Louise Penny’s newest novel, Glass Houses, is the thirteenth mystery in the Three Pines series, featuring Armand Gamache. Some authors may lose steam after so many books with the same character in the same setting, but, Booklist writes, “Penny has a permanent spot on that enviable short list of writers who combine unwavering quality with mega-sales.” Booklist calls Three Pines “one of the most entrancing fictional worlds in popular literature,” and Kirkus writes that Glass Houses is “a meticulously built mystery that follows a careful ascent toward a breaking point that will leave you breathless.”
If this small (fictional) Canadian town in Quebec is new to you, then you’re in luck: by the time you read through the earlier twelve books in the series, there will be plenty of library copies of Glass Houses ready for you! If you want to start at the beginning, Still Life is the first in the series.
On the other hand, perhaps you’re already a Louise Penny fan (many are) and are looking for similar mystery series. In that case, we suggest one of these series starters:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (2009): Sweetness features eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an amateur chemist (with a special interest in poisons) and an amateur detective, too, once a murder case lands, literally, on her doorstep. School Library Journal says “Flavia is brave and true and hilarious, and the murder mystery is clever and satisfying.” First in a series of eight books (so far).
The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan (2009): The Penny Brannigan series begins when Penny, a Canadian ex-pat working as a manicurist in a small Welsh town, realizes that a disappeared bride-to-be was not who she said she was. As police investigate the groom, Penny and Victoria, a harpist, follow Penny’s hunches. Kirkus calls it “a gentle delight sure to please fans of the classic English mystery.” First in a series of eight.
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill (2007): In a small village outside of London, a fifty-three-year-old lady goes missing. This routine missing persons case becomes more mysterious when another person goes missing, and another, and another. Police detective Freya Graffham joins Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler to track down a serial killer in their midst. First in a series of eight.
In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicky Delany (2007): In peaceful Trafalgar, British Columbia, local rookie cop Molly Smith is paired with Sergeant John Winters from Vancouver to investigate the murder of a real estate developer; the list of suspects is long. Their investigation is surrounded by protesters (one of whom is Molly’s mother) either in favor of or opposing a planned Peace Garden. Smith’s local knowledge and Winters’ experience help them catch the killer. First in a series of eight.
The Haunted Ground by Erin Hart (2003): Irish archaeologist Cormac Macguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin are called from Dublin to a small town near Galway to investigate when a preserved head is discovered in a bog. The local police are already enmeshed in a murder case: a local landowner’s wife and son are missing, and popular opinion has the landowner as the culprit. Booklist writes, “Hart breathes life into local history the way Graham Swift did in Waterland; reinvents the du Maurier formula for gothic suspense [Rebecca]; and brings new texture and psychological acuity to the usual suspects from the generic village mystery. In every way, this is a debut to remember.” First in a series of four books, thus far.
In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming (2002): First in the Reverend Clare Fergusson series, In the Bleak Midwinter features the helicopter pilot-turned-priest confronting her first challenge in her new occupation: a baby abandoned at the church. A “riveting page-turner” with a “fast-paced plot” (Publishers Weekly), this should satisfy fans of small-town mysteries. First in a series of eight.
Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt (2001): Another Canadian small-town mystery, Forty Words features detective John Cardinal, who was kicked off a missing girl case months ago for his insistence that she was not a runaway but had been murdered, and is put back on the case when her body is discovered. A new partner – who is secretly investigating Cardinal himself for being a drug dealer’s inside man – adds to the plot. Dark and atmospheric, “at times poetic but more frequently horrific,” this may be a bit bleaker than Louise Penny fans are used to. First in a series of six, so far.
Our Readalike series started in January. Check out our previous Readalike blog posts here. And don’t forget to look at our “Books on the Bright Side” list if you’re in the mood for something happier, and our long list of popular nonfiction books if you’re looking for something that’s informative as well as entertaining.