Louise Penny: How essay became her solace


The faithfulness of her millions of readers speaks volumes about the interest of Louise Penny’s poser novels. Martha Teichner trafficked to Penny’s hometown to see for herself: 

There should be a name for fans of Louise Penny’s murder mysteries: The L Pack, or the Penny Posse maybe.


To contend they come from distant and far-reaching in vast numbers to attend her book events is no exaggeration. They’ve come all the way to the Canadian city of Knowlton, in the eastern townships of Quebec, where Penny lives, and her books are set.

“Some of you have come a good stretch with me,” Penny pronounced to them, “so I’m anxious to meet any and every one of you.”

It’s as if her readers wish to douse themselves in the environment of her books, which are as much about the backstories of her murders — why people kill — as whodunit. Penny has published 12. They now customarily entrance at array 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, or close to it. 

Her next, “Glass Houses,” comes out next month.

  • Read an mention from Louise Penny’s “Glass Houses”

“My books are about many, many things, substantially slightest of all murder,” Penny said. “They’re about life. They’re about choices, and holding shortcoming for what you do. But really, we consider at their heart, they’re about adore and friendship.”

And food. (Her characters all eat unusually well.)

The made-up encampment of Three Pines (which Penny, tongue-in-cheek, informs readers can’t be found on any map, nonetheless her publisher has conveniently had one drawn) is meant to be a protected place — a retreat or refuge for people who are lost.


Louise Penny with match Martha Teichner.

The name has chronological significance. Legend has it, during the American Revolution, the trees were a signpost for loyalists to the British climax journey north to Canada, to safety. “So what people would do is, they would plant a cluster of 3 hunger trees on their home, when they were at the border, as a vigilance to these people that they were safe,” Penny said. “And that’s how we got the name for the village.”

Her investigator is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. “If we got propitious adequate that the books were published and became a series, we didn’t wish to grow sap of my categorical character. So, we motionless we would create a man we would marry,” Penny said. 

But before Penny herself managed to find Three Pines and all its inhabitants, she, too, was lost: “I was celebration some-more and some-more and more. The phone never rang. The doorbell never sounded.”

She had it made, or so it seemed. From the age of 21, she was a contributor and then an anchor for CBC radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. But she was also a secret drunk. At 35, she walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and changed her life.

“I left that assembly never having to splash again,” she told Teichner. “It was unbelievable. The titillate to drink, the need to splash disappeared.”

Not prolonged afterward, she met and married Dr. Michael Whitehead, a remarkable pediatric hematologist some-more than 20 years her senior, who told her that he would support her if she quit her pursuit to write. For 5 years she tried to write the Great Historical Novel.

But then: “I looked at the bedside table, and very good represented there were crime novels. It was one of those moments where we just thought, Oh, maybe that’s what we should write.”

That first book was called “Still Life.” “Quebec is a character, a very genuine impression in the books,” she said. “There is a very penetrating clarity of place.”

With any new book, Penny’s following has grown, her fans seeking a piece of her illusory and genuine worlds — the line between them mostly blurry.


Louise Penny at a book signing in Knowlton. Quebec.

Readers are assured Kelly Shanahan’s bakery is the bakery in the books. “People come in positively awaiting that Louise Penny is here somewhere,” Shanahan said.

And on this sold day, a Louise Penny sighting does indeed occur.

The internal bookstore, Brome Lake Books, has turn a substitute for Myrna’s New and Used Bookstore in the novels. “We customarily have at slightest 3 groups a day coming through, not counting the train tours and things like that,” pronounced owners Danny McAuley. “They’re really looking for a tie to Louise. The books have overwhelmed them. They’ve overwhelmed them personally; they’ve been healed by the books.”


And Penny has been unusually open about her own life. Each month for her website, she writes what reads like an insinuate minute to a close friend. It was there, in 2014, that she disclosed her beloved husband, Michael, had been diagnosed with dementia, and then last tumble that he had died.

“So many others have been down this highway before Michael and me — there’s comfort in that,” Penny said.

When fans show up for book signings, it’s not just about the books.

One fan, Marie Josee Pilon, told Teichner, “I adore her books, but we adore the individual. She’s turn partial of a family.”

Louise Penny has never laid eyes on many of these people before, but they are not strangers. After all, she showed them the way to Three Pines, the refuge where she has now left to find herself once more, in her sadness.

“The essay became a harbor, it became a solace,” Penny said. “It became a universe we could control. Oddly enough, all the decisions we had done 12 years ago, about a place that we would like to live in and people we would select as friends, incited out to be my saving grace.”

For some-more info:

  • “Glass Houses” by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books), accessible on Aug 29 in Hardcover, eBook, Audio CD and Digital Audio Download formats
  • louisepenny.com
  • gamacheseries.com

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