Is Three Pines’ Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Based on a Real Detective?

Amazon Prime Video’s mystery series ‘Three Pines’ follows the investigation led by Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The chief inspector’s career takes a turn when a series of crimes happen in the village of Three Pines. The series progresses through Gamache’s efforts to unravel the truth behind the mysteries that unsettle him both as a human being and a police officer. Gamache, with his warmth and appeal, succeeds in captivating the viewers. He is also a standout in comparison with other prominent detective characters we have seen in television shows and literature due to his heartening personal life, admirable values, and intelligence. Naturally, the viewers must want to know whether there is a real-life counterpart of the character. Let us share the answer!

Is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Based on a Real Detective?

No, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is not based on a real detective. The character was conceived by mystery novelist Louise Penny, whose novels serve as the source texts for ‘Three Pines.’ When Penny wanted to create a detective character as a protagonist, the writer initially considered a flawed character, reminding us of Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole. “Initially, when I first designed him, […] he was going to be in his mid to late 30s, a man sort of at war with himself, not particularly happy, and maybe in a mad marriage, who might have some kind of addiction; gambling or drugs or alcohol or something but certainly an unhappy person,” Penny told CBS Sunday Morning about the initial thoughts about the character Gamache.

But a spark of thought influenced Penny to conceive Gamache in the exact opposite way. “Then I thought, ‘good God, here I am, finally I get to create man, I am all-powerful, why would I choose to hang around someone so flawed,’” the writer added. The thought inspired Penny to create a detective character “whose company I would enjoy.” “I gave Armand Gamache all the qualities I admire in a man as it turns out it’s all the qualities I admire in a human being,” Penny said in the same CBS Sunday Morning interview. Thus, it isn’t a surprise that the writer then decided to base the character on her husband Michael Whitehead.

“He [Gamache] was [a fictionalized version of my husband] and I was feeling very proud of myself creating this magnificent Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and over breakfast one morning, I looked up and there was Michael and I thought damn didn’t create him at all, I transcribed to the man. He is absolutely inspired by Michael,” Penny added. However, the late Michael Whitehead wasn’t a detective. He was a doctor who served as the head of hematology at Montreal Children’s Hospital. Penny was inspired by the qualities of Michael as a man and person to create Gamache but the detective’s personal life and the cases he investigates are fictional.

When Michael died in 2016 after battling dementia for years, Penny realized that she could “immortalize” her late husband through Gamache. Although she considered stopping writing after Michael’s death, the act of writing became another way for her to connect with her late husband. “What I discovered was, far from losing Michael, Michael became immortal. I can visit him any time,” Penny told USA Today.

When Alfred Molina joined the cast of ‘Three Pines,’ Penny had to let the actor conceive his own Gamache for the show. “At some point after all that, I knew I had to let my Gamache go and let Alfred have him,” Penny told Vanity Fair. The writer was delighted to see Molina’s version of her character as well. “Afterwards I wrote to Alfred to say, as you know, Gamache was inspired by my late husband who I loved deeply and still do. [My husband] Michael’s favorite saying was ‘surprised by joy,’ which I put in the book sometimes. So I told Alfred that when I watched him be Gamache, I was surprised by joy,” Penny added.

Read More: Where is Three Pines Filmed?