Canadian author Louise Penny rose to fame with her highly revered Chief Inspector Gamache series.
Set in the Canadian province of Quebec, each book explored the tale of a mysterious murder, and a detective’s quest to unearth the truth.
Her thrilling mystery novels saw her become an award-winning author with a dedicated fan base, and years after the first book was released, the hype surrounding her work remains.
Although the Gamache murder mysteries are her main claim to fame, her novel State Terror, written with Hillary Clinton, bought her even greater exposure and success.
If you’re a fan of murder mysteries, you’ll love everything Louise Penny has to offer.
In this post, we’ll be walking you through 16 of the most gripping Penny books ever written – whether you’re an existing fan or you’re new to the scene, stick with us to find a gripping read to sink your teeth into.
Still Life is the first, and one of the most popular installments, in Louise Penny’s “Chief Inspector Gamache Series”.
In Still Life, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is introduced to the scene and begins investigating the discovery of a dead body, found in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend.
Although the locals suspect this death is nothing more than a tragic hunting accident, Chief Inspector Gamache has a sneaky feeling that something more sinister has happened.
Now, it’s his job to follow the clues and prove his instinct right.
Is there really a sinister mystery to unfold, or was this a woodland shoot gone wrong?
In the first installment of the series, Chief Inspector Gamache is introduced as an intelligent and commanding officer, filled with quiet courage and determination to seek justice.
In Still Life, his character is intriguing and loveable from the outset, and whodunit lovers will love this strong introduction to the series, which sparks intrigue and a hunger for more mystery.
- The characters are intriguing and have depth, with compelling backstories
- Engaging plot that will keep readers guessing
- Some character backstories are introduced awkwardly which can confuse the plot
The Beautiful Mystery is the eighth installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache Series.
The Beautiful Mystery is one of the most highly-rated novels in the series, celebrated for its unique storyline and compelling characterization.
The Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups is a remote monastery hidden in the wilderness of Quebec.
The monks here live a peaceful, simple life devoted to prayer and peace, singing, growing their food, and tending to their chickens.
The monks here are known for their beautiful voices, but when their choir director is brutally murdered, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache must peel back the layers of this complex story to find justice, and discover what lurks beneath their supposed harmony.
Our protagonist must also come face to face with some of his own demons while battling to resolve one of the most confusing cases of his career.
This is a mystery like no other, and readers will love its unusual plot and multidimensional mystery. Sit down and buckle up for a thrilling ride you won’t forget!
- A unique mystery plot that defies convention
- There are plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing
- A historical and religious theme to be enjoyed by readers of all ages
- There are many characters in the book; unfortunately, this can be confusing and many lack the depth needed for further development
In The Hangman, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to Three Pines, the most popular setting for the books in this series.
On a cold winter morning, a jogger sets off for his morning run in the woods, only to discover a dead man hanging from a tree.
Although such a setting would leave most detectives to write this off as nothing but a cut-and-dry suicide, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache can’t help but wonder if something else more sinister has happened here…
A trail of clues calls our favorite inspector to investigate a mysterious past, which at times, leads to more questions than answers.
The Hangman is one of the most unique books in the series, and it’s the perfect easy read for those who want to dive headfirst into a murder mystery but are short on time.
The Hangman will keep you guessing, and make you admire Louise Penny’s capabilities in a whole new light.
If you want to be kept on your toes, you won’t want to miss this compelling showcase of Penny’s literary talents.
- A short, quick read that will suit mystery lovers who want a quick fix
- An interesting plot with intelligent clues
- Our main characters don’t seem as compelling or intriguing as they have in previous installments
Next on our list of Louise Penny books is How the Light Gets In, the 9th installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache Series.
This time, we’re back in Quebec for the festive season, and in this book, we have three interwoven stories to enjoy.
The main plot focuses on Inspector Gamache who is on the hunt for an unidentifiable enemy who leaked a video during a police raid.
However, his journey to track down the mystery leaker leads him down a much sinister path, in which he accidentally uncovers a deadly plot to destroy peace in Quebec.
As the plot thickens, we’re greeted with other thrilling subplots that are embroiled in mystery, murder, and missing people.
How the Light Gets In is one of Penny’s most complex novels to date.
Although there are multiple storylines thrown into the mix, Penny manages to blend them all perfectly to create an impressive story that will keep readers thrilled and scratching their heads right to the end.
This installment once again shows that Penny’s mysterious plots just keep getting better and better – it’s no wonder the Gamache series has such a devoted fan base!
- Emotional storyline that’s more heartfelt than others
- A gripping, multifaceted plot that combines several stories
- Well-developed characters with plenty of individual quirks to please readers
- Unfortunately, there’s less humor than we’ve seen with other books in the series, which can make this book feel a bit stiff and one-dimensional
Let’s take a step away from the Chief Inspector Gamache series now, and look at State of Terror, written by Louise Penny and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
State of Terror is a far cry from the style of the Gamache series that Penny’s readers will be used to, however, it’s still a critically acclaimed book that many readers will be pleasantly surprised by.
