Synopses & Reviews
As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life — all except one...
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sret du Qubec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montral and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season'and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
"[An] auspicious debut....[Penny's] deceptively simple style masks the complex patterns of a well-devised plot." Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
"A perfectly executed traditional mystery." Denver Post
“It's hard to decide what provides the most pleasure in this enjoyable book: Gamache, a shrewd and kindly man constantly surprised by homicide; the village, which sounds at first like an ideal place to escape from civilization; or the clever and carefully constructed plot.” Chicago Tribune
“Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Terrific. Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A gem of a book.” Booklist (starred review)
A Debut Dagger honor book in the U.K., this work introduces an engaging series hero in Inspector Armand Gamache who commands his forces with integrity and quiet courage. Locals are convinced a murder was no more than a tragic hunting accident, but Gamache uncovers something more sinister.
Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
With this award-winning first novel, Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces — and this series — with power, ingenuity, and charm.
About the Author
Louise Penny, author of the New York Times bestselling Chief Inspector Gamache novels, worked as an award-winning journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before leaving to write crime fiction. Still Life, her first mystery, was the winner of the New Blood Dagger and the Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys Awards; and was also named one of the five Mystery/Crime Novels of the Decade by Deadly Pleasures magazine. Louise went on to become the first writer ever to win the Agatha Award for Best Novel four times, as well as a second Anthony Award for The Brutal Telling and the Dilys and Arthur Ellis Awards for Bury Your Dead. Her novels are bestsellers in the United States and Great Britain and have been translated into fourteen languages. She lives with her husband, Michael, in a small village south of Montréal where she writes, skis, and volunteers.
Reading Group Guide
Discussion questions for The Three Pines Mysteries, by Louise Penny1. How important is the use of humor in this book? 2. Which Three Pines villager would you most like to have cafe au lait with at the bistro? 3. Why is Ruth a villager? 4 Louise Penny says her books are about murder, but at their heart they're about other things. What else is this book about? What are some other themes? 5. Agent Nichol is an extremely controversial character in the books. What do you think of her? What purpose does she serve Discussion questions for Still Life1. At the beginning of Still Life, we are told that “violent death still surprised” Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Why is that odd for a homicide detective, and how does it influence his work? What are his strengths and his weaknesses? 2. The village of Three Pines is not on any map, and when Gamache and Agent Nicole first arrive there, they see “the inevitable paradox. An old stone mill sat beside a pond, the mid morning sun warming its fieldstones. Around it the maples and birches and wild cherry trees held their fragile leaves, like thousands of happy hands waving to them on arrival. And police cars. The snakes in Eden.” Can you find other echoes of Paradise in Three Pines, and what role do snakes—real or metaphorical—play there? 3. There are three main couples in the book: Clara and Peter, Olivier and Gabri, and Gamache and Reine-Marie. How would you characterize each of these relationships? 4. Gamache says “Ive never met anyone uniformly kind and good,” yet no one has anything bad to say about Jane—except regarding her art. What is your impression of that art? How do you understand the game Jane used to play with Yolande and the Queen of Hearts? 5. When the charred arrowhead is found in his home, it is said that Matthew Croft “had finally been hurt beyond poetry.” How does poetry help him and other characters in this novel? Does it ever have the power to hurt? What do you think of Timmer Hadleys idea that “theres something about Ruth Zardo, something bitter, that resents happiness in others, and needs to ruin it. Thats probably what makes her a great poet, she knows what it is to suffer.” 6. Consider Gamaches advice to Nichol: “Life is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. Its as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful.” Similarly, Myrna stopped practicing psychology because she lost patience with people who lead “still” lives, “waiting for someone to save them….The fault lies with us, and only us. Its not fate, not genetics, not bad luck, and its definitely not Mom and Dad. Ultimately its us and our choices.” How do their choices affect the principal characters in the novel? Do any of their choices remind you of ones you have made in your own life? 7. Theres a huge clue to the murder early in the book, when Jane gives Ben a meaningful look and then quotes from W. H. Auden: “Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.” Why is it so easy to overlook that clue at the time, and what impact does it have when its quoted again in the last chapter? 8. Who do you think Gamache has in mind when he tells Gabri and Olivier: “Youre not the types to do murder. I wish I could say the same for everyone here.” 9. Clara has “very specific tastes” in murder mysteries: “Most of them were British and all were of the village cozy variety.” Do you see Still Life as a typical “cozy”? Why or why not?