Louise Penny’s latest mystery, A Better Man, finds Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, who previously had been demoted, back on the job at the Sûreté du Québec. But his first day isn’t going well at all. As flood waters threaten to engulf the province where he lives and works and bridges are being shut down, he is approached by a grief-stricken father looking for his missing daughter. It is not a case Gamache should take on during this emergency, but he feels a sense of obligation and he agrees.
It’s a tough juggling act, made more so because of the fury of social media criticizing the decisions he’s made both past and present and the ever increasing dangers as the water rises. rise When thinks about calling off the search for the missing girl to focus on the crisis on hand, he finds he can’t. After all, he has a daughter too.
This is the 15th book in the Gamache series and Penny, who lives in a small village outside of Montreal, says she created Gamache as her main character because she wanted to write about someone she could be married to.
It’s a decision that made even more sense after the death of her husband several years ago. It was writing that helped her ease back into the world, returning to Gamache and the fictional Canadian village of Three Pines. Ironically, it was her husband, a pediatric hematologist, who helped her enter that world. A former journalist and then anchor for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, she struggled with an addiction to alcohol before joining AA and never having a drink again. Shortly after that she met her husband and he encouraged her to quit her job and try writing, saying he would support her while she did so.
At first Penny struggled writing what she calls “the great historical novel.”
“Then I looked at my bedside table, which was very well represented with crime novels,” she recalls. “Seeing those I had one of those moments where I thought, oh, maybe that’s what I should be writing.”
It was the right choice. Penny’s Gamache novels are often #1 on the New York Times Best-Seller list and she’s earned numerous accolades including being a seven time winner of the Agatha. In 2017 received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture.