The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny has made multiple appearances on the New York Times Bestseller list.
It has also won multiple literary awards since the first book was published in 2005. Louise Penny has been awarded both the Anthony and Agatha awards 5 times.
She has also won the Canadian Arthur Ellis award twice.
The Inspector Gamache series has won multiple Macavity awards and How The Light Gets In was a finalist for the Edgar award.
All 18 Inspector Gamache books have been written by Louise Penny and there is no evidence that the series is completely finished.
The most recent installment was published in 2022 with no suggestion that it was the last time that fans would be treated to an adventure with Inspector Gamache.
This book series is so popular that there have been multiple adaptations made. Still Life was adapted into a movie for CBC Television in 2013.
The entire series was adapted into a series for Amazon Prime called Three Pines which aired in 2022. The Amazon Prime adaptation has brought many new fans to the series.
People who are new to the series because of the adaptations may be wondering what the best order is to read the books.
If you have found yourself wondering this, you are in the right place. We are going to look at the best order in which this book series should be enjoyed.
About Inspector Gamache
The Inspector Gamache series has gained popularity for the main character of Inspector Gamache.
Rather than being a caricature of an inspector, Gamache is a complex and multifaceted character that has an in-depth backstory that unfolds throughout the series.
It is the strong character work throughout the series that has endeared this character and his series to readers.
This also fits in with the critical description of this book series as being “character-driven”.
The plot in each of these books is informed and progressed through the relationships that form between the characters.
This gives the story more realism for the reader.
The books in the series have been referred to as a more kind and gentle alternative to modern crime fiction stories.
Penny describes her books as being about terror, but she elaborates more to explain that the books are about love and friendship.
They are about belonging, hope, and finding kindness buried in the wilderness of life.
The character of Inspector Gamache is the epitome of those values.
Penny writes in How The Light Gets In that Gamache believes that light will banish the shadows and that evil has limits.
Very few of the books in this series are over 400 words which makes them easy to read.
Let’s get into the ideal reading order of the book series now!
Inspector Gamache Books In Order
The first book in the series is Still Life. This is the first book that was published in the series back in 2005.
Set on Thanksgiving weekend, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s plans are disrupted by the discovery of a body in the woods.
Instead of celebrating in the Surete du Quebec, Gamache, and his colleagues travel to a small village in the Eastern Townships.
The victim is Jane Neal, a well-loved artist from Three Pines.
Inspector Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to harm her, particularly within a quiet village that doesn’t even have its own police force.
However, Gamache knows that there is something dark lurking behind the picturesque front. All he needs to do is watch closely enough.
- This book is a great introduction to Penny’s cozy brand of mystery writing and the wholesome character of Inspector Gamache.
- The backstory of some characters are introduced in an awkward and inorganic way.
A Fatal Grace
The second book to be published in this series is A Fatal Grace which was published in 2006.
In the second installment of the series, readers are brought back to Three Pines, this time in the depths of winter where locals are preparing for a traditional Christmas.
A slightly different vibe in the village since the last book. The residents of the village are vocally not fans of another resident CC de Poitiers.
She had managed to alienate everyone in the village right up until she turned up dead.
Once again, Inspector Gamache is called to investigate the crime. It isn’t long before he realizes that this mystery is quite extraordinary.
CC de Poitiers was electrocuted during an annual curling tournament in front of the entire village, but no one seems to have seen anything.
Using his trademark brand of compassion and courage, Inspector Gamache once again scratches beneath the surface of the idyllic village to uncover the dark secrets that are hiding.
However, in doing so, Gamache opens himself up to something chilling.
- The return of the quaint village setting cements this series as a classic that is sure to attract long-term fans.
- Many of the characters in the book are strongly unlikeable which can make the book difficult for some readers.
The Cruelest Month
The third installment of this series is titled The Cruelest Month. This is the book that many of the fans of this book series recommend starting with.
We return to Three Pines in the spring and the cruelest month is about to deliver on that promise.
Some of the residents in the village decide to celebrate Easter this year by holding a seance at the Old Hadley House.
The seance was designed to rid the village of the evil that had seeped in.
All goes well until a participant dies of fright, but was it a natural death or something more sinister?
Once again the gentle Inspector Gamache is called in to investigate this local tragedy.
Once again Gamache employs his signature style to try and solve the mystery.
Along the way, he is also forced to face his own ghosts as well as those of the tiny, forgotten village.
- Three Pines begins to feel like a familiar place for regular readers in this story, filled with a unique band of lunatics.
- The mystery that is being investigated seems less realistic than in previous books in the series.
A Rule Against Murder
Getting further into the book series Penny offers A Rule Against Murder.
