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Still Life by Louise Penny: A Review by Warren Bull
It’s no great surprise that the ice in the cooler has melted. The buffet is down to those unidentifiable morsels of maybe meat or possibly cheese. I’m not sure I want to know. The bowl that held the chips has loose salt and crumbs. There are no napkins left. What does all this signify? Only that I’m late to the party again.
My wife is way ahead of me, as usual. She’s read all the Louise Penny books that have been published and she waits eagerly for the next installment in the series. I, on the other hand, only recently read Still Life, the books that introduced Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his crew of investigators to the world.
Don’t tell me that mysteries have to be formulaic or gruesome or vapid to sell to today’s readers. Don’t tell that they have to be written with less than a sixth grade vocabulary or pedestrian in the their word flow. Still Life is not. It is another example of books written in what I believe will be seen as a golden age in crime fiction writing. Three pines, the village, is as much a character as the murdered and the murderer. Although the murder starts before the action, I would not characterize this as a light-hearted cozy. It is not a police procedural, even though the reader follows the police from their entry in the story through to the end. I don’t intend to sound disrespectful to either subgenre. I read and admire good work in both. I am saying that in my mind, this is a mystery needing no additional definition that will be considered a classic, if it isn’t already.
It respects the complexity of human beings. It entertains even as it comments on the ways of the world. It surprises without loud bangs. It reveals, leaving at least this reader thinking, “Why of course that’s what happened.” I felt like I was meeting old friends and lovers for the first time.
It is no surprise that I give this my very highest recommendation.