Book reviews by
Shalini

Louise Penny Books: Publication Order And Book Summaries

There is nothing better than a thrilling detective story with plenty of suspense and mystery. This is exactly what makes the books from Louise Penny so popular.

Louise Penny Books: Publication Order And Book Summaries

The main character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, gets caught up in a variety of different adventures that won’t let you put these fantastic books down. Whether you already read some of Penny’s books or you want to start with the first one, it’s best to read them in the right order.

This allows you to get to know Gamache right from the start, and you can follow his many stories without any gaps. In this article, you can find all Louise Penny books in their publication order, together with a short summary of each book.

All Louise Penny Books

Reading all the Louise Penny books of her hero Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in chronological order makes it easier to follow the whole story.

Here are all the books that Penny has written about Gamache and his great adventures.

  1. Still Life (2005)
  2. A Fatal Grace (2006)
  3. The Cruelest Month (2007)
  4. A Rule Against Murder (2009)
  5. The Brutal Telling (2009)
  6. Bury Your Dead (2010)
  7. The Hangman (2010)
  8. A Trick of the Light (2011)
  9. The Beautiful Mystery (2012)
  10. How the Light Gets In (2013)
  11. The Long Way Home (2014)
  12. The Nature of the Beast (2015)
  13. A Great Reckoning (2016)
  14. Glass Houses (2017)
  15. Kingdom of the Blind (2018)
  16. A Better Man (2019)
  17. All the Devils Are Here (2020)
  18. The Madness of Crowds (2021)
  19. A World of Curiosities (2022)
All Louise Penny Books
Portrait of Louise Penny

Louise Penny Books: Inspector Gamache Story Summaries

Louise Penny’s mystery books tell the story of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. He is a homicide detective in Quebec, Canada. The plot of the Gamache story is all about different murders in the Quebec area, and the inspector is tasked with solving these terrible crimes.

But just like with many other murder mystery books, the truth is often revealed towards the end of the book. And there are plenty of surprises for the reader. Here is a summary of each Louise Penny book in order of their publication date.

Still Life (2005)

Penny’s very first book of her murder mystery series starts off with the appearance of a dead body in Three Pines, a small village outside of Quebec.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team start to investigate the death of the body, who turns out to be well-loved local artist Jane Neal. Three Pines appears to be the perfect little town that doesn’t have any crime. It doesn’t even have its own local police force.

However, the experienced Gamache already has a sense that something is wrong in this innocent town, and the secrets of Three Pines slowly reveal themselves.

A Fatal Grace (2006)

CC de Poitiers wasn’t liked in the town of Three Pines. She didn’t have a loving relationship with her husband and her daughter. Even her lover hated her. That’s why it is no surprise to the residents of Three Pines when she was found dead in the middle of a frozen lake.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrives, he quickly realizes that this case is extraordinary. The woman was electrocuted in front of the entire village. Still none of the residents saw how it happened or who did it.

This incredible but brilliant murder is a complex puzzle for Gamache to solve. Luckily, the inspector and his team dig deep into the village life of Three Pines to unearth some surprising secrets.

But while Gamache focuses on the crime, there are more personal problems coming his way.

The Cruelest Month (2007)

Winter is over and spring is slowly approaching in the small town of Three Pines. Although this should be a time for new life to emerge, not everything will rise again.

Some residents of this sleepy village choose to celebrate Easter with a séance to ward off any evil that has befallen the town. Unfortunately, the séance doesn’t go as planned and one of the villagers dies of fear.

While it looks like a simple stroke at first, there is more lurking in the shadows. Armand Gamache is called to help solve this case but this crime will challenge the Chief Inspector with his own ghosts from the past.

A Rule Against Murder (2009)

In Penny’s fourth book, Reine-Marie Gamache and her husband Chief Inspector Armand Gamache celebrate their wedding anniversary at the beautiful luxury inn Manois Bellechasse.

Not too far from the small village of Three Pines, the Finney family arrive at the same hotel set in nature. As the story develops, the reader follows Gamache, his wife and some other surprising guests that join the family reunion of the Finney’s.

