Saturday, January 07, 2012
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT by Louise Penny (2011) Minotaur Books
Sitting down with a Louise Penny Inspector Gamache novel is as fine as meeting your closest friends at your favourite bistro, hands wrapped around warming bowls of cafe au lait, leaning in to listen to each others' intimacies. It feels right.
For as long as Penny has been writing her mysteries, I have been reading them. All of them. Over and over again. I am as familiar with the inhabitants of sleepy Three Pines (not on any map, except in your imagination) as I am with the people in my life. I fret about Clara and Peter's marriage, cheer Ruth's every expletive, wish Gabri and Olivier were my gay BFFs and Myrna my off-the-clock shrink. All of them are familiar with heartbreak, and its accompanying room for hope. The light that sneaks in through hairline fractures and widening gaps. And, there is also the Surete du Quebec's head of homicide, the beguiling Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, who reminds me of Atticus Finch in his fairmindedness and respect for others, especially outsiders.
At the beginning of A TRICK OF THE LIGHT, Clara is about to enter the vernissage for her one-woman show at the Musee in Montreal, but she's worried that her art won't measure up to the critics and has a panic attack. Heureusement, her dear friend Olivier coaxes her, "on your knees or on your feet, you're going through that door." For those familiar with Penny's books, it's a succulent treat to see the new plot threading back through previous narratives, as shown in Clara's painting The Three Graces that she was working on in DEAD COLD. It's the one that reminds me of the Leonard Cohen lyrics "there is a crack, a crack in every thing. That's how the light gets in." Penny uses the piece to navigate through to the chiaroscuro motif that gives the new novel its title.
After schmoozing with gallery owners and agents at the vernissage, Clara hosts a party back home in Three Pines to celebrate her official launch into the art world. The morning after as she impatiently waits for Peter to bring the papers with the critical reviews, something more upsetting turns her world upside down. It seems a stranger has been murdered and dropped in her garden, her bloom a little more than off the rose. Chief Inspector Gamache and his intrepid team including Jean Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste investigate, turning over coins, clumps of earth and fraught pasts in their wake.
I kept changing my mind about the suspect. You will too once you immerse yourself in Louise Penny's beautifully crafted, emotionally satisfying book.