Monday, August 29, 2011

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Every year, I read Louise Penny's books thinking she can't continue to get better. Every year, she proves me wrong. A Trick of the Light, the latest Armand Gamache novel, takes readers into the dichotomy of the soul, the dark and light, the good and evil sides. It's another masterpiece.

It's finally time for Clara Morrow's solo art show in Montreal. The art community has gathered, and Clara's friends from Three Pines are also there, for the event Clara has dreamed about for years, and now dreads. Behind frosted glass doors, she can envision every dream, and every nightmare that portends her future. It's not Peter, her husband, but her friends who whisper in her ear, offering her reassurances. She can live through the event. And, she survives, to be swept home to Three Pines, to a celebration with prominent members of the art world, and then the next morning's tragedy.

When a body is found in Clara's garden the morning after the party, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec brings his investigative team to the village. He and Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir joke that they need to move the entire department to Three Pines, and Gamache's daughter calls murder a cottage industry in the village, but Gamache understands the depth of feeling that brings someone to murder. Once again, someone has brought fear and hatred to the peaceful village that appears to be a little bit of paradise. One of Gamache's favorite quotes, repeated in the book defines it perfectly. "There is strong shadow where there is much light."

No one can identify the dead woman, a woman whose red shoes, and position under Clara's bushes remind Peter and Gabri of the Wicked Witch of the West. The revelation that she's Lillian Dyson, a childhood friend of Clara's whose criticism of her early artwork caused the final destruction to their friendship, made the old quote relevant. Lillian Dyson destroyed many careers with her reviews, before disappearing. Few in the art world would disagree that "The witch was dead." But, who feared and hated her enough to kill her? And, why was the body in Clara Morrow's garden in a village that wasn't on a map?

No one entwines the past and present as skillfully as Louise Penny, past events that continue to resonate years later. There are consequences to evil comments, to fear, to hatred. And, Penny links so many comments and actions in this book. A Trick of the Light may be the story of a murder, but it's so much more. Penny's previous books have led to this one. How many years has Peter been jealous of Clara's gift? Beauvoir has known Gamache's daughter, Annie, for years, but the previous year's police  tragedy changed that relationship. No one, not Gamache or Beauvoir, Olivier, Peter, nor Clara, can forget the past. But, what about forgiveness?

What other author gives us characters to love, and a place to return? Armand Gamache, still with those kinds eyes, despite the tragedy of the last year. Jean Guy Beauvoir, admiring his mentor, but struggling with the last year's events. Clara Morrow, who, along with Oliver Brulé, really only wanted to belong somewhere. Peter Morrow, who has been petty and jealous for so many years, but has also been loved by Clara. And, then there's Ruth Zardo, whose poetry is so essential to the spirit of every book in this series, while her rude behavior adds humor. Ruth, whose small acts of compassion tie books and people together, while her longing for a duck offers hope. Isn't that what Three Pines and its people represent to all of us? A place of hope, a place you can only find when you're lost because no map will get you there.

Penny delves deep into the world of art, and the world of Alcoholics Anonymous, to explain pain and fear. At the same time, A Trick of the Light, presents a world of contrasts. Both worlds offer the opportunity for hope and change, for light, in contrast to living in shadow and fear. Life is a world that continues to offer surprises. Gamache finds a world where no one is what they appear to be. What is a trick of the light, and what is reality? Leave it to Louise Penny to continue to ask important questions. How can anyone question the importance of the mystery genre when Penny asks, what is truth and what is A Trick of the Light?

Louise Penny's website is www.louisepenny.com

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780372655457 (hardcover), 352p.

And, if you get the chance to listen to the audio, grab it. Ralph Cosham's beautiful reading, with the French pronunciation, and the perfect pauses, brings the book to life. I read the book, and listened to part of the audio. I'm going to finish listening to it.

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. Macmillan Audio. ©2011. Read by Ralph Cosham. 9 cds. ISBN 9781427213204. unabridged.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


24 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I can't wait to read this book! I'm a huge fan of Louise...and Gamache.

DarcyO said...

Your review is outstanding, Lesa, and I couldn't agree more. Everyone should read "A Trick of the Light."

Lesa said...

I've had that ARC for two months, Elizabeth, but I don't read them early. Once I do, I know I've probably read the best book I'll read all year. I love Louise's books. And, like you, I'm a huge fan of Gamache.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Darcy. I love Louise's books, but as I told Elizabeth, hate knowing I've probably already read my favorite book of the year.

Bev Stephans said...