Political thriller State of Terror follows the story of a series of terrorist attacks that throw the world into complete panic.
In the wake of these unprecedented events, the secretary needs to assemble a team that can work to unravel the conspiracy that threatens lives across the world.
State of Terror boasts a suspenseful plot with a classic race-against-time premise that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.
If you love politics, spies, nuclear warfare, and terrorism, this is the book for you!
- Full of suspense to keep readers guessing
- A believable plot makes for a more compelling and relatable read
- Interesting characters with well-developed stories
- Unfortunately, the plot line is complex, long, and convoluted, which may fail to grip some readers
Now, let’s go back to the Chief Inspector Gamache series with a look at Bury Your Dead, the sixth book in the Armand Gamache series.
This captivating mystery thriller is set in Quebec City during the Winter Carnival.
In this installment, Chief Inspector Gamache has returned to Quebec to investigate an eerie homicide that has haunted him and his investigators for years.
However, in an unexpected twist, it seems that a historical secret buried with a Champlain for almost 400 years could have something to do with the murder
Meanwhile, a series of letters sent to Gamache from Three Pines brings the past and present together in new ways, forcing him to face some haunting events from his own past in order to resolve the mystery.
Bury Your Dead is mysterious, quirky, and full of intrigue – everything you could want from a mystery thriller.
Although some characters and subplots feel a bit bare-boned, there’s still plenty of mystery to keep you on the edge of your seat, and coming back for more.
Louise Penny is showing no signs of slowing down just yet!
- Interesting plotline that is closely linked to Book 5 in the series. Dedicated readers will enjoy the overlaps
- Intelligent plotline that feels well-constructed and solid
- Some characters and subplots lack depth compared to other books
The Brutal Telling follows the story of a stranger who is found mysteriously murdered in the local village antique store and bistro.
In a fascinating twist, Chief Inspector Gamache must follow an intellectual series of clues and treasures linked to the first editions of classic novels Jane Eyre and Charlotte’s Web, entering a mysterious world of secrets, complex layers, and mystery to help restore peace in Three Pines.
This intriguing slow burn is filled with multiple false leads, murder, mystery, and an unusual genre that will satisfy mystery lovers, and those with an appreciation for literary classics.
The Brutal Telling sits somewhere between a ‘cozy’ and a typical murder mystery, which may make it hard for some readers to relate to.
However, this vastly entertaining and witty installment is hard not to enjoy, and although it’s one of the saddest in the series, it’s certainly a standout entry.
The Brutal Telling showcases the best of what Louise Penny has to offer, and it’s destined to be a hit with those who live an intellectual thriller.
- Mysterious plotline with links to well-known literary classics
- Beautifully written
- Full of great humor and intellectual references
- The ending feels slightly unresolved which may frustrate some readers
Glass Houses is another strong edition in the series and it really highlights the best of what author Louise Penny has to offer.
When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines in the middle of winter, Chief Inspector Gamache and the rest of the villagers are initially intrigued.
However, their curiosity soon turns to fear.
When the figure vanishes into thin air overnight, a body is discovered shortly after, and now, it comes down to Inspector Gamache to unravel the mystery behind this ominous figure and the sudden murder which has shocked the village.
How are the two linked, and can Gamache identify the mysterious figure and solve the murder that rattled the village?
The events that took place in Three Pines will also pull Inspector Gamache’s own conscience into judgment, making for a thrilling read that Penny lovers will thoroughly enjoy getting stuck into.
Glass Houses is arguably one of the best books in the series, and it really stands out from the crowd.
- Intriguing and eccentric characters that readers will find compelling
- A well-developed plot that feels intelligent and well put together
- This installment has a slightly different tone to other books in the series, which not all Penny fans will enjoy
Next up, we have The Long Way Home, which is the tenth book in the Inspector Gamache series.
In this installment, our favorite mystery solver is now a former inspector, after retiring to the iconic village of Three Pines and taking a step back from police work.
Although he came to Three Pines to find peace, rest, and heal from his past, Gamache soon learns that Clara Morrow’s husband has not returned home when he should have, sparking fears that there may be another homicide to investigate.
Gamache knows that he’ll never achieve the peace he strives for if he digs deeper, however, what he comes to learn will encourage him to team up with his former colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir to uncover the truth about Peter’s mysterious disappearance.
The Long Way Home has received mixed reviews from Louise Penny lovers, however, if you love the classic mystery vibe, you’ll enjoy getting stuck into this fixture and unraveling the truth with Gamache.
