A few years ago someone asked me if I had read anything by Louise Penny, a writer whose mysteries were set in this area just north of Vermont and between Montreal and Quebec City. I hadn't but recognized her name as she had been the CBC morning program host in Quebec City when I spent three weeks there in a French program and later she was a show host on CBC in Montreal.
Since then I think I have probably read all her books. I am a mystery lover. In my childhood I was hooked on Trixie Beldon and Donna Parker. Much later during a difficult summer spent in the Eastern Townships when we were packing up my family home and my dad had had a massive stroke, I got reading Agatha Christie mysteries as an escape at our cottage. Then started discovering contemporary mystery authors I enjoyed such as Sue Grafton and P.D. James.
My love of Tony Hillerman's books sparked an interest in going to Arizona and New Mexico. When I finally went to Santa Barbara I realized my whole image of the area came from those Sue Grafton mysteries.
I have to admit I have had some issues with Louise Penny's books as I know the area a bit too well. Just as Sue Grafton's Santa Teresa is not quite Santa Barbara, Louise Penny has manipulated her setting as well, which is totally understandable, but sometimes distresses me I admit.
|St. Benoit du Lac|
|Morrin Centre English Language Library|
If you haven't read her novels they focus on her hero Gamache, a detective with the Quebec Provincial Police who stumbles into the little village of Three Pines (fictional but in the vicinity of Sutton where she was living in the country until her husband's illness forced a move into nearby Knowlton). Here Gameche meets a motley crew of villagers and finds himself drawn here with his police colleagues again and again sometimes due to crime, others for a need of clarification. He and his wife end up buying a home there.
Penny is a prolific writer. It may have taken her five years to publish her first book but she has been writing a book a year for quite awhile. In her Facebook posts, she shares her writing process with her readers, as well as her daily life. This life has become increasingly difficult in the last few years as her beloved husband developed Alzheimer's and died a few months ago.
|Hovey Manor, North Hatley, Quebec|
I found the mystery quite engaging and there are many layers as we find the reason that Gamache has agreed to take the position and of course, the unravelling of a murder. We are reunited with familiar characters as well as meeting some interesting young trainees. The townspeople of Three Pines become very involved and a parallel mystery in the village is examined as well. This novel had a poignancy, and I wondered if perhaps it was because she wrote this as she nursed her ill husband in his final illness. I found myself in tears as I finished the novel, not usual when I read a mystery.
Anyway if you haven't checked out this author, why don't you see how you like her. And you just might be inspired to visit the Townships.