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review 2020-01-09 22:18
Still Life (Penny)
Still Life - Louise Penny

The title of this book has at least two meanings in the context of the work: first, and most obviously, the victim of the murder is an artist (and her work - though not exactly still life - contains clues that point to the murderer); secondly, there are references in various conversations to people who do not progress morally, who have "still" (i.e. unmoving, unprogressing) lives.


I already like Chief Inspector Gamache, which is a good thing, as he has numerous further adventures and two of them await me on my shelf. And I like his faithful lieutenant, Beauvoir. I am left speculating whether Agent Yvette Nichol is going to have a story arc of her own in which she learns not to let her own egotisms and insecurities stand between her and becoming a good officer. She certainly gets the rough edge of Gamache's tongue in this volume; I am wondering if she is the police equivalent to the much darker case of the murderer - someone who obstinately refuses to learn, but wallows in past mistakes. As such, she might be a one-off character.


The jury's still out for me on whether I'm going to embrace this series whole-heartedly. There's something about the rather jumpy conversational style that holds me at a bit of a distance from the characters. I can't quite put my finger on it. On the other hand, I really liked the characterizations (the gay couple running the Bistro, and the sharp-tongued eminent old lady who's a poet, stand out for me). I liked the rural Quebec setting, and the fact that Gamache was clearly an outsider in some ways, but still knew his way about. I liked the range of cultural reference, and the way that the police officers didn't just listen to the answers to their questions, but also read the way people answered (or didn't answer) them. I liked the specificity and oddness of the detail about hunting bows and painting technique.


Onward to volume 2 in the series for me.

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review 2019-12-01 13:27
24 Festive Tasks: Door 13 - Advent: Book
Still Life - Louise Penny


Turns out I already read my book for this square!


On a related note, color me somewhat less impressed than I expected to be -- this is yet another insanely popular series that, as it turns out, I won't be rushing to continue.  There's some really good and insightful writing in the later parts of the book, but the beginning is dominated by cliché and long too-cutesy-to-be-true passages strongly reminiscent of the worst of cozy mystery writing, and equally as importantly, with the exception of Gamache himself (and one or two of the villagers), I found few characters I really cared about ... or could even be bothered to like and root for.


(Task: Read a pastiche, a book authorized by a deceased author’s estate, the 4th book in a series, a book with the word “four” in the title, a book featuring four siblings, or a book with a wreath, pines or fir trees on the cover.)

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review 2019-10-28 14:00
Full Circle for Armand Gamache
A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) - Louise Penny

So this is a very good Louise Penny book following the Armand Gamache and another change in his professional and personal life. I gave "Kingdom of the Blind" three stars due to that whole opiod epidemic thing that still gives me hives when it is referred to in this book. I think Penny is a bit repetitive at times, but not as badly as she has been in the past. Though I gave this five stars, I honestly think this is a 4.5 star book (I rounded up) due to the ridiculous side plot with Clara and her art. I would happily just read about Gamache and his cases with the villagers there as a chorus in the background. Anytime Clara is elevated in the forefront in these books though I get totally lost. I cannot keep reading about her art anymore. 


"A Better Man" has Gamache back as head of the homicide department (the job he had in the first book in the series). Gamache has been demoted and though many thought he would just resign and leave due to the insult of the job he was offered, he decides to take the position. This leaves Gamache and his son in law, Jean-Guy as both heads of homicide. Jean-Guy though is awaiting a move that will take him and his family to Paris. An officer we have me in the previous books, Agent Lysette Cloutier, is dealing with a personal matter. A friend has called her to ask for help in tracking down his missing and pregnant daughter, Vivienne. Gamache offers to go and see what's what since this way it will help smooth over things and allow Jean-Guy to focus on running the department. Of course things are not what they seem and Gamache and Cloutier are both concerned Vivienne, was murdered by her alcoholic and abusive husband. If that's not enough, we also have one of my favorites, Isabelle back and interviewing for potential jobs. She's still there though helping out Gamache on this case. And of course as I said above, we have Clara and her new art medium getting panned and slammed via social media along with Gamache's return to homicide. 


So Gamache seems even more solid in this installment. He is more thoughtful about his actions and the repercussions that can happen. He is quick to make sure he's not seen as overstepping with regards to Jean-Guy's position and the new head of the Sûreté du Québec. The whole Gamache has enemies things needs to die a quick death. I just don't have the energy for it anymore in this series. At least the ending gave us a resolution on that whole thing so I am hoping that we don't see anymore of that. Gamache is affected by the case he's working on with Cloutier. He can't help imagine what he would feel like if his daughter Annie was missing. And I do like that he is able to take a step back and give warnings to several of the police officers about their actions and how they treat suspects. I think this may be the first Penny book that touches upon police brutality. 


Jean-Guy was actually good in this one! I know, I am shocked too. Especially since I have been dragging the guy through the whole series. He's matured and is a good leader. He learned from Gamache and it's a shame we don't get a chance to see how he would have handled the role. Penny is not doing an 11th hour reprieve here, Jean-Guy, Annie, their son are really moving away. 


We also get POVs of Cloutier and Isabelle. I am looking forward to the next book since it shows some exciting things underway for Isabelle. I loved how tough Isabelle is and how she's also learned a lot from Gamache and how to take apart a case and follow through on your instincts.

We get introduced to a new character, Cameron, who I wonder will turn up in future books. 


We get the village of Three Pines. Ruth and her weird duck, her bad poetry, and her seemingly fighting back via social media at those who are attacking Gamache. The Clara thing was not good. I don't even know what to say about it other than that.


The writing was really great and I liked that for once we had everyone looking into a murder case without wider implications into a criminal conspiracy. This one had more heart I thought. The flow was great from beginning to end and the ending was a nice little surprise.

The setting of Three Pines continues to get best murdery village every awards though. Seriously, anywhere near that place should move. 


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review 2019-10-06 22:22
Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1) by Louise Penny
Still Life - Louise Penny

A decent mystery set in a charming village in Quebec, Canada. True to the Miss Marple tradition, even cozy villages have their share of darkness running underneath. The book also made me learn a bit about French/English tensions in the largely Francophone region. The omniscient point of view allows the readers glimpses into the thoughts of any character including minor ones—and even, oddly enough, those of an animal. The writing can be clunky at times, with some details or descriptions written in a rather confusing way.

The author has written at least a dozen more mysteries in this series but I don't think I will continue with it for now, and not just because of the writing. I liked the main investigator, the quiet, wise and insightful Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, and his partnership with his second in command, the more logical Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir. However, several supporting characters annoyed me—I don't feel like enduring another novel with Ruth Zardo or Yvette Nichol in it. The mystery in this one is quite intriguing though, with a focus on the psychology of murder.

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text 2019-09-12 18:49
2019 Halloween Bingo - International Woman of Mystery
A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) - Louise Penny

It’s Gamache’s first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter.

As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.

Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel…, he resumes the search.

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.


Reading for International Woman of Mystery

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