Amongst the crowd, suddenly a dead body appears and Gamache needs to step in to find out who interrupted this special day with his wife.

He discovers a range of secrets that hid under a lot of hate and polite smiles. The finale is a wild chase through countryside into the village of Three Pines.

The Brutal Telling (2009)

It’s the end of the summer in Three Pines and everyone is looking forward to get back to the city after a long summer vacation. But there is one person who won’t go anywhere: a murdered stranger. Found in the local bistro and antiques store, the quiet village life is once again on edge.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrives at the scene to find a whole nest of lies and treasures. None of the Three Pines resident claim to know the mysterious stranger but it doesn’t take long for some of the secrets to come to light.

Gamache’s suspicions fall onto the well-liked bistro owner, Olivier. The Inspector slowly uncovers how Olivier made the business such a great success and why he came to Three Pines.

As each lead appears to find its way back to the bistro owner, Gamache follows the trail until Olivier starts to make mistakes. There is a surprise twist at the end that will take Gamache across the continent to find the answers he is looking for. He returns to Three Pines to reveal the truth.

Bury Your Dead (2010)

In Louise Penny’s sixth murder mystery novel (If you like Mystery Novels, check out the works of Tony Hillerman and how to read them), Quebec City sees another beautiful Winter Carnival. It’s freezing cold but many are out in the street, except for Gamache. He doesn’t feel like celebrating after an investigation that has gone terribly wrong.

But the Chief Inspector doesn’t get long to recover from his failure. His new case awaits in the peace and quiet of the Literary and Historical Society of the province. An obsessed historian hunts for the remains of Quebec’s founder, Samuel de Champlain. But it’s not all as it seems.

There may be a mysterious secret buried with Champlain hundreds of years ago. While Gamache is still on leave, he gets involved in the murder case around the historian and discovers a tantalizing treasure that could bring the French and the English closer to together.

In the meantime, there are also mysterious letters arriving from Three Pines. The wife of the bistro owner who is convicted of murder writes to Gamache that she is sure that her husband is innocent.

This cold breeze from the past collides with some Gamache’s own fateful ghosts which he has to bury before he can move forward.

The Hangman (2010)

While this 90-page book is just a novella, it also plays on a cold winter morning in the small village of Three Pines near Quebec. While running through the woods, a jogger discovers the body of a dead man hanging from a tree.

It is quickly clear that the mysterious dead was a guest at the nearby Inn and Spa where he looked for some peace but found his death. Rumors start to emerge. Was it suicide? Or was he brutally murdered? Chief Inspector Gamache also considers both options.

But only when he follows the clues that lead to the different layers of truth does he uncover why happened to the stranger in the woods. Gamache finds out why the man truly came into the village and why he was killed and hanged.

A Trick Of The Light (2011)

Clara Morrow was unsurprisingly shocked when the dead body of Lillian Dyson was discovered in her garden in Three Pines. Clara intended to celebrate her solo show but the appearance of another dead artist in the village unsettles the resident artists.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache from the homicide department in Quebec starts to investigate the case and finds that this is a strangely creative crime. There are many different hues of shadows and light. Still, nothing is as it seems in Three Pines.

As Gamache and his colleagues get closer to the truth, new evidence appears and they begin to doubt themselves, and what the truth really is in this mysterious case.

The Beautiful Mystery (2012)

Louise Penny’s ninth mystery book with head of homicide Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is set in the monastery of Saint Gilbert Entre Les Loups in the wilds of Quebec.

The monastery may be a place of peace and quiet ordinarily but the prayers of the two dozens monks there are interrupted with a tragic death. The monks are renowned for their fantastic singing voices.

They are so incredibly that both listeners and singers have called the sound “the beautiful mystery”. While their music leaves most mesmerized, not everyone is caught up in the spell. One day, the choir’s director is found murdered.

This means that the monastery has to open its door to allow Chief Inspector Gamache and his colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir in to investigate the crime. They discover that not everything is as harmonious as it seems, and trouble is brewing underneath the monks’ silence.

