By Tracey Arial
It’s been only eight years since Chief Inspector Armand Gamache was introduced to mystery fans, but he already feels like one of the family.
Louise Penny’s fictional super sleuth first appears on the first page of Louise Penny’s Still Life. Seven books later, it’s still the most concise version of his character yet.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûrete du Quebec knelt down; his knees cracking like the report of a hunter’s rifle, his large, expressive hands hovering over the tiny circle of blood marring her fluffy cardigan, as though like a magician he could remove the wound and restore the woman. But he could not. That wasn’t his gift. Fortunately for Gamache he had others…His little secret was that in his mid-fifties, at the height of a long and now apparently stalled career, violent death still surprised him. Which was odd, for the head of homicide, and perhaps one of the reasons he hadn’t progressed further in the cynical world of the Sûrete. Gamache always hoped maybe someone had gotten it wrong, and there was no dead body.”
Gamache has become a household name not only in Quebec, where he was born, nor in Canada, but also in the U.K., where he first appeared. Penny’s Still Life came in second for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger award in 2004. Unpublished authors compete for the Debut Dagger. The Crime Writers of Canada then awarded Penny their Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel after it came out here.
Seven books later, I adore Gamache. He loves the wackiest people. The fact that he is happily married, intensely loyal and a clear enemy of all sorts of evil and vindictive people makes him lovable. His incredible cunning makes him someone to respect. Too bad he’s not real.
Most of the novels take place in a small town in Quebec called Three Pines. The town’s characters include a self-conscious artist, a famous poet who reveres ducks and has no social skills, and two openly gay inn keepers. Every novel includes a death under unusual circumstances, but it’s the varying relationships between characters that make each a compelling read.
The titles speak to the Canadian landscape and culture like no other mystery series:
Still Life, 2005
Dead Cold, 2006
The Cruellest Month, 2007
The Murder Stone, 2008
Brutal Telling, 2009
Bury your Dead, 2010
A Trick of the Light, 2011
Except for A Brutal Telling, every death seems a preordained tragedy given the circumstances.
I haven’t read Penny’s A Beautiful Mystery (2012) yet, but her next novel, How the Light Gets In (2013) is already due out at the end of August. Her publishers can’t wait to get her work onto bookshelves and in electronic readers everywhere.
For more information, refer to Penny’s official site at: http://www.louisepenny.com/
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