In the mystery and suspense category, there aren’t many writers better than Louise Penny—an award-winning writer and creator of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
As usual, I have done a thorough research and compiled a full list of Louise Penny books in order of publication.
I must say that I enjoyed researching Louise because it turns out that, just like me, she’s a dog person.
Imagine finding that out before I found out a lot of things about her. I kept telling myself, “She must be a good writer. She must be”.
So, this is the article for all things Louise Penny and Inspector Gamache. But before we go to the entire Louise Penny book list, let’s take a glance at our top 3 Louise Penny books.
Let’s get started.
Top 3 Louise Penny Books
Who is Louise Penny?
The Canadian novelist was born in Toronto, Canada, on July 1, 1958. She mostly writes mystery novels, and her stories, which follow Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, are set in Quebec.
Louise Penny’s mother was an avid reader and enjoyed both fiction and non-fiction, so Louise Penny grew up reading mystery novels by female writers, including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.
Louise attended Toronto Metropolitan University (Ryerson Polytechnical Institute then), where she, aged 21, graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Arts (Radio and Television) in 1979.
After earning her degree, she started working as a radio host and journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), a career that would last 18 years.
On a blind date in 1994, Penny met Michael Whitehead, a Montreal pediatric hematologist and scientist.
When they met, Louise was 35, and Michael was 60. But despite that 25-year gap, the two got married in 1996, and the story that followed was one filled with love and success.
Louise Penny says Michael “was not only the inspiration for the books, but he made them possible.”
After marrying Michael, Penny left CBC and started writing. Penny’s first novel, Still Life, came second in the “Debut Dagger” competition but went on to win four other awards.
Her other crime novels have also been huge successes, getting award nominations and winning almost every one of them. Some of the notable awards that she’s received include CWA New Blood Dagger (2006), Barry Award for Best New Novel (2007), Anthony Award for Best First Novel (2007), Dilys Award (2007), Agatha Award for Best Novel (2007, 2008), Anthony Award for Best First Novel (2010, 2017), Nero Award (2010), and Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook.
Louise Penny and her dog, Bishop, live in Canada, in a village south of Montreal and close to the American border.
Louise Penny Books in Publishing Order
- Still Life
- A Fatal Grace / Dead Cold
- The Cruelest Month
- A Rule Against Murder / The Murder Stone
- The Brutal Telling
- Bury Your Dead
- A Trick Of The Light
- The Beautiful Mystery
- How The Light Gets In
- The Long Way Home
- The Nature Of The Beast
- A Great Reckoning
- Glass Houses
- Kingdom Of The Blind
- A Better Man
- All The Devils Are Here
- The Madness Of Crowds
- A World of Curiosities
With Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Best Louise Penny Books
1. Still Life (Chief Inspector Gamache #1)
Despite being Penny’s first published novel, this book came second in its first competition. The book introduces Monsieur L’Inspecteur Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.
Alongside Gamache, the story includes other interesting characters like Jane and her niece, Yolande; and Gabri and Olivier (who are a gay couple).
It also introduces a small village called Three Pines, a place that will play a central role in the series.
When Jane is found dead in the woods near the U.S. border, Armand Gamache and his team are summoned to the scene. Initially, the locals think it’s a hunting accident, but Gamache knows better. He suspects foul play and is certain that Jane’s death was a premeditated murder, not a mere accident.
The minute you start reading this story, you realize that Louise Penny is a genius, a brilliant writer who made both the characters and Three Pines so realistic.
2. The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Gamache #5)
This is the fifth book in the series and—as you might have predicted—it is set in Three Pines.
Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his team are working on a murder case involving a stranger who was found dead in a bistro. During their investigation, they discover a lot of priceless antiquities in a cabin (in the woods) that belong to the dead man.
The antiquities include first-edition books and European treasures that disappeared during WWII.
How did such an unknown person acquire all this? The further Gamache’s investigation goes, the more we discover about the complexity of the people of Three Pines.
Gamache and his team are about to uncover a shocking history that will ultimately lead them to the killer.
3. How the Light Gets in (Chief Inspector Gamache #9)
The story is set in winter, and the festive mood means happiness and a lot of gatherings. But things are too festive for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
The Homicide Department is lonely, and it seems that they have more foes than friends. When he is assigned a mysterious murder case, he discovers that the victim is an elderly woman, the only living person among quintuplets who were celebrities when they were younger.
Again, Louise Penny evokes the genius in her to bring to life a story replete with vivid and complex emotions.
Penny weaves a new story into an existing one; on the one hand, Gamache is investigating a disappearance, and on the other hand, he is dealing with personal problems.
4. The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Gamache #3)
We go back to the third installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery series. It is spring, and there’s another strange crime in Three Pines, and—expectedly—the brilliant Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his team have to investigate the case.
This story also has two facets: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s troubles at work and his quest to unwrap the town’s complex relationships to solve the murder.
5. A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #4)
So, this list has covered Gamache books set in spring and winter, but this one is set in summer.
The inspector and his wife, Reine-Marie Gamache, are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse, a luxurious hotel just outside Three Pines.
The Gamache’s aren’t the only family at Manoir Bellechasse; the Finney family also chose the hotel as the venue for their family reunion.
But, even with all these planned celebrations, this summer won’t come and go without another murder. Before long, a member of this rich, cultured, respectable family is, but no one knows how and why.
It is, again, Inspector Gamache’s duty to solve the murder. Once again, he and his team will try to uncover the hidden truths to get to the killer.
The problem is the Finney family members have a lot of baggage among them; from secrets, and disconnection from reality, to internal feuds. Gamache has to untangle all the knots in the family’s strained relationships and unearth secrets buried so deep.
Louise Penny FAQs
Is it important to read Chief Inspector Gamache books in order?
You should read the books in order, but the order is not essential. The books are written as standalones, so they can be read in whatever order you wish, but there are characters whose arc grows from book to book.
The crime in each book is unique, but the characters who have appeared in other Gamache books aren’t. So, you might want to read the books to understand the characters’ past.
In what order should I read Louise Penny books?
The books have to be read in the order they were published: Still Life, A Fatal Grace / Dead Cold, The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against Murder / The Murder Stone, The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick Of The Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How The Light Gets In, The Long Way Home, The Nature Of The Beast, A Great Reckoning, Glass Houses, Kingdom Of The Blind, A Better Man, All The Devils Are Here, The Madness Of Crowds, A World of Curiosities, 18. State Of Terror.
Why do some books have different titles?
The differences in the titles came about because the book publishers in the US and UK didn’t think some of the titles were ideal for their readers.
So, they came up with titles they felt were better, titles that were ideal “for the book and the target market.”
How many Louise Penny Inspector Gamache books are there?’
There are 18 Inspector Gamache books in total, 17 of which have already been published.
Is the Inspector Gamache series over?
No, another Inspector Gamache, A World of Curiosities (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, #18), is scheduled for release on November 9th, 2022.
I believe that Louise Penny has earned the right to be mentioned among the literary greats of the last 100 years.
There are just 19 books in this ‘Louise Penny Books in Order’ list, but I promise it’s the best book series you’ll ever read if you’ve not read it already.
One thing that authors such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Arthur Conan Doyle have in common is their ability to invent a unique character that is so good that it outlives them.
Poirot, Miss Marple, Peter Wimsey, and Sherlock Holmes are all inventions that became more famous than the geniuses that created them.
And just like Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, these characters have almost single-handedly defined their creators’ legacies and are going to be fan favorites long after the writers are gone.