On the hunt for the killer in a house of god, the Chief Inspector also has to explore his own faith and belief in the divine.

Hardcover how the lights get in by Louise penny

How The Light Gets In (2013)

Quebec is covered in a blanket of snow and everyone is expecting the more quiet times of the Christmas season. But it’s not an easy time for Chief Inspector Gamache at the Quebec police force. Many of his colleagues left the homicide division.

He also hasn’t heard anything from his colleague and friend Jean-Guy Beauvoir for a long time. All this doesn’t bode well for the upcoming Christmas holidays, and then a message arrives from Three Pines.

The note is from Myrna Landers whose friend has gone missing. Gamache jumps on the chance to get out of the city and back to rural quiet surrounded by nature. But the mystery already begins when Gamache arrives in Three Pines. Myrna reveals her friend’s name only reluctantly.

And the mystery deepens when the Chief Inspector discovers that the missing woman was once a famous star known across the world. Gamache dives ever deeper into the case in Three Pines but there is trouble brewing at the head office.

Evil forces begin to come together at the Sûreté, and they threaten to push Gamache and his loyal colleagues over the edge. There doesn’t seem to be any peace for the Inspector, neither in Quebec nor in Three Pines.

The Long Way Home (2014)

Former Chief Inspector at the homicide department in Quebec, Armand Gamache, has retired to the small village of Three Pines. The peace and quiet seems to be everything that he wanted for a long time but his fate has other plans.

As the ex Chief Inspector and his neighbor Clara Morrow talk on a fine summer’s day, it turns out that Clara’s husband Peter didn’t visit for their first separation anniversary. Clara is concerned about him and asks Gamache if he could help find Peter. 

While it takes some time for Clara to convince the Inspector, they both start the journey of finding her husband. But Peter Morrow isn’t as easy to find as the pair first believed. They are joined in their quest by Myrna Landers and Gamache’s friend and colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

Peter Morrow is an artist who sought to reclaim his artistic fame in Quebec but nobody knew how far he would go for his dream. The adventures takes Gamache and his small team ever further away from the rural quiet of Three Pines.

They end up near St. Lawrence River in an isolated spot where they discover the horrible truth of what truly happened to Clara Morrow’s husband.

The Nature Of The Beast (2015)

Laurent Lepage is a naughty boy. He tells tales and frightening stories that aren’t true, from winged beasts and walking trees to alien invasions and dinosaurs in Three Pines. Nobody ever believes his stories because they are so extraordinary but not all strange tales are fiction.

One day Laurent disappears and the residents of Three Pines realize that some of the boy’s stories may be true after all. Next, a chaotic search for the child begins but a range of events in the depth of the forests lead to a fatal chain of death.

From an old crime to betrayal and murder, the ancient monster that used to be lurking around Three Pines may be back. And it takes some courageous villagers to uncover the truth of the many dark stories, and where the missing boy has gone.

A Great Reckoning (2016)

Penny’s 13 murder mystery book returns to the small village bistro of Three Pines where an old map is found neatly tucked into the walls. To many, it is just an old curiosity that causes rumors and speculations.

However, as the villagers begin to take a closer look, they discover something odd. The map was then given to previous Chief of homicide in Quebec, Armand Gamache, as a gift for his new job.

But the obscure piece of paper holds the key to one of Gamache’s old adversary and a dear friend. Following the trail of the old map, Gamache reluctantly follows the clues to places where he hasn’t dared to tread for many years.

The former Inspector discovers the mystery of a dead professor, four young cadets at the police academy and, surprisingly, a copy of the map. Gamache notices one of the mystifying cadets, Amelia Choquet. Pierced, tattooed and angry, she appears to be an obvious suspect.

While Gamache still wonders why this beautiful assistant of the murdered professor is at the academy, both Amelia’s fate and that of the Chief Inspector become entwined. With the many twists and turns, Gamache and Amelia quickly get closer to the truth of this mystery.

