Still Life is a quiet book, so quiet I couldn't hear it sneaking up on me and wrapping me up in the gentlest of murder mysteries I've ever read. Penny's prose is absolutely transporting and her Chief Inspector Gamache charmed my socks off in spite of, or perhaps because of, his being a total Gary Stu.
In the event of my murder (which is a distinct possibility, given my sense of humor), I want Armand Gamache in charge of the investigation. He's my ideal of a perfect homicide investigator: intelligent, honorable, conscientious, observant, a philosopher and student of human nature, etc. Even his faults are perfect. Usually this irritates the hell out of me, but in Gamache it totally works. His team gets along and works well together, and he handles people and situations with confidence and, more importantly, competence.
Gamache isn't the only character who is so vividly brought to life. By the end of the book I felt like I'd been hanging out in Three Pines for some time and knew everyone on sight. Only two character rubbed me the wrong way. Agent Nichol made me want to reach into the book and throttle her, and I'm pretty sure that was the author's intent, so maybe I misspoke and she rubbed me just the way she was supposed to (hmm, that sounds a little dirty). Clara Morrow, on the other hand, I think is supposed to be adorkably lovable, but I wasn't buying it. She seemed more caricature than character and I had no patience for her. If the author had set out to create a character designed to inspire contempt in me, she couldn't have done a better job. The only time I felt empathy for Nichol was when she was taking potshots at Clara. Which wasn't very sporting of her. Fish in a barrel, and all that.
The Kindle version sported more than the forgivable amount of proofing errors, mainly in the form of missing punctuation, and the profusion of dialogue tags that weren't actually dialogue tags made me sigh a bit. I just can't get behind that style choice. Otherwise I found the writing superb and engaging and half a dozen other complimentary adjectives. This was a solid four stars for me and I'm super happy I've got the next book so I can start on it right away. I'd like to hang out in Three Pines some more.