Category Archives: Still Life

Review: Still Life by Val McDermid

Title: Still Life by Val McDermid
Inspector Karen Pirie Series Book Six
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 436 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Val McDermid is the award-winning, international bestselling author of more than thirty novels and has been hailed as Britain’s Queen of Crime. In Still Life, McDermid returns to her propulsive series featuring DCI Karen Pirie, who finds herself investigating the shadowy world of forgery, where things are never what they seem.

When a lobster fisherman discovers a dead body in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, Karen is called into investigate. She quickly discovers that the case will require untangling a complicated web―including a historic disappearance, art forgery, and secret identities―that seems to orbit around a painting copyist who can mimic anyone from Holbein to Hockney. Meanwhile, a traffic crash leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a suburban garage. Needless to say, Karen has her plate full. Meanwhile, the man responsible for the death of the love of her life is being released from prison, reopening old wounds just as she was getting back on her feet.

Tightly plotted and intensely gripping, Still Life is Val McDermid at her best, and new and longtime readers alike will delight in the latest addition to this superior series.


Still Life by Val McDermid is an enthralling police procedural which features two distinct mysteries to solve. Although this newest release is the sixth mystery in The Inspector Karen Pirie series, it can be read as a standalone.

Head of the Historic Cases Unit Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie and her co-worker Detective Constable Jason Murray are working to identify the skeletal remains found in the back of a camper van. The bones were discovered following the homeowner’s death so they have to search for answers elsewhere. Karen and Jason discover the former owner’s ex-partner has also apparently has vanished. They are getting close to locating her when Karen is assigned to another case that is connected to a cold case she reviewed a few years earlier. So Jason is on his own as he tracks down their suspect.

Detective  Chief Inspector Charlie Todd and Detective Sergeant Daisy Mortimer’s newest case is solving the murder of a man whose body was found in the Firth of Forth.  The victim appears to be a French citizen who performs with a jazz band.  Closer inspection reveals that Paul Allard is really James Auld, who vanished ten years ago.  He was the suspect in the possible murder of his brother Iain, who also disappeared without a trace.  A few years earlier, Karen reviewed Iain’s case so her boss thinks she would be better suited to lead the investigation.

Karen and Daisy’s investigation takes them to Paris, where they unearth puzzling details. Talking to the detective first assigned to Iain’s case sheds no no light on the case. However, an old friend of James provides a vital piece of information that takes their investigation in a stunning direction. Armed with new details, Karen and Daisy go to Dublin in search of the final pieces that will hopefully solve this twist-filled case.

Still Life is a multilayered mystery that is well-written and engrossing. The two cases are both very intriguing and the investigations move at a brisk pace.  Karen is rather pleased that Jason is taking a bit more initiative.  Karen is also very impressed with Daisy who is a brilliant investigator. Val McDermid brings this marvelous mystery to an interesting close since this novel takes place in early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers will be eager to see if the next installment in The Inspector Karen Pirie series will continue to be affected by the still on-going health crisis.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Inspector Karen Pirie Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Still Life, Suspense, Val McDermid

Review: Still Life by Christa Parrish

still lifeTitle: Still Life by Christa Parrish
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Ada escaped her family’s self-enclosed world to elope with a mysterious stranger. Five months later, she’s a widow in a strange new world.

Ada was born into a fringe religious sect named for her father, The Prophet. But her lifelong habit of absolute obedience was shattered when she fled the family compound to elope with photographer Julian Goetz.

Katherine Walker’s marriage was a sham. She and Will rarely spoke without yelling—and never touched. Her affair brings her both escape and guilt.

When a tragic plane crash takes Julian from Ada and exacerbates Katherine’s sense of shame, both women become desperately unsure of where they belong in the world—until the devotion of an artistic young boy conspires to bring them together.

From award-winning novelist Christa Parrish, Still Life is a cunningly complex work that captures themes of abusive religion, supernatural love, and merciful escape. It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt called to a drastic change—or tried to hear the small whisper of God’s voice.

The Review:

Still Life is a poignant and captivating novel that is complex and riveting. It is a wonderfully written faith based story that does not shy away from difficult questions or sensitive subject matter. Christa Parrish takes her characters and readers on a beautiful journey of faith that is quite thought-provoking. While not all of the questions have answers, it is a very satisfying read that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.

Ada Goetz is unprepared for life in the aftermath of Julian’s tragic death. Growing up in an ultraconservative religious cult where her father demanded unquestioning obedience, Ada is unable to make the simplest of decisions and she is very fearful of her new surroundings. Her first instinct is to return to the religious compound, but she quickly realizes she cannot return to such a restrictive and abusive life. Needing some type of purpose and direction, Ada heeds God’s whisper and using her favorite photographs of Julian’s as her guide, she sets out on a healing and life altering journey where she meets the people from those photos.

Katherine Cramer is stunned to learn that her selfish decision saved her life, but she is incredibly ashamed that she chose her lover over her family. Looking back on the events that contributed to the distance between her and her husband, Will, she decides to re-dedicate herself to her faltering marriage. Just as she and Will begin picking up the tattered pieces of their marriage, her secret is discovered and threatens to tear her family apart .

Katherine’s son Evan feels the aftereffects of her affair most deeply. Born with a heart defect, Evan has been in and out of the hospital most of his young life. With the most of his health problems behind him, Katherine’s experience brings to the forefront a question both he and his mother have struggled with in the past: why do some people survive while others in the same situation do not? Is their survival part of God’s master plan? If so, what is their purpose? Evan turns to God for answers and when he learns of Katherine’s connection to Julian (a photographer he greatly admires), he is determined to seek forgiveness for her mother’s sins.

Part One of Still Life unfolds from Ada and Katherine’s points of view. The chapters alternate between the two women and Ada’s grief and fears are keenly felt. She is a very sympathetic character and while she at first feels a little unemotional and disconnected from Julian’s death, once her past is revealed, it is much easier to understand her reactions. At first, Katherine’s perspective does not exactly paint her in the most flattering light, but understanding all of the circumstances of her life does provide insight into what led to her affair. It does not excuse her decision but it does make her more human and easier to relate to.

Part Two of Still Life is an unexpected delight and provides readers with valuable background information about Julian, his career, his faith and his marriage to Ada. He is a genuinely kindhearted and truly selfless man and this makes his loss that much more tragic and senseless. This also adds another dimension to guilt that Katherine feels for her (perceived) role in his death.

Still Life is an outstanding novel that is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with their faith. Christa Parrish has a unique writing style that is quite engaging but what makes her stand out in the genre is her honesty in dealing with tough subject matter. Her characters are not always likable, but they are true to life with realistic flaws and imperfections. The storyline is moving and while not all of the loose ends are wrapped up, the conclusion is hopeful. It is an overall captivating read that fans of Christian fiction do not want to miss.

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Filed under Christa Parrish, Christian, Contemporary, Fiction, Rated B+, Review, Still Life, Thomas Nelson Publishing