Traveling with Inspector Gamache

Next week, my husband, David, and I will travel to Quebec City. For my vacation book, I will re-read Louise Penny’s acclaimed mystery, Bury Your Dead, set in Quebec City.

I plan to explore some of the marvelous streets, parks and cafés visited by her protagonist, Chief Inspector Gamache. Like Gamache, I want to drink café au lait and eat croissants at Chez Temporel and walk through the library of the Literary and Historic Society.

But the more important reason I want to revisit this book is to do some self-directed study. A while back, a writing-group friend and screen writer, Joan Sawyer, put me on to the teachings of John Truby, the respected Hollywood story consultant who wrote, The Anatomy of Story.

Truby believes the best stories begin with a protagonist with a moral dilemma that must be addressed for good or for bad by story’s end. He cites the movie, “The Verdict,” where a lawyer learns to care more about justice for victims than he does about money.

Louise Penny brings this clear moral dimension to Bury Your Dead, in which Gamache struggles with his guilt for not preventing the death of a young police officer under his command. For much of the story, he struggles alone with this pain. By story’s end, he accepts absolution from a murderer, yes, a murderer, finds a measure of acceptance and returns home to Montreal and his wife.

By traveling through Quebec City with Gamache this summer and studying Louise Penny, I hope to sharpen the moral dilemma my novel’s protagonist faces. If not, at least David and I will have shared a delicious croissant or two.

Have you read stories that succeeded because of a moral struggle? Have you read stories that failed because they did not have one?

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About Nancy Gardner

Nancy Gardner’s short stories have been published in magazines, anthologies and online. Currently she’s working on a mystery set in Salem Massachusetts and featuring a present-day Salem witch who uses her ability to walk into the dreams of others to learn their secrets and solve crime.
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7 Responses to Traveling with Inspector Gamache

  1. Edith says:

    Such a fabulous idea, Nancy, to trace Gamache’s steps in Quebec City. I love that city and I loved that book. Have a great trip.

  2. Nancy Gardner says:

    Thanks, Edith. Can’t wait to sink my teeth into a croissant. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me writing could be so much fun?

  3. Perfect idea, Edith! Some of our friends used the reverse approach this summer, knowing the Benedictine abbey “up north” would be in this fall’s Louise Penny book … they traveled across to Canada to see it, in advance of the Gamache publication. Love the attachment of these powerful mysteries to places we can visit ourselves. Stay safe up on those mysterious streets!

  4. Nancy Gardner says:

    Happily enjoyed my first cafe au lait and crossaint at Cafe Temporel this a.m.! Love the idea that someone mentioned to Beth about visiting an abbey prior to next book coming out!!!

  5. Adore Louise Penny and Gamache; you will enjoy Quebec for certain! Mark Billingham’s wonderful DI Tom Thorne series frequently places Thorne in this moral dilemma position and they are at the heart of the stories. Scaredy Cat and Sleepyhead have been filmed, the first two in the series, and were wonderful adaptations of the novels. The most recent book is The Demands. Marni Graff

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