I can't wait for my copy to arrive. Ms. Penny has been an auto-buy since her third book. Thank you for your review. It just increased my anticipation.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I really need to give Louise Penny another go. I read "Brutal Telling" and wasn't overwhelmed, but then again, I broke into the series when it was quite far along, and didn't get a lot of the references, nor had I already fallen for Gamache, like so many readers of the previous books. Maybe I should go back to the beginning!

Bev Stephans said...

@rhapsodyinbooks

Please do go back to the beginning of the series. You won't regret it. You will have all the backstories and 'Brutal Telling' will make much more sense. I think by doing this, you will 'fall' for Gamache.

Lesa said...

I totally agree with you, Bev. She needs to go back to the beginning, get to know Gamache & the other characters. It's hard to jump into this series midstream since you miss so much in not knowing the backstory. You're going to love this one, Bev.

Sheila Beaumont said...

My long wait for this book is almost over. It's due to arrive in my mailbox tomorrow! I love this series, and I love Armand Gamache. It is true that each of Ms. Penny's books seems better than the last.

And yes, this is a series that definitely needs to be read in order!

Lesa said...

I think all of us who love the series also love Armand Gamache, Sheila. (And, it doesn't hurt that he loves a librarian.)

ronisays said...

I just got my daughter started on this series, and the first thing I told her was you MUST read each book in order.
Put me down as another ardent Louise Penny/Three Pines/Gamache fan. I have my Scotch and cashews ready, can't wait to get the book!

Tina said...

Must confess to barely skimming your review since I'm dying to read LP and love to immerse myself in her books. Cannot wait to read it.

Lesa said...

You're right, Roni. Must read it in order. Nothing like being prepared with the food. It won't quite do it, though, when you read about the food in Three Pines.

Lesa said...

I totally get it, Tina. I never read reviews of Louise's books ahead of time because I don't want to spoil a moment. They're too special.

Beth Hoffman said...

This sounds like a "must read" ... I'm adding it to my list right now.

Wonderful review, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Beth. You have to start at the beginning. Start with Still Life. You're going to love Three Pines and Gamache. I promise you! And, you're going to love Clara Morrow since you're an artist yourself.

Nancy said...

I agree, Lesa, Louise Penny's writing just keeps getting better and better with each book. I just finished the ARC and am again overwhelmed with the clarity and beauty of Penny's writing as well as the development of all her wonderful characters. I really tried to read A Trick of the Light slowly in order to make it last longer, but I just couldn't do it!

caite said...

just got the audio of this one..really looking forward to it now!

Lesa said...

Nobody else's books affect me the way Louise Penny's do, Nancy. You're right. She has that distinctive voice. You can't mistake her for anyone else. And, there's just so much you'd like to say about her writing, her stories and her characters. They're just wonderful.

Lesa said...

You're in for a treat, Caite. I had never listened to one of the audios before. I loved it.

Lesa said...

You're in for a treat, Caite. I had never listened to one of the audios before. I loved it.

Sandie Herron said...

As a newbie to this series, I am almost overwhelmed by the compliments and good things said about Louise Penny and about her books. I found bargain copies of #3, 4, and 5 and now will buy #6. Guess I best get at least the pb of 1 and 2.

I hadn't read any of her books until now because I was afraid of the French in the book and having to work hard at translation or understanding it. I guess that's not an issue since no one has said a peep about that. I don't want to have to work too hard when I read; I'd rather enjoy.

We shall see how this goes and perhaps next year, Lesa and I will both write reviews of the same book to see what each of us take away from it. Or perhaps we'll have a sort of debate or chat about it.

Sandie, from the Corner where I am reading Donna Andrews' new book

Lesa said...

Sandie,

You do need to start with #1 and 2 to meet Gamache, his team, and the people of Three Pines. Don't worry about the French. There isn't much, and, when there is, Louise explains it beautifully. I loved listening to the audio to hear the names with the French pronunciations, but you don't need to know French to read these. I had more problems with Kathy Reichs' books in that manner, and just didn't bother reading them.

Literary Corner Cafe said...

This is a wonderful review, Lesa! I feel the same way about Louise Penny's books, and this is my favorite mystery series. I, too, adore Gamache. I thought "Bury Your Dead" was excellent, too. I agree newcomers should begin at the beginning of the series in order to get to know Gamache and the others and get to know Three Pines.

Every time I see a new Louise Penny book, I know I've got hours of fantastic reading in store. I just hate to see the books come to an end.

Thank you for the terrific review.

Best,

Gabrielle