- Interesting characters that showcase drastic and compelling character development
- Mysterious plotline which keeps readers puzzled
- The plot lacks as many layers as others in the series
- Not as thrilling or hard to guess as other installments
Now, let’s take a look at A Better Man, another popular installment in the Inspector Gamache Series by #1 New York Times bestselling author, Louise Penny.
After a former event in a previous adventure left Armand Gamache demoted and suspended, he’s now eventually returned to work to pick up where he left off.
In one of his first jobs back in the game, he’s assigned to a homicide that he must work hard to unravel alongside his father-in-law.
The homicide investigation is an intriguing one, which rings close to home for both Gamache and his father-in-law, and both must learn how to remain neutral in order to crack the case.
A Better Man has a complex plot that involves multiple characters and throws up plenty of questions and mystery.
In this installment, Gamache also finds himself at the heart of an intense social media onslaught that will push him to his limits.
This is an intriguing installment that was well received by Penny lovers, and all cozy, thriller lovers will thoroughly enjoy it.
- Characters have a lot of depth and personality, and their relationships with each other feel better developed than in other books
- Past, present, and future are all blended together well
- Some subplots feel rehashed and dull
The Nature of the Beast is one of Louise Penny’s most intriguing, vibrant, and beautifully written installments in the Inspector Gamache series.
The Nature of the Beast is the 11th book in the series, and it’s just another compelling mystery that proves that Louise Penny’s writing gets better and better with each book.
In The Nature of the Beast, a nine-year-old boy with a vivid imagination goes missing, and although his stories of dinosaurs and alien invasions once seemed like pure fantasy, those around him are now forced to question whether or not one of his tales may have been true…
As a search for the boy (and the truth) ensues, the idyllic setting of Three Pines is blown out of the water, and what lurks in the woods leads to more murder, crime, and betrayal than anyone could have imagined.
The Nature of the Beast will push Inspector Gamache to his limits, and readers will be utterly enthralled by this unusually mysterious storyline that straddles the mystery and sci-fi genres.
We had no doubt that Louise Penny was an exceptional author, but in this installment, she has really proved herself to be a diverse, multifaceted author with this incredible story that will capture the imagination and leave readers hungry for more.
- Intriguing plot that feels different from those seen in other books
- Parallel mysteries that are intelligently linked
- Some descriptions feel a bit long and repetitive
Now, let’s take a look at another distinctive entry in the Inspector Gamache series with The Cruelest Month.
In this book, Inspector Gamache is back in Three Pines, and this time, it’s the height of Spring: everything in the village is beautiful, vibrant, and bursting with life, but in the season of new beginnings, there are some gruesome discoveries to be made.
In this intriguing and mysterious installment, a group of Three Pines villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance, but when one member dies suddenly, Inspector Armand Gamache is left wondering whether this was a natural death, or if there was an element of foul play involved.
Our favorite Chief Inspector, with all his wit, intelligence, and charm, is bought onto the case to investigate, pick apart the mystery, and unearth the truth.
Not only will Gamache face the hidden ghosts of Three Pines, but he’ll also come face to face with his own demons, and both Gamache and his readers will come to see this once-idyllic village in a whole new light.
- Eccentric characters that keep readers on their toes
- Classic ‘whodunit’ style
- Some elements of the plot feel a little drawn out and unnecessarily long
All The Devils are Here is the 16th book in the Inspector Gamache series.
In All The Devils are Here, Gamache is spending time in Paris with his billionaire godfather, Stephen Horowitz, for the birth of his granddaughter.
However, one night after dinner, Stephen is tragically struck by a car, and shortly after, a body turns up in Stephens’s apartment.
How have these two events happened, and can Gamache’s investigation get to the bottom of the mystery?
As the investigation gets underway, it soon becomes clear that his billionaire godfather had his fair share of secrets.
Money and corruption come to the forefront of a tale that leads Gamache on a riveting mystery journey that must be uncovered in a race against time in order to protect himself, and his family.
Compared to other installments in the series, All the Devils are Here has a pretty basic plot line, however, it’s still full of mystery and intrigue, and it does great as a standalone book.
There are plenty of well-developed characters, meaningful moments, and thrilling aspects that Penny lovers will be familiar with, and enjoy.
- Descriptive and emotional
- Thrilling and mysterious storyline that feels fast-paced and exciting
- The mystery element of this story seems weaker compared to other novels, and there aren’t as many clues for readers to pick apart themselves
Next on our list is A Fatal Grace (Book 2), which was also the winner of the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel.
In this installment, Louise Penny takes her readers on a journey alongside Chief Inspector Gamache, and this time, we’re back in the countryside of Quebec.
A Fatal Grace is set between 22nd December and New Year’s Day, and the local village is preparing for its usual country Christmas.
