Wednesday, September 04, 2013

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

"Service, Integrity, Justice." That's more than the motto for the Sûreté de Québec. That could be seen as the
personal motto for Louise Penny''s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. And, never more so than in her powerful, tense novel How the Light Gets In. Gamache truly lives by that motto, despite opposition in the highest ranks of the Sûreté. The Sûreté "was now a culture that rewarded cruelty. That promoted it."

In fact, everyone in the Sûreté knows that the once powerful Gamache has been stripped of his staff, assigned officers who don't care. So, it's a relief when he's called to the village of Three Pines. Myrna, the owner of the bookstore, was expecting a friend for the Christmas holidays, and she never showed. A missing person case doesn't usually go to the chief homicide investigator, but Gamache was willing to ask a few questions. And, Gamache's questions led to one of the biggest media stories Canada had seen in the twentieth century.

But, it's the other case Gamache works on that could shake up the country. Everyone in the Sûreté knows the story of how Gamache once brought down powerful figures in the force. But, someone is still pulling strings.  With a few well-chosen allies, Armand Gamache is determined to uncover the evil that pervades the force.

Light and dark. Good and evil. Corruption and honesty. Louise Penny has always dug into opposing forces in the world. In The Beautiful Mystery, she foreshadowed some of the troubles of How the Light Gets In. One foreboding statement hung over that entire book, Matthew 10:36. "And a man's foes shall be of his own household." That quote is echoed in the course of this latest mystery, but Louise Penny always leaves room for the light, for hope. In fact, it's a quote from Leonard Cohen that offers hope, and provided the title for the book, "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

There's no crack of weakness in any of Louise Penny's mysteries. Once again, she has written a beautiful, compelling story, one with more tension than many of the previous books. Every time I review one of the Armand Gamache mysteries, I restrain myself from revealing too much. The nine books in this series must be read in order, and they lead up to the powerful confrontations in this novel.

While reading this book, I copied so many lines that are worth sharing. There are some that summarize the entire series. "The question that haunted every investigation was 'why'." It's a question that has haunted this entire series. Why is Gamache hated by his superiors? 

I can't discuss the storyline without giving away the story. However, I can discuss moments in this book, quiet passages that exemplify Louise Penny's beautiful writing. Every word is carefully chosen to move the story on, or to build a character's personality. Armand Gamache has always been a man who honors the victims. In this case, when visiting the victim's home, he picked up the book she had been reading. "He opened it to the bookmark and deliberately turned the page. He read the first sentence. Words...would never get to. As a man who loved books, a bookmark placed by the recently dead always left him sad." That's a quiet moment in a tense story, but a moment that shows the kind of man Armand Gamache is.

Time and again, Armand Gamache has investigated murders in Three Pines. "Do you know what I've learned after three decades of death? I've learned how precious life is." Three Pines has become a place of refuge, an escape, and it provides that refuge again. "Perhaps, like the snow, the tiny village had fallen from the sky to provide a soft landing for those who'd also fallen."

Over the course of nine books, Louise Penny has given readers gifts; gifts of the charming village of Three Pines filled with its unique characters, compelling mysteries involving Armand Gamache and his officers, intriguing stories of Québec told in beautiful, carefully chosen words. Now, she answers questions of "why" in a story that left me breathless with its power. How the Light Gets In is a triumphant story of light and hope. And, it's a story of one man's knowledge of where his passion and strength, his belief in "Service, Integrity, Justice" came from. Armand Gamache saw that truth in his dog, Henri. "He realized Henri already knew all he'd ever need. He knew he was loved. And he knew how to love."

Louise Penny's website is

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny. Minotaur. 2013. ISBN 9780312655471 (hardcover), 416p.

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


Janet C said...

It is an absolutely brilliant book. I'm rereading the entire series to follow the story arc all the way through.

Harvee said...

I've been eyeing this one. Enjoy the series.

Lesa said...

Janet, You're so right. And, someday, I'm going to have to do the same.

Lesa said...

Harvee, If you enjoy the series, you HAVE to read this one. Just have to.

Booklogged said...

What a beautiful review. I just finished reading this book and I'm in absolute awe of Louise's writing ability. Like you said, "There's no crack of weakness in any of Louise Penny's mysteries." And yet the light gets into her books like no others I've ever read. How does she do that?

Lesa said...

Isn't she amazing, Booklogged? Those are all wonderful books, but they continue to get better.