one of the clerks about them she told me they were some of her favorites and a lot of people had been hooked by them, and if I wanted to try them I should, rather obviously, start from the beginning. And so I did. I took the first book from the shelf and began to read. A half an hour later, and only two chapters in, I left with the book in my hand. Two days later the finished book sat on my nightstand while I longed to buy the next one. I, like so many other before me, was ensnared by the alluring trap of Louise Penny’s creation.

There is something exquisitely beautiful about Penny’s writing. It’s slow, methodical, and intimate. The characters have layers of depth and the relationships they have with each other is honest and sincere. As I turned the last page and laid the book aside, I felt as if I had known the people of Three Pines for a long time. I became invested in the mystery and the surrounding trials the characters endured and desired to spend more time with them. Strangely, I wanted to become a part of their lives so they could get to know me as I had gotten to know them.

If you’re a mystery reader and haven’t read any of the adventures of Chief Inspector Gamache, then you are doing yourself an injustice. I agree with the woman at the bookstore: start from the beginning and keep going. You will not want to miss the opportunity to become a part of life in the small village of Three Pines.

Rating: ★★★★★

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