While celebrations get underway, another member is preparing for something entirely more sinister: murder…
This murder mystery is a little different to the others that Gamache has investigated, and the perpetrator has been bold enough to torture and murder his victim in the most insane, macabre, and public way — and get away with it. Who could do such a thing?
There’s only one man that can get to the bottom of this case, and Gamache is ready to dig beneath the seemingly perfect village life to discover a series of unexpected and deadly secrets that will leave readers chilled to the bone.
A Fatal Grace is a riveting read, and arguably, one of the strongest in the series.
- Familiar location that is descriptive and adds to the element of mystery
- Intelligent and well-executed plot
- Intriguing characters who have great relationships with each other
- Some aspects of the subplots can feel too long and distract from the real mystery
Now, let’s turn our attention to Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind.
This book is the 14th addition to the series, and it’s centered around a classic race against the clock theme.
In the depths of Montreal, numerous lethal narcotics have mysteriously disappeared.
The deadly drug will soon hit the streets, which leads inspector Gamache on a frantic mission to find the answers. Where have they gone, and who has them?
This is just one of the mysteries that Gamache has to unravel in this novel, as another plotline takes place in the background; this time, involving a peculiar letter inviting Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse.
Who will he meet here, and how will this mysterious encounter change the trajectory of the novel?
Although some Penny novels have been accused of lacking mystery, Kingdom of the Blind certainly doesn’t.
This thrilling installment is once again set in the familiar Three Pines and will have readers loving the usual eccentric residents and the mysteries that unfold.
Kingdom of the Blind is a strong entry in the Gamache series, and it’s so good, you’ll struggle to put it down!
- Complex plot lines that blend together well
- Eccentric characters
- Layers of mystery
- Can feel like it lacks action in certain places
Now, let’s finish off our roundup with another of Penny’s finest books – The Madness of the Crowds.
This book is the 17th entry in the series and is set in the all-too-familiar village of Three Pines.
When deep snow swamps the village, the residents head out to make the most of the weather and make their way to the hills to ski, toboggan and revel in the beauty.
Although the Chief Inspector tries to make the most of his holiday, he’s disturbed by a request to provide security services at a nearby university.
Gamache soon finds himself embroiled in an intellectual and utterly repulsive scandal, and the lines between reality and fiction become blurred as Gamache is accused of censorship; if that wasn’t enough, a murder will also keep Gamache and his second-in-command from enjoying their time away, and leave them in the depths of a scandalous mystery that Penny readers will love picking apart for themselves.
The Madness of the Crowds is a highly-rated book in the series, and it goes to show that if there’s one thing we can expect from Penny, it’s the unexpected.
- Intriguing and often unpredictable plot
- Intelligent mystery storyline
- Some character relationships lack depth and feel poorly developed
The Louise Penny Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Need To Know
With the exception of State of Terror, each of these books comes from Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series.
If you’re ready to dive into the thrilling world of a Louise Penny mystery, here are a few things you need to know about the series:
They Don’t Have To Be Read In Order, But It Helps
Many of the installments in this series do well as stand-alone novels, however, some require context from the previous books to understand the material.
If you think you’d enjoy this series, we’d recommend starting from the beginning and working your way through in order, to avoid any confusion.
There are currently 18 books in the series, so you’ll have plenty of material to keep you occupied!
Don’t Rely On The TV Series
As many readers will know, the Inspector Gamache series got its very own show, Three Pines, on Amazon Prime.
If you’re the sort of reader who’d rather check out the show BEFORE reading the books, a word of advice – don’t rely on the series for a true taste of the books.
As you’ll already know, most series based on books have slightly different storylines, and characters are often portrayed a little differently than they are in the books.
Plus, there are so many Gamache books that haven’t been covered in the series, so you’ll be missing out on plenty of mystery by relying exclusively on the show.
Don’t sell yourself short – read the books first, instead!
And there you have it!
Louise Penny has fast become one of the most iconic authors in the mystery genre. Like other popular series, the Inspector Gamache books have multiple installments.
However, no matter how many stories come to light, Louise Penny always manages to make each one feel fresh, exciting, and new while maintaining the same familiarity of the main characters we know and love.
Gamache is truly a timeless detective.
If you fancy a break away from the Gamache mystery, expand your collection with State of Terror, a unique Penny story that showcases her talent and versatility in new ways, and introduces the element of political thriller to her usual mystery genre.
Each of these books is a surefire way to keep your appetite for murder mystery satisfied!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is The Inspector Gamache Series Over?
No; Louise Penny plans to continue the series, so fans can expect more installments to enjoy.
Which Is The Best Louise Penny?
Still Life and the Cruelest Month are two of the highest-rated books in the series.
How Many Books Are Currently In Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache Series?
There are currently 18 books in the series, however, Louise Penny has confirmed that more installments are to come.