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PSIPOOK | books | Still Life, Louise Penny

Still life with dead body
Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Headline
ISBN: 0-7553-2890-6

Still Life is the engaging and surprising debut from Canadian writer Louise Penny. The tale is a murder mystery and set in the eastern part of Quebec where the author lives with her painter husband. We feel that her imagined community of Three Pines is an idealisation of her own village but here lurks something wicked that we wouldn’t wish on the real Three Pines.

Jane Neals is a tubby middle aged lady who enjoys painting, but will not let anyone see her work. Finally she submits one piece to the jury of the local annual art show, which is greeted with great anticipation. However, when unveiled, the painting turns out to be either a genius of the naïve style or utter crap. No one is quite sure. A few days later the painter is found dead and the great inspector Armande Gamache, a literary detective who may well go down in the annals of mystery writing with Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple and the rest of them. Now a multitude of possible motives for murder emerge as we get stuck into a real old whodunit.
Penny’s world and references are undoubtedly modern — the arty community with the gay restaurateurs who are subject to homophobic harassment from the local youths, and so on, but the story structure and attention to character and closed atmosphere all unashamedly belong to the golden age of mystery writing — Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and so on. It could all be a bit twee, but of course, murder never is.

Kansai Scene, October 2006

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By the way, have you read Chris Page's novel Weed? It really is rather fantastic.

Words of praise for Weed from a publisher in London.

"... it’s really witty and very strong ... I would compare the writing to Robert Rankin, or a really satirically biting Tom Sharpe, and will say again that I’m really impressed by it"



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