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How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Hardcover – August 27, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Complex characterizations and sophisticated plotting distinguish Agatha-winner Penny's masterful ninth novel (after 2012's The Beautiful Mystery). The devastating conclusion to the previous book saw Jean-Guy Beauvoir abandon his mentor, Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Quebec Sûreté, and return to substance abuse. Things have never looked bleaker for the unassuming and empathic Gamache. A corrupt superior has gutted his homicide department, and the agents he now supervises treat their cases with blatant indifference. Amid all this personal and professional turmoil, Gamache lands a strange murder case. There's no obvious motive for why somebody killed elderly Constance Ouellet—the only living member of a set of quintuplets who were national celebrities in their youth—by striking her in the head with a lamp. Fair-play clues lead to a surprising solution to the murder, while Gamache's battle to save his career unfolds with subtlety and intelligence. Once again, Penny impressively balances personal courage and faith with heartbreaking choices and monstrous evil. First printing of 300,000; author tour. Agent: Patty Moosbrugger, Teresa Chris Literary Agency. (Aug.)
*Starred Review* When we last saw Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, he was solving the murder of a cloistered monk (The Beautiful Mystery, 2012). No problem there, but in the process, his relationship with his deputy, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, imploded, leaving Jean-Guy back on prescription drugs and in league with Gamache’s enemies within the police force. That situation has only worsened, as Gamache’s attempts to expose corruption and evil-doing at the highest levels of the force have prompted a vicious counterattack, leaving the chief inspector vulnerable professionally and personally. Into that cauldron comes a new murder case involving the death of the last surviving sister of quintuplets, whose birth and early life prompted a Canadian media frenzy in the mid-twentieth century. The dead woman has ties to a resident of Three Pines, the idyllic, off-the-grid village outside Montreal where several of Gamache’s previous adventures have been set. Penny does something very clever here, something that heightens the tension and the emotional intensity of the novel: she not only puts Gamache in harm’s way but also exposes Three Pines itself to defilement, forcing the reader to face the realization that a place too good for its time may cease to exist as we know it—a cozy setting under attack from a decidedly hard-boiled world. Penny has always used setting to support theme brilliantly, but here she outdoes herself, contrasting light and dark, innocence and experience, goodness and evil both in the emotional lives of her characters and in the way those characters leave their footprints on the landscape. Another bravura performance from an author who has reinvented the village mystery as profoundly as Dashiell Hammett transformed the detective novel. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Penny’s last novel received a 100,000-copy first printing. This one triples that, only one indication that, in Penny’s case, literary quality and commercial success are feeding one another. --Bill Ott
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But there is a mystery about Constance. She won't let Clara paint her portrait. It is almost as if she has a secret in her past. Perhaps a big one. Perhaps a secret someone would kill for.
"Who doesn't have a secret?" asks crazy Ruth. Secrets, and the revealing of them, is Inspector Gamache's focus in this book. It seems everyone has them. There's the mysterious death of a woman by a bridge he passed - why would a young woman jump over a bridge in a cold Canadian winter Gamache wonders.
Then there's the mystery regarding Gamache's cunning supervisor, Chief Superintendent Francoeur, who is decimating Gamache's homicide department and ordering Gamache's former assistant Jean-Guy Beauvoir on dangerous raids. Is Francoeur trying to drive Gamache and Beauvoir over the edge, or is something deeper and more sinister at play?
And what about the secrets in Constance's past? The sleepy little village of Three Pines is about to have a rude awakening. Even high tech visits it in Gamache's efforts shine the light on the secrets. This is one of the most intense investigations Gamache has lead as the secrets go deeper and deeper. Will the villagers act to protect Gamache and their village from the bad guys? Will the bad guys meet their match in Ruth?
A brilliant balance between modern, big city intrigue and bucolic, small village happenings, this mystery novel is an absorbing read. Grit meets charm. There are enough clues to ferret out some of the secrets with Gamache and his team, but some secrets will probably surprise you. Intricately plotted, this mystery is complex without being confusing. Ruth's duck has never been more entertaining. You may want to send your kids to their grandparents for an overnight and tell your partner it's a good time for them to take that fishing trip, because once you start reading, you won't want to stop.
This is my favorite mystery in this series by Louise Penny so far. It is deep, witty, surprising, original, sophisticated and even a bit cinematic. Louise Penny's writing is more riveting and nuanced with each book. As to whether you will want to read this series in order, Penny herself recommends that the books are probably more enjoyable if you do read them in order to follow the arc of the story. She says she wrote them to be standalone books, also. At the end of this book, you sense Gamache will be charting some new paths for himself in a promising future. This is definitely a page-turner, and one of my favorite mystery reads I have read.
If you wish to read this series from the beginning, the books in order are:
A FATAL GRACE / DEAD COLD
THE CRUELEST MONTH
A RULE AGAINST MURDER / THE MURDER STONE
THE BRUTAL TELLING
BURY YOUR DEAD
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT
THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
* If you go to Penny's author's site there's a link to her Facebook account which is fun to follow, as well as images of her desk and views from where she writes, and her musings and news along the way on her writing life.
The latest addition, How the Light Gets In, is a powerful, interesting mystery/suspense story that goes much deeper than any others I have read other than, perhaps, P.D. James. The characterizations that have built throughout the series are unmatched, I believe, in detail, connections and resolution.
I will not go into the plot, but I do feel it absolutely necessary that the reader take the time (and absolute pleasure!!) to read the series from Still Life through Beautiful Mystery (although this was my least favorite and absolutely broke my heart) before starting How the Light Gets In. Yes, you could read the current volume as a stand alone, but I believe you will only be able to get a 4 star experience rather than the 5 star you deserve (and Ms. Penny deserves)without the back stories, conflicts, betrayals, reunions and cliff hangers in which you will live.
For example: Without have read the previous volumes before How the Light Gets In - you won't fully understand the poignancy of:
(1) Jean-Guy, Ruth and Rosa on the bench as Ruth sends Rosa with JG
(2) Gabri holding the B & B open and providing Gamache with ham sandwiches and cocoa in the dead of night
(3) Clara's transparent portrait of her husband
Finally, I was thoroughly immersed in Three Pines and surrounds from the minute I started the book...the last 70 or so pages had my teeth chattering...Ms. Penny has created characters that I really, really care about. And she blew me away with some of the ah-ha moments. I don't want to ruin anything, so I will just vaguely say that I never saw the ending, no way, no how!
Thank you Ms. Penny...I saw somewhere that this was number 9 of 10 planned. I certainly hope to see more of Gamache, even if in a new life!
NOTE TO AMAZON TECH:
So, I was in the hospital Aug. 26-28 with pneumonia...picture if you will, midnight arrives...I can't go to sleep. I have been waiting over 6 months for the unveiling of How the Light Gets In....my Kindle is cranked up, the hospital Wi-Fi is grudgingly letting me in and I wait with bated breath (somewhat enhanced by the pneumonia I admit!) for the download of Ms. Penny's latest. Alas, I wait and wait and wait...the nursing aides take my temp, bring me meds and otherwise helpfully distract me. Finally, finally around 3:00am on Aug. 27 the download occurs. Why the delay Amazon? Must you hire extra elves to individually push the download button for each preordered ebook? Oh well...perhaps my grumpiness was enhanced by a lack of oxygen and sleep...and Ms. Penny's latest was well worth the wait.
With her deep knowledge of human hearts of all shades of grey, and her gift for parsing out information and character clues so that you are always hungry for more, perhaps it is too much to wish that she was also in command of her vocabulary and sentence structure. But I do devoutly wish it. And if she ever managed it, I feel she would be one of the best mystery writers of all time.