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In the novel N or M?, Mrs Perenna is the proprietress of Sans Souci, a hotel in Leahampton. She manages the hotel with the help of her daughter Sheila.

For Tommy and Tuppence whose mission was to uncover two German spies "M" and "N", Mrs Perenna is an early suspect not least because of her foreign sounding surname. Mrs Perenna strikes the Beresfords as a strange person, and this is reinforced by the observations of another hotel resident Mrs O'Rourke who also thinks Mrs Perenna is not who she seemed to be. According to Mrs O'Rourke, herself an Irish woman, Mrs Perenna is clearly Irish. Yet she insists that she is English and had a Spanish husband.

Mrs Perenna is described as being "rather untidy looking". She is a middle-aged woman, with a "large mop of fiercely curling black hair, some vaguely applied makeup and a determined smile showing a lot of very white teeth". Tommy is of the opinion that she is "quite a handsome woman in her way". He also thinks that she might be Irish, although she does not have a brogue, because that would account for the "vitality and exuberance" in her. Her hands are big, and Tuppence feels that they are "cruel-looking".

Mrs Perenna's husband was Patrick Maguire. He had been a follower of Casement in the previous war, and had been shot as a traitor. After that, she changed her name to Perenna, and she and Sheila lived in Spain for some years. According to Sheila, Mrs Perenna always said that her husband was half Spanish. However, she never talked about his death, so Sheila did not really know how she felt about it. According to Sheila, it was not easy to know what her mother felt and thought.

Tuppence feels that Mrs Perenna is sometimes "the voluble commonplace guesthouse hostess", and sometimes "a tragic, violent personality".

Tuppence later searches Mrs Perenna's room, and finds some letters. One of them is signed "Pat", and is presumably from her late husband. It is revealed that Mrs Perenna's first name is Eileen.

When Mrs Perenna comes in, Tuppence claims to be looking for aspirin. Mrs Perenna gives her some, but points out that Tuppence has some of her own, and she has seen it. Tuppence later remembers that her aspirin is at the back of the writing-table drawer. As Mrs Perenna says she has seen it, Tuppence suspects that Mrs Perenna had also gone through her room.

When Betty Sprot is kidnapped, Mrs Perenna expresses the opinion that the police will be no good, and that they cannot risk the "blundering" of the police. She advises the residents of Sans Souci to go after Betty themselves.

Mrs Perenna behaves oddly one night, when Mrs Sprot sees her coming in out of breath, but she claims that she only went out to check the weather. After Mrs Perenna leaves the room, Miss Minton asks the other ladies if they suspect that Mrs Perenna drinks. Mrs Cayley says that it would explain her behaviour, as Mrs Perenna is "so unaccountable" sometimes.

When Tommy fails to return to Sans Souci without any explanation, Mrs Perenna is annoyed, and says that such conduct is "not to be condoned or glossed over". She eventually reluctantly calls the police, after the residents of the house plead with her to do so.

It is later revealed that Mrs Perenna is a member of the IRA with anti-British sympathies. Mr Grant says that he has people working on that information, but they have not been able to prove anything further.

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