The Last Time This Happened Was With Umberto Eco

When I got to the end of “Still Life” I went straight from page 377 to page 1 and began again. I wanted to see the people move around knowing who they really were.

I love detective novels. I want complicated and mysterious plots. I don’t want tales of people kidnapped and kept in cages for weeks on diets of rat droppings, for the purpose of organ transplant without the benefit of anaesthesia. Many modern novels have too high a level of vicarious sadism for me.

Louise Penny‘s work is perfect. She creates an appetite with curious actions and half revealed conversations, but never sacrifices realism. This realism is most evident in the characters. Gamache himself is a rock and reminds me of Maigret. Compassionate, patient, intelligent, authoritative, content and contentedly married (only Maigret drinks more and is more flirty) As in life, rude, selfish people are still loved and some good people are mistrusted. Scared, obnoxious people sometimes remain unsoftened by repeated kindnesses. The book ends but the puzzles are the only things tied up. The reader has been privy to the inner worlds of all, but between the characters important things are left unshared and misunderstandings remain.

From the acknowledgements, as originally and beautifully written as the novel, we can glean how natural it was for Louise to write this particular story. She loves her husband and he loves her. She treasures her friends. I find her appreciative, modest and generous with praise. A central part of the story are the paintings of a murdered woman. The descriptions of her art are detailed, inspiring, glorious. They made me long to paint like that. Louise gives credit and thanks to her friend Liz Davidson.

“Clara found it easy to forgive most things in most people. Too easy, her husband Peter often warned. But Clara had her own little secret. She didn’t really let go of everything. Most things, yes. But some she secretly held and hugged and would visit in moments when she needed to be comforted by the unkindness of others.”


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