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Louise Penny of Quebec has won one of the world's top English-language mystery writing awards for an unprecedented third time in a row.

Penny was awarded the 2009 Agatha for best novel for The Brutal Telling Saturday at a dinner ceremony in Washington, D.C. during the annual Malice Domestic convention.

Penny, who lives and writes in the small village of Sutton, Que., took home the same award last year for The Cruellest Month and the year before that for A Fatal Grace.

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All three books feature her French-Canadian detective Armand Gamache and are set in the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines.





Another Canadian writer, Alan Bradley, took home the 2009 award for the best first novel for his bestseller, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Malice Domestic bills itself as an annual "fun fan" convention for lover of the kind of mystery novels epitomized by Agatha Christie.

Books entered in the competition must contain no explicit sex, graphic gore or gratuitous violence, according to the rules. "Materials generally classified as 'hard-boiled' are not appropriate," the rules advise.

The winners are chosen by convention-goers in a secret ballot. Malice Domestic awards carry no cash prize but are considered highly prestigious and a huge boost to a winning author's fortunes.

Three other annual Malice Domestic awards were handed out Saturday. Dame Agatha's Shorts by Elena Santangelo won for best non-fiction, On the House by Hank Phillippi Ryan won for best short story and The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein won for best children/YA novel.

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