And this truth leads them back to a stained-glass window in Three Pines. What the two did not want to admit, must now be spoken and the great reckoning is here.

Glass Houses (2017)

This detective story from Penny starts off with the appearance of a strange figure in the quiet village of Three Pines. The now Chief Superintendent of the police department in Quebec, Armand Gamache, and the village residents watch the newcomer with curiosity.

The figure looks off amongst the sleet and rain of this November day when he arrived. While the mysterious man doesn’t move, the villagers and Gamache expect the worst. Then, one night, the man disappears and his dead body is discovered shortly after.

Gamache picks up the first clues and sets out to find the killer. Fast forward to a hot day in July. The trial of the accused killer begins in Montreal and Gamache struggles with his conscience.

He set certain actions in motion on that cold winter evening that have resulted in events that he couldn’t stop anymore.

Kingdom Of The Blind (2018)

This book is a particularly tricky case for Superintendant Armand Gamache. He receives a strange note inviting him to an old, abandoned farmhouse. Gamache discovers that a complete stranger has named him as one of the executors of her will.

While Gamache is still suspended from his duties, he is a curious police officer at heart. That’s why, he accepts the role and finds out that there are two other executors: a young builder and the book store owner, Myrna Landers.

Just like Gamache, none of the other two have ever met the old woman. And there are also strange requests in the will that seem perfectly random. Gamache thinks at first that the woman wasn’t sane anymore when she wrote her will but he soon begins to doubt his own sanity.

Strangely, the appearance of a dead body suddenly give meaning to the old woman’s will and her unusual bequests. But there is more than the ghosts of the past that Gamache has to face. The investigations of the events that triggered his suspension still aren’t finished.

While the drugs of the case have been largely recovered, there is still a big amount of opioids that have vanished into the underground cartels of Montreal.

As these deadly drugs will get to the streets any moment, Gamache is eager to find out the truth of what really happened to these missing drugs. But he forgets to watch his back and he stumbles over secrets that have been hiding for many years.

A Better Man (2019)

Back at the homicide department, Gamache feels a great sense of relief and excitement, although he needs to share his job with his friend and colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir. The peace doesn’t last for long, as floods are threatening to destroy large areas of the province.

This brings chaos and crisis to Quebec. In the middle of all this, a father is desperately trying to find his daughter and he begs Gamache for help. As the detective has a daughter himself, he understands the desperation that this father must feel.

However, Gamache quickly realizes that the search for the young girl isn’t leading anywhere initially. He imagines what he would feel like if his daughter was lost, and what he would do to find her. These questions give him the energy to continue the search for Vivienne Godin.

But the flood waters keep rising and the atmosphere around Quebec becomes increasingly heated. All this leads to fatal mistakes.

All The Devils Are Here (2020)

This book is one of Penny’s few novels that is set outside of Canada. The Gamache family is in Paris, France. They join Armand’s godfather Stephen Horowitz for a classic French bistro dinner. On their way home, Horowitz is knocked over and badly injured.

As his godfather is also a billionaire with many enemies, Gamache knows instinctively that this was no accident. Someone tried to kill this old man. Soon after the murder attempt, Gamache discovers an unusual key in Horowitz’s clothes, and that’s when the adventure starts.

Gamache’s wife and his best friend Jean-Guy Beauvoir follow the trail of the mystery from the Paris Archives and the Eiffel Tower to luxury hotels and pieces of artwork.

The journey almost appears to be endless and it leads them to a range of dark secrets that Horowitz has kept for many years. Suddenly, a terrible discovery in the apartment of Armand’s godfather turns everything upside down.

The danger is much closer than everyone had anticipated. This does not just put both Inspector Gamache and his colleague at risk but also his family are in imminent danger. In the end, Gamache cannot believe anyone anymore, perhaps not even himself.

The Madness Of Crowds (2021)

The New Year approaches fast and Armand Gamache is not thinking about what the future may hold. Instead, he is lost in the past and his own struggles. But Gamache is keen to enjoy the holiday season with his family, go skiing and drink hot chocolate in the Three Pines bistro.

