Hillary Clinton in Three Pines with Gamache and the gang: A Louise Penny mini-fantasy

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Walter Shapiro, Opinion contributor
·4 min read
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Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny
Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny

Hillary Clinton and her longtime friend, mystery writer Louise Penny, are co-authoring "State of Terror," a political thriller to be published Oct. 12, 2021. The story follows a novice secretary of State who has joined the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank from the world stage. But what if, instead, Penny wrote the story of Hillary Clinton among her characters in the mythical village of Three Pines?

For a woman who had been everywhere and met everyone, she was surprisingly nervous as she sat by herself in the corner table of the bistro. Every time the door opened with a burst of frigid February air, she braced for the arrival of tabloid reporters and the paparazzi.

Yes, her Canadian friend Louise had assured her that this village — just across the border from Vermont and its three electoral votes — somehow never appeared on GPS. And, unless you knew the way, you can almost never find it. But the most admired woman in the world for 22 years (okay, she was annoyed that she had fallen behind Michelle Obama of late) couldn't believe that there was an off-the-map spot like Brigadoon in North America.

'What if she is a vegan like Bill?'

But, she admitted, the bistro did look inviting and feel nurturing. And maybe this was just the place, as Louise had insisted, to make new friends after she finally had reached her breaking point with Bill's nonstop neediness.

Author Louise Penny, in New York on Dec. 6 for a BookmarkThis chat with USA TODAY.
Author Louise Penny, in New York on Dec. 6 for a BookmarkThis chat with USA TODAY.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Olivier reported back to Gabri for the third time, "Yes, it really is her." Gabri unconsciously patted his ample stomach as he asked, "Do you know what she likes? This is my cassoulet night, but maybe she's worried about her weight. Or, Mon Dieu, what if she is a vegan like her husband?"

Olivier offered a temporary solution, "I'll offer her licorice pipe to get a sense. And Gabri, she's a customer, so don't embarrass us all by asking for her autograph."

Across the room from the surprise bistro guest, Clara and Myrna whispered over their cafés au lait. "Should I go over and be friendly?" Clara asked aloud. "Or does she want to be left alone?" Myrna put her hand on Clara's wrist to prevent any move by the impulsive artist. Myrna, the bookstore owner and sometime psychologist, sensed a sadness in the visitor's manner, the kind of weariness of someone near her breaking point.

Hillary commiserates with a duck

It was actually Rosa who sparked the first audible reaction from the visitor, who was both a stranger and a familiar figure. The third time that the duck uttered what sounded like "duck" — or maybe something a little less elevated — the American looked up in surprise and broke into a broad smile. Anyone close by could hear the visitor to Three Pines say softly to the duck, "I know what you mean."

Rosa's human companion, Ruth, said nothing as she drained her glass of Scotch, but she scribbled a few lines on a napkin: "At the end of the road/When ambition fades and the cheering stops/There is still laughter."

'State of Terror': Hillary Clinton is co-writing a mystery novel with writer Louise Penny

Louise Penny's latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel
Louise Penny's latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel

Through the bistro door came the familiar figure of Gamache, limping a little from his never-forgotten wounds from a horrible night in a dingy warehouse. But tonight Gamache was savoring an early dinner with those he loved, his duties at the Sûreté momentarily forgotten.

Well, almost forgotten. When Gamache glanced over to the corner, he knew in an instant that it was really her — a woman he had met once long ago when she was a New York senator and spoke at conference on trans-border policing issues. But this time, Gamache sensed how cruel the passing years had been to her. Not in terms of her surface looks, which were never important to Gamache. But rather in terms of the sadness that reached into her soul, and that only he could detect.

[To be continued...]

Walter Shapiro (@MrWalterShapiro) covers politics for the New Republic. He also is a lecturer in political science at Yale. This is his first murder mystery.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hillary Clinton, Louise Penny book: Did they hatch it in the bistro?