Gamache’s Footsteps

Last year when my husband suggested going to Quebec for summer vacation, I agreed under one condition—that we stay a few days in the Eastern Townships. I wanted to visit the quaint towns, bike and enjoy the local cuisine, especially the pastries, poutine and duck confit. Mostly though, I wanted to follow some of the trail of Louise Penny’s mysteries.

Louise Penny, a Canadian mystery writer who lives in Knowleton, Quebec (located about 65 miles southeast of Montreal), writes books that take place in and around a small village called Three Pines. This town does not actually exist—she says it is a “state of mind”—but Penny does use local places as inspiration for some of her books. I started reading her books when my son was in college and had to read one for his mystery writers class. I thought I would read it so we could share our thoughts on the book. I fell in love with the quaint village, its quirky inhabitants, and main character Inspector Armand Gamache, Chief of homicide of the Sûreté du Quebec.

Our first stop was the town of Knowleton itself, which is full of restaurants and antique stores. We walked through the doors of Brome Lake Books. This store has a small corner designated for Louise Penny books and Three Pines t-shirts and coffee mugs. It also is the inspiration for the book store in her book How the Light Gets In. While in the shop, my husband and I were told that Louise Penny was across the street doing a book reading at the Star Café! After stopping traffic to arrive in time, I decided to be “cool” and wait for her in the outdoor seating area right by the exit. I had my husband line up the camera so that I would be in the picture as she was walking past while leaving. I knew the time was approaching as groupings of middle-aged women, like myself, were leaving with matching plastic bags. There she was, in the doorway talking to some her admirers… I touched up my lipstick, fluffed my hair and turned back only to see her walking across the parking lot from the SIDE ENTRANCE! Opportunity missed!
Brome Lake Books
The next day I took my husband to the monastery of Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. This was the inspiration for the monastery “Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups” in her book The Beautiful Mystery. In the book, one could only arrive at this very isolated monastery by boat. We drove into a large parking lot filled with fellow tourists. We enjoyed a lovely walk around the grounds and explored the original small chapel but, shortly after entering the main building and while in the gift shop purchasing our souvenirs of preserves, cider and cheese (made by the monks), we were asked to speed up making our purchases. The shop was about to close as 11:00 a.m. Mass was about to start.
monastery of Saint-Benoit-du-Lac
Lastly, while not intending another Louise Penny stop as we were driving along Lake Massawippi near North Hatley, I spotted a sign pointing to Manoir Hovey. It too was on the list of places that were inspirations for her books. In A Rule Against Murder, real life Manoir Hovey becomes Manoir Bellechasse. Unfortunately it is a very remote resort, almost impenetrable unless you are a paying customer, so the best photo I could take was the one of the sign on the road.
Manoir Hovey
If you would like to find out more of the inspirations for Louise Penny book locales, go to Real Places of Three Pines. As you click on each book title, you will find the inspirational place and a recipe from one of the meals described in the book.

Listed below are the titles of the Inspector Gamache mysteries in chronological order, all available at various branches of the Mercer County Library System:
Still Life—2005

A Fatal Grace—2007

The Cruelest Month—2008

A Rule Against Murder—2009

The Brutal Telling—2010

Bury Your Dead—2010
Trick of the Light; Nature of the Beast
A Trick of the Light—2011

The Beautiful Mystery—2012

How the Light Gets In—2013

The Long Way Home—2014

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook—2015

The Nature of the Beast—2015

A Great Reckoning—2016

—Janine at Hopewell

Comments

  1. I love her books. I fell in love with them when I was on a tour of the English Library in Quebec City and someone told me part of one of her books took place in the room where I was standing. I read that book, then went back to the beginning of the series. I am struck by how a clue or a hint dropped in one book will appear as a major plot development several books later. I wonder how far in advance she plots out her books. Thank you for sharing your adventures. I'm sorry that by "playing it cool" you missed seeing her in person.

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