Suddenly, a small request interrupts his family break. It seems innocent enough to Gamache to agree to be a security guard for a visiting statistics professor who is coming into town for a lecture.

While this doesn’t appear to be the typical task of a homicide Inspector, Gamache doesn’t question his role at first. However, he keeps wondering why they would need him at this event. When he discovers the agenda of the lecture, he pleads with the university to cancel the visit.

As the university refuses, Gamache is quickly accused of censorship. There is no way for the head of homicide to stop this, so quickly the ideas of Professor Abigail Robinson start to spread across the city.

Quickly, nobody knows anymore what is fact or fiction (If you like Adventure/Fantasy themed books, check out The Percy Jackson Books and how to read them), and strong debates lead to violent fights. It’s like a madness that seeps into people’s mind. As Gamache watches the city descent into chaos, a murder is committed that could help resolve some of the madness.

A World Of Curiosities (2022)

The village of Three Pines had a tough winter but spring is slowly emerging and many living things come to life again. But not everything that has been covered by the snow should also appear again in the daylight.

The Inspector of the homicide department Armand Gamache and his colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir have a few visitors from the past. A young woman and man have suddenly turned up from a long time ago. Their mother was murdered when the two were only children.

This left many scars on their souls and bodies. Both Beauvoir and Gamache are not just concerned about the welfare of the two but also what they are doing in Three Pines.

Incidentally, the murder case of their mother was also the first case that brought Gamache and Beauvoir together as a detective team. The appearance of the young man and woman brings back many memories and self-doubts.

As Gamache is trying to find answers to what is going on in the siblings’ minds, a message from a dead stone mason appears. The letter describes the man’s fright at the time when he was asked to brick up an attic room. But what happened 160 years in this room?

When the attic room is discovered soon after, the residents of Three Pines choose to uncover the mystery. With each brick coming down, Gamache and his friends marvel at what the curious room has to reveal. From hidden messages and odd puzzles, the room gives up its secrets bit by bit.

But the unsealing of the room also released an old enemy into the villagers’ lives and Gamache’s home. And he will change everything.

Row of books Jill Lepore and Louise Penny

Should You Read The Louise Penny Books In Order?

It’s not essential to read Penny’s Gamache books in order but it helps to give you a better understanding of the main characters, including Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.

There are characters that are introduced in the first books which are good to know as you read the later novels from Louise Penny.

Who Is Louise Penny?

Louise Penny was born in Ontario, Canada. She worked in journalism and as a radio host for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for nearly two decades. Thanks to the encouragement from her husband, Penny became a full-time writer after her radio career.

Her very first book “Still Life” came out in 2005. It was the birth of Inspector Gamache and Penny’s long career as a crime writer.

She won a range of different awards, including the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Year in 2010 to 2013 and the Agatha Award for Best Mystery Novel of the Year.

While Penny is a successful author today, she didn’t have an easy start to her new career. Louise Penny started out writing a historical novel which wasn’t very popular. After some time, she switched genres and finalized “Still Life”.

She sent the book to different publishers and received only rejection letters until she entered the Debut Dagger contest for unpublished writers. She was successful in her application and a British agent became aware of her work. This was the beginning of Penny’s writing career.

Is There an Inspector Armand Gamache TV Show?

Yes, there is an Amazon Prime series called “Three Pines” that covers Louise Penny’s famous mystery novels. The show consists of eight episodes, each one hour long. Alfred Molina will play Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as the main character.

Jointly produced by Left Bank Pictures and Amazon Prime, Three Pines follows the story of Penny’s first book “Still Life”. Gamache investigates the Three Pines murders and he works his way through the many long-buried secrets of everyone involved.

While there was also a TV movie called “Still Life: A Three Pines Mystery”, this series is the first that was locally produced around Montreal and rural Quebec.

Final Thoughts

Louise Penny has created some fantastic mystery novels that aren’t just well written but they also keep you in your seat.

Shalini (1)
My name is Shalini and I love reading a lot. On this blog I review most of the books I have read. Hope you enjoy.
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