Two Ways to Enjoy Louise Penny’s Genius – A New Mystery Novel and a New Series on Amazon Prime

Three Pines is similar to Brigadoon. The small Canadian village doesn’t disappear every century like its Scottish counterpart, but it can’t be found on maps and is inhabited by an eclectic group of citizens who don’t readily welcome newcomers. Canadian author Louise Penny has created an additive mystery series centered around an idyllic village where, surprisingly enough, crime is a constant presence. Her 19 Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries have a loyal following, her latest, A World of Curiosities, doesn’t disappoint. And neither does the new series based on her books now streaming on Amazon Prime. Aptly named Three Pines, the eight episodes star Alfred Molina as Gamache, Marie-France Lambert as his wife, Reine-Marie, as well as a terrific supporting cast that brings the characters in Penny’s books alive.

Rossif Sutherland as Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Alfred Molina as Armand Gamache

First, the book. A World of Curiosities begins in the past, with Gamache and his then young associate, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, investigating the murder of a prostitute whose two children, Fiona and Sam, are soon implicated in their mother’s death. Because they are so young and had been abused as part of their mother’s sexual enterprise, Gamache tries to help them recover, becoming involved in their lives, even helping Fiona graduate from engineering school after she spends a short time in prison. Gamache has never trusted Sam, while Jean-Guy has never trusted Fiona. Both officers have cause to be suspicious when the sister and brother come to Three Pines and strange things begin to happen.

A secret room is discovered inside the village book shop. When a wall inside is torn down it reveals the replica of a famous painting, “The Paston Treasure,” depicting a collection of items collected by a British family. There’s one difference, however. The items have been altered to deliver a threatening message to Gamache. And he soon understands why. John Fleming, a serial killer Gamache once put behind bars, has escaped and has concocted a complicated plot to seek revenge on the police officer who put him away.

Elle-Maija Tailfeathers as Isabelle Lacoste and Rossif Sutherland as Jean-Guy Beauvoir

As with most of her mysteries, A World of Curiosities is multi-layered, with Gamache slowly putting together the clues. But will he be in time to keep himself and his family safe? Along for the ride are the wonderfully colorful inhabitants of Three Pines – Myrna, who owns the book shop, Ruth, the poet who, along with her pet duck, Rosa, makes good use of the “F” word, Olivier who runs the local B&B, and Clara, the artist. Penny ramps up the tension and the final encounter between Gamache and Fleming is one for the ages.

Alfred Molina as Armand Gamache and Marie France-Lambert as Reine-Marie Gamache

As often happens when a popular series is adapted for the screen, some trimming becomes necessary. Gamache and Reine-Marie don’t live in Three Pines, but the crimes he must solve happen there. Gamache solves four different homicides during the eight episodes, but the disappearance of an indigenous young woman continues as a thread throughout. Blue Two-Rivers (Anna Lambe) has disappeared and her mother, Arisawe (Georgina Lightning) believes, as do many in her community, that the police don’t care about indigenous women who go missing. Gamache and Beauvoir (Rossif Sutherland), along with Detective Sergeant Isabelle Lacoste (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers), herself an indigenous woman, put in overtime trying to find Blue. (Three Pines, along with Hilary Swank’s Alaska Daily on ABC and Hulu, through their plot lines, have placed the search for missing indigenous women front and center.)

Georgina Lightning (left) as Arisawe Two-Rivers

Molina is a brilliant choice to play Gamache who brings gravitas and warmth to the role of the chief inspector who, as head of the Sûreté du Québec has seen the best and worst of humanity during his many years solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice. Lambert is perfect as Gamache’s supportive wife, Reine-Marie. A shout out to Clare Coulter who brings to vivid life the wacky poet, Ruth, who lovingly cares for her duck, Rosa. (Since Rosa isn’t listed as a cast member, not sure if the feathered player is real or a puppet.)

Clare Coulter as Ruth with her duck, Rosa

If you are already a Penny fan, you are in for a treat with an absorbing read and a fascinating series to keep you going through the cold winter months. A newcomer? Then start with Penny’s first novel and keep going. You won’t be able to stop.

A World of Curiosities, like all Penny’s books, can be purchased on Amazon. Three Pines is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Photos courtesy of Amazon Prime

About Charlene Giannetti (597 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.