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.