Maverick Life


Put Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny together and what do you get? A State of Terror

Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Photo: Wikipedia) | Canadian writer Louise Penny. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Alejandro Garcia)

The seasoned lady of US politics, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has joined forces with award-winning Canadian crime writer Louise Penny, and they have written a book. Together! Apparently, they have been friends for years. I can’t help wondering how many cups of tea were consumed during the writing of this book.


Joe Kitchen is a South African musician, singer, songwriter and writer who sometimes goes by the name of Koos Kombuis, André Letoit and/or André le Roux du Toit.  

I stand silently, on attention
inside the trunk of a pine
in a forest
submerged by an avalanche
on a planet we’ve never noticed
Toast Coetzer (The Buckfever Underground’s Last Days Of Beautiful

Most of us like a good detective story every now and then. 

My personal favourite time for a good murder mystery is usually after my last glass of wine in the evening, when I lie in bed next to my wife, all serious thoughts banished. That is the time of the evening when I certainly won’t read War and Peace. I just want to settle down with a tense page-turner. 

Yet… is it just me, or are really “lekker” detective stories getting harder and harder to find? Am I imagining it, or are they all repeating the same old clichés? Why do almost all the stories take place in Los Angeles? The LAPD must be the best covered, most written about police department in the world. 

And, speaking of which, why are the main characters often so seedy? They all seem to be boring, washed-out, middle-aged, semi-alcoholic men with relationship problems. Seriously, are there no nice detectives? People who start their day with 10 minutes of yoga? Who regularly eat their veggies?

That was why I was so delighted when, a few years ago, I made the acquaintance of a certain Inspector Gamache. 

Inspector Gamache is everything the LAPD detectives are not. He is in a steady relationship. He is more or less psychologically balanced (though he has his occasional moments of insecurity). He lives, not in a crime-infested city, but in a very quaint small town in Canada. 

Inspector Gamache is the creation of Canadian writer Louise Penny. She is a New York Times best-selling author, she has been the recipient of virtually every existing award for crime fiction, and she was also granted the Order of Canada in 2014. (I am quoting from the sleeve notes of her latest book.) 

The likeable personality of Inspector Gamache is, however, not the only thing that makes Penny’s stories so appealing. 

Inspector Gamache is more than just one guy. He is a package deal. He associates with a group of people. He is part of a community. He has a bunch of interesting friends (some are a bit eccentric, though). Once you have read one Inspector Gamache book you will do anything to track down all the other books by the same author, not just because you want to see Inspector Gamache solve another mystery, but also to meet up with these wacky folk again. 

And, of course, you want to return, once again, to the fictional village of Three Pines, where these characters live. 

Three Pines is the kind of place people dream about in this troubled century. It’s an out-of-the-way hamlet in the middle of the Canadian log forest. It’s not on any map. There’s no internet reception. It is a place of peace, humour and friendliness. A place where people go for walks with their dogs – or, as one of them does, with her pet duck. (Of course, there is virtually no crime, so it’s a bit of a miracle that Inspector Gamache finds himself solving so many mysteries, but that’s beside the point, isn’t it?) 

If detective novels are a form of escapism, it must be said that reading about this village – the mythical place called Three Pines – is the ultimate form of escapism. 

Point is: Louise Penny may not be William Shakespeare or William Burroughs or even Will Self, and she has no pretence of being a literary giant, and yet: she is one of my favourite writers, and I am not the only one who feels this way.

I am surprised I had not heard of Louise Penny much earlier. In fact, I discovered my first Louise Penny book quite by accident in my town library only a few years ago. 

Well, here’s the nice thing: many more readers are about to hear about Penny in the very near future, with Simon and Schuster. Her next book is being released by mid-October.

And it is a book which is bound to hit the headlines worldwide. 

It is a book she has co-written with… wait for it… Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

Yes. You heard me correctly. The seasoned lady of US politics, Hillary Clinton, has joined forces with award-winning Canadian crime writer Louise Penny, and they have written a book. Together! 

Apparently, they have been friends for years. I can’t help wondering how many cups of tea were consumed during the writing of this book. 

State of Terror, according to the pre-publicity, promises to be an action-packed thriller filled with political twists and dangerous intrigue. It is, apparently, Clinton’s first work of fiction – her previous publications, such as Hard Choices; Stronger Together; The Book of Gutsy Women, have all been either autobiographical or inspirational, the kind of visionary stuff you’d expect from a wannabe presidential candidate. 

Put Hillary and Louise together, and well, what do you get? It’s a bit like Helen Zille collaborating with Karin Brynard. It is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime meeting of minds which is bound to yield astonishing surprises. 

And, if the critics who have already glanced at this text are to be believed, this one truly is a winner. Karin Slaughter describes it as: “Absolutely gripping, utterly believable, heart-stopping thriller. Clinton and Penny – put together are unstoppable.” 

It is clear that this book will be very different from the slow-paced, heart-warmingly rural tales of Inspector Gamache and his bunch of eccentric poetry-writing and artistic friends from the tiny village of Three Pines. 

I, for one, cannot wait to read it. 

But I also know that, once done with State of Terror, I will certainly return to Inspector Gamache and his friends. 

After all that violence and politics and stuff, I will need another visit to Three Pines… DM/ML


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