The fourth installment takes place in the summer at a manor house just outside Three Pines.
In this story, readers are offered a deeper insight into the relationship between Inspector Gamache and his wife as they celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Inspector Gamache is visiting Manoir Bellechasse for his anniversary. This isolated and luxurious location is wonderfully romantic.
However, Gamache and his wife are not alone and things are not necessarily as they seem.
A reunion for the Finney family takes place at the manor and as the humidity rises a storm brews.
In the wake of the storm, a body remains, the perfect job for Inspector Gamache.
Gamache has to uncover uncomfortable secrets and buried hatred that was hidden behind polite smiles.
The investigation leads him straight back to Three Pines where he has to contemplate the dark shadows of his own life leading to a harrowing climax.
- This book gives loyal readers a refreshing break from Three Pines by moving to a nearby manor.
- The pace of the book is a little slower than others in the series and some readers feel too much emphasis is placed on Gamache’s kindness.
The Brutal Telling
The next book in Penny’s series is The Brutal Telling.
As we reach fall in the quiet but murderous village of Three Pines, families are preparing to return to work and school after a hot summer.
However, when a stranger is found murdered in the bistro and antiques store, the services of Inspector Gamache are once again required.
In this book, Inspector Gamache comes with a team of inspectors to help him with the mystery.
This adds a whole new dimension to the books.
Unfortunately, when no one in the village will admit to knowing the deceased, the case isn’t as simple as it might appear.
As secrets are revealed during the investigation, chaos gets closer and closer to Three Pines.
A spotlight is shone on the beloved owner of the village bistro.
Questions begin to be asked about the success of the business and why every lead in the investigation seems to lead right back to him.
The clues that Inspector Gamache finds take him on a journey across the continent, eventually ending up back in Three Pines as the sleepy village braces for the brutal telling of the truth.
- This book introduces Inspector Gamache’s team of junior detectives which adds dimension to the series.
- For emotionally invested readers, big changes in this book can make it less enjoyable than the others.
Bury Your Dead
The 6th book in this series is Bury Your Dead. It is winter again and Quebec is holding a carnival to celebrate the season.
However, Inspector Gamache hasn’t returned to join in the festivities. Rather, he is trying to recover from an investigation that went horribly wrong.
However, Gamache discovers that in his line of work, death is inescapable. Even when trying to find solace in the Literary and Historical Society.
The obsessive quest of a historian to find the remains of the founder of Quebec ends in a fresh murder.
Could a secret buried for 400 years really be enough to lead someone to take a life?
Despite being on leave, Inspector Gamache cannot walk away from this mystery which threatens to reignite old tensions between the English and the French.
All the while, Gamache is receiving distressing letters from Three Pines which leads Gamache to face a terrible event from his past to move on.
- This book has sub-plots upon sub-plots to keep the reader hooked into mysteries that perhaps only they can solve.
- For some readers, the multiple plots running alongside each other can be difficult to follow or distracting.
A Trick Of The Light
Book number 7 is A Trick Of The Light. By now, readers are familiar with Inspector Gamache and all the residents of Three Pines that have survived.
Local resident Lillian Dyson is found dead in her neighbor’s garden. Could the phrases she underlined in a book be a clue?
Once again, Inspector Gamache is called in to get to the bottom of this tragedy.
Once he arrives, he finds the whole art world of Three Pines gathered, bringing with them shading and nuance.
Suddenly, Three Pines has become a world of contrasting shadow and light where nothing is quite as it seems.
Armand Gamache has to look at the characters and relationships in Three Pines in order to uncover the truth.
However, how will he and his team know what is true and what is a trick of the light?
- This book returns to the tried and tested formula that fans fell in love with in the earlier books.
- Some readers feel that the mystery becomes a bit lost in this metaphor-filled story.
The Beautiful Mystery
The 8th installment of the Inspector Gamache series is The Beautiful Mystery.
Within the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, outsiders are not allowed. Two dozen cloistered monks reside here, deep in the Quebec wilderness.
Despite taking a vow of silence, the monks become world-famous for their voices.
Performances of ancient chants have such a profound effect on listeners that it is known as “the beautiful mystery”.
However, when the monk’s choirmaster is murdered, the doors to the monastery finally open to admit the first outsiders, Inspector Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir.
Once inside, the seasoned inspectors discover a level of disquiet in the silence.
Before they can solve the mystery of the choirmaster, they need to contemplate the divine, the human, and the cracks in between the two.
- The book has a change of scenery which can be useful to keep long-time readers engaged in the series.
- Despite the books in this series being stand-alone stories, this book involves a lot of relevant backstories which are clearer to long-term readers.
