My two favorite detective series are (1) Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, featuring the hard, damaged detective caught up in the corrupt politics and life of Los Angeles and (2) Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels, featuring – well, no one will confuse Armand Gamache for Hieronymus Bosch or Three Pines, Armand’s primary stomping ground, for L.A.
My appreciation of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels rests on two points:
- Three Pines: As the author puts it, “Three Pines itself is fictionalized, but inspired by my ideas of an ideal village.” It is, however, not only an ideal village but a delightful village with an infrastructure of functional, community-oriented, altruistically motivated, delightful businesses and institutions and populated by eccentric, flawed, lovable, delightful characters. (Download a map of Three Pines.) And, just in case Ms Penny reads this, the only possible improvement to this municipalité au Québec would be the addition of a delightful Pilates, Barre, Cadillac, Chair & Barrels Studio run by The Duchess, an expatriate, extroverted, ex-mortgage consultant from North Carolina married to a misanthropic, deeply superficial, nonpracticing agnostic, hard-core dilettante, who runs a delightful, devotedly irreverent Leonard Cohen fan site.
- The Writing. Louise Penny writes the sort of narrative that causes the reader to pause at every third paragraph to share a funny, evocative, and/or poignant line with his or her companions.
Summary from from Wikipedia:
The series is based on the character of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The stories take place usually in the village of Three Pines, with Gamache investigating the murders of various people in each novel. They have been described as “character-driven” mysteries that explore the relationships between characters with each book in the series. Three Pines is a fictional location set in the province of Quebec, with Penny setting up the characters using the history of old Canada to show their personalities and backgrounds. In the series, a few of the plots are set outside of Three Pines. The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache book series contains little or no sex or violence and has been referred to as a kinder and gentler alternative to modern crime fiction.
Note: I first became interested in these novels because of the author’s connection with Leonard Cohen: See “I cannot imagine the light that flows into that man” Louise Penny, Author Of How The Light Gets In, On Leonard Cohen.
Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jean Hall, an inveterate reader and my favorite pediatrician, who alerted to both Louse Penny’s acknowledgement of Leonard Cohen’s graciousness and to the delightfulness of her novels.