Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Still Life"

Louise Penny was an award-winning journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After years covering disasters and politics, she quit to write crime fiction.

Her debut novel, Still Life, won the New Blood Dagger in Britain, the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada for best first crime novel, and the Dilys award for the book the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association most enjoyed selling in 2006. It was also named one of the Kirkus Review's Top Ten mysteries of 2006.

Penny applied the "page 69 test" to Still Life and reported the following:
At first read (re-read actually) page 69 didn’t seem all that representative. But as I considered it more, and thought about it, and no doubt tried to make a case for it being representative, well, the miracle happened. It became an absolute template for the rest of the book.

And, to be honest, it really is. On this page we get to see clearly the relationship between the main character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec, and his second-in-command, Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir. The familiarity, the comfort, the easy banter. And layered on top of that, their growing affection for the tiny Quebec village of Three Pines.

Gamache said his goodbyes and the three of them walked across the now familiar village green. Instinctively they kicked their feet slightly as they walked through the fallen leaves, sending up a slight flutter and a musky autumn scent.

Gamache is headed to the Bed and Breakfast across the green, owned and run by Olivier and his partner Gabri. He needs to make arrangements to stay there.

‘For how long?’ Beauvoir asked.

‘Until this is solved or we’re taken off the case.’

‘That must have been one hell of a good baguette.’

‘I’ll tell you, Jean Guy, had he put mushrooms on it I would have bought the damned bistro and moved right in.’

The purpose of the visit to the B and B is also to arrange for a public meeting where Gamache can speak to the entire village at once, as he tells one of the suspects, Peter Morrow.

‘…We need to get the word out.’

‘That’s easy. Tell Olivier. They’ll have the whole province there and the cast of Cats. And his partner Gabri’s the choir director.’

‘I don’t think we’ll need music,’ says Gamache.

‘Neither do I, but you do need to get in. He has a set of keys.’

‘The archery club is open, but the church is locked?’

‘The minister’s from Montreal,’ explained Peter.

So we also get on page 69 a flavor of rural, village life, versus a more guarded city life. If you read only this one page (which would really be a bit of a shame) you’ll at least get a genuine idea of the tone and purpose of the book. To examine a terrible crime, wrapped within a gentle, even kindly cast of characters. But not everyone is who they seem, even on this one page.
Read an excerpt from Still Life and visit Louise Penny's official website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.

--Marshal Zeringue