How The Light Gets In
At the halfway point of the currently published series is How The Light Gets In. Christmas has rolled around again in Quebec.
Unfortunately for Inspector Gamache, shadows are coming to darken his festivities.
Most of his best agents have left the homicide department and relations have broken down with Inspector Beauvoir.
A message arrives from the familiar village of Three Pines and Gamache jumps at the chance to escape the city.
Upon arrival, Armand Gamache is told that a resident’s friend has failed to arrive for the festivities.
When Inspector Gamache tries to get more information, he is met with resistance and a reluctance to provide a name.
He soon discovers that the missing friend was once one of the most famous people in the world, but is now widely unrecognizable.
As the festivities in the city amp up, Gamache dives deeper into the mystery at Three Pines.
Not only is he trying to solve the mystery of the missing woman, but he is also running from the city. At what cost is the solace of Three Pines, if it even exists?
- For readers who have stuck with the whole series, this book can leave you with emotional reverberations.
- There are two simultaneous plots in this book that are not as symbiotic as some readers would like.
The Long Way Home
Diving deeper into the Inspector Gamache series, we find The Long Way Home.
At this point in the series, Inspector Gamache has retired from the Quebec homicide department and has relocated to Three Pines permanently.
Retirement in Three Pines is surprisingly peaceful.
Reading a book on his porch, a familiar neighbor strikes up a conversation about her wounds.
She divulges that her artist husband has not returned home and asks for Gamache’s help.
The retiree is reluctant to leave Three Pines but ultimately connects with Inspector Beauvoir to track down the missing man.
As they journey into Quebec they uncover the story of a man so desperate to recover his former fame that he may have sold his soul. But what will they uncover?
- The book focuses on Gamache’s kindness and love for solving mysteries.
- The mystery in this book is weak compared to other books in the series.
The Nature Of The Beast
Readers are reunited with Inspector Gamache in The Nature Of The Beast.
He is still trying to adjust to retirement, but there is always something going on in the village of Three Pines.
A local boy is renowned for crying wolf with wild tales of alien invasions and dinosaurs in the village.
However, when the boy disappears, it becomes apparent that one of his tales may have been true all along. The villagers embark on a frantic search to find the boy and uncover the truth.
When deep in the forest, a series of events leads to a domino effect of secrets.
This leads to murder, old crime, old betrayal, and a monster that firmly set its roots in Three Pines.
- This book really goes back to basics with a great mystery at the heart that uncovers new truths about familiar characters.
- For some long-time readers, the expansion beyond the village in this story takes away from the magic of these books.
A Great Reckoning
The 12th book in Louise Penny’s series is A Great Reckoning. This story sees a return to the beloved bistro in Three Pines.
The discovery of an old map seems like an odd curiosity at first. However, when villagers take a closer look, the stranger things become.
Retirement didn’t agree with Armand Gamache and as he begins a new job, he is gifted the map by the village.
Always an inspector at heart, Gamache soon realizes that there is more to this map than meets the eye.
Leading him back to Surete du Quebec, he finds young cadets in the academy. One of the cadets seems completely out of place, a protegee of a murdered professor.
As the mystery deepens, the magnifying glass turns on Gamache and his relationship with the out-of-place cadet.
The frantic search for answers inevitably leads back to Three Pines and a stained glass window of secrets.
- The book is paced beautifully for both new readers of the series and long-time fans returning for the 12th time.
- This is not a good book to jump into as a first introduction to the characters in Three Pines.
The next installment of the Inspector Gamache series is Glass Houses. Three Pines is a small community, so people notice when someone new appears.
When a stranger arrives, Gamache and the villagers are naturally curious.
However, curiosity gives way to fear when the figure is unmoving and casts a shadow over the village.
When the shadow finally leaves, a body remains. It then falls to Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of Surete du Quebec, to find out if a debt has been paid or a threat made.
Months later, a trial of the accused begins in Montreal.
Inspector Gamache is still struggling with decisions that he made back in November when the body appeared but there is no going back.
Can his conscience withstand the trial?
- This book contains all of the factors that make Penny’s writing so inviting and appealing to fans.
- The book touches on some darker themes that some Penny fans might be uncomfortable with.
Kingdom Of The Blind
The 14th book in the series is Kingdom Of The Blind. We meet Armand Gamache again in the midst of his suspension from work.
He receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse. Upon arrival, Gamache discovers that a stranger has named him executor of her will.
The two other executors are also residents of Three Pines, however, none of them have ever met the woman.
The trio begins to wonder if the woman was delusional, but evidence suggests that she was perfectly sane.
Throughout the story, Gamache is dealing with his own menaces and demons that relate to his suspension from work.
The beloved hero is forced to contemplate the terrible things hiding in his blind spots.
- This is another book that perfectly showcases the magic of Penny’s writing and the characters of Three Pines.
- The dark themes of the subplot in this book do not mesh well with the main plot of the story.
A Better Man
A lot is happening when we return to the world of Inspector Gamache in A Better Man.
Gamache has returned to work as the head of the homicide unit at the Surete du Quebec.
Flooding is affecting the province when a father approaches Gamache for help finding his daughter.
As crises begin to pile up, Gamache is trying to hold off the impending chaos and ultimately realizes that the search for the girl should be called off.
Unfortunately, with a daughter of his own, Gamache’s heart wins over his head.
The waters of the river continue to rise and a social media backlash against Gamache intensifies.
When a body is discovered, the confusion and chaos lead to mistakes that could change Gamache’s future again.
- This book manages to keep all the magic of the rest of the series while incorporating current issues.
- The writing style of this book is slightly different from others in the series which can be off-putting for some readers.
All The Devils Are Here
Returning for a 16th installment, All The Devils Are Here shows Armand Gamache in Paris with his family.
Readers are introduced to Gamache’s billionaire godfather, Stephen.
As they walk home after dinner, Stephen is critically injured in a hit-and-run incident. Ganache knows that this was no accident.
When an unusual key is found in Stephen’s possession, Gamache and his beloved wife are sent from the top of the Eiffel Tower down into the depths of the Paris archives and from luxury hotels to coded art.
Deep family secrets begin to be uncovered until a gruesome discovery in Stephen’s apartment makes it apparent that the secrets are much more rancid than they first appeared.
Gamache and his wife find themselves in immediate danger and have to uncover the truth to escape.
- A wild change of setting and stunning insight into the family of the beloved Armand Gamache.
- The attitude of Gamache feels different in this story from others in the series.
The Madness Of Crowds
The penultimate book in the series is The Madness Of Crowds.
This story is set around the New Year’s period in Three Pines.
Gamache finds himself unable to participate in the season’s festivities due to a simple request.
Gamache is asked to provide security for a lecture at a nearby university.
The request is perplexing to the seasoned inspector, that is until he begins to look into the lecturer.
When he uncovers a repulsive agenda, he begs the university to cancel the lecture.
The university refuses his request and accuses Gamache of censorship and cowardice.
However, before long, the repulsive views seep into local conversations until truth and fact, reality and delusion become completely blurred.
Discussions become debates, and debates become arguments.
This turns into fights and as sides are declared, madness takes hold. When this culminates in a murder, it is up to Gamache to investigate.
- This book truly transcends the genre of mystery in true Louise Penny style.
- The subject of the book is a reflection of the times which may be uncomfortable for readers who prefer pure fiction.
A World Of Curiosities
The most recent addition to the Inspector Gamache series to date is A World Of Curiosities.
Spring has sprung again in the small village of Three Pines.
However, residents are about to find out that not everything that is dormant should reemerge.
As the community prepares for a celebration, Gamache and long-time partner Beauvoir become concerned at the reappearance of a familiar man and woman.
They were just children when they experienced their mother being murdered. They were damaged and had now returned to Three Pines, but why?
While Gamache and Beauvoir ruminate on the tragic case that first brought them together, a 160-year-old letter filled with dread is discovered detailing the bricking up of an attic in the village.
As the villagers decide to unseal the room, a world of curiosities is discovered, but among the puzzles within puzzles, an enemy is released.
- This is another book in the series that showcases the stunning talent of Louise Penny’s writing within the world of Three Pines.
- Some long-time readers find the plot of this story to be convoluted and difficult to believe.
That is all of the books that are currently published within the Inspector Gamache series.
There are no signs of Louise Penny retiring the residents of Three Pines yet.
The books in this series are known for their incredible descriptions of relationships between characters yet it is very easy to get into the series at almost any point.
The books are written as stand-alone stories, however, the strong character development that arcs throughout the series means that the best way to truly enjoy the series is to read them in order of publication.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Books Are In The Inspector Gamache Series?
There are currently 18 novels in the Inspector Gamache series. There are no signs that Penny is planning to stop writing books for the series yet.
Can I Read The Inspector Gamache Series In Any Order?
The books in the Inspector Gamache series are designed to be stand-alone stories. However, they are best enjoyed in order of publication to truly appreciate the relationships of the characters.
Is Three Pines Based On The Inspector Gamache Books?
Yes, the television series Three Pines is based on the Inspector Gamache book series.
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