TITLE: A TRICK OF THE LIGHT
AUTHOR: LOUISE PENNY
Details: no. 7 Chief Inspector Armand Gamache
After years of painting and dreaming Clara Morrow at last has the one thing she never really believed she could achieve: a solo exhibition of her work in Montreal. And the show is a huge success. The happy atmosphere is short lived though. The morning after the party the body of a woman is found in Clara’s garden. The woman has been strangled and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team soon arrive to investigate. Initially nobody seems to know who the woman is. But once her identity is uncovered it becomes clear that she was in fact known to several people who had been at the party, including Clara and her husband Peter. The woman, Lillian Dyson, had spent years as an art critic destroying the emerging careers of young artists. And more than twenty years ago, one of those young artists had been Clara, for whom the betrayal had been enormous because Lillian had been her best friend when they were young, before Lillian turned selfish and vindictive. It soon emerges though that Clara wasn’t the only one at the party with reasons to resent the woman. A lot of quests had been hurt by her. So why was Lillian at the party and who among those present hated her enough to strangle her in Clara’s garden?
This will be an investigation with more than enough leads and suspects to keep our investigators busy. But Gamache and his second in command Jean Guy Beauvoir have a lot more on their minds. They are still recuperating after the events in the last book, and especially Beauvoir isn’t dealing with his memories and emotions very well. And the investigators are not the only ones with personal issues; quite a few inhabitants in Three Pines find themselves in emotional minefields.
Boy do I love these books by Louise Penny. Her writing is so beautiful and fluent that she paints pictures with her words. Her characters and the surroundings they live in are all described in such detail that they come alive.
These mysteries are fascinating and the plotting is sound. Penny always provides enough information for the reader to work the mystery out for themselves if they are playing close attention. She doesn’t rely on clever cliff-hanger endings to her chapters – although she doesn’t always share all information immediately – yet delivers a book that is a true page-turner. Be it the investigation or the interactions between characters in general, there is a constant urge to read on, find out more, to discover exactly what is going on and most of all, how it will end.
The author obviously loves her characters and through her descriptions shares that affection with her readers. This means that the story is as much about the relationships between the various characters as it is about the mystery that needs to be solved. Because Louise Penny sets most of her mysteries in Three Pines her readers have the opportunity to really get to know the people living there, their quirks, their thoughts, their feelings and their secrets. This familiarity means that I feel as if I’m visiting with old friends whenever I open the next book in this series. I find myself eager to discover what they are up to now, if things are still the same or have undergone subtle changes.
The mysteries in this series of books can all be read as stand-alones. However in order to really get a feel for the characters, the setting, the whole of the story you really need to read these book in order, from the start. Yes, the mysteries (in all but one of the books) are created, investigated and solved in the individual books. But the characters move from book to book, grow and change while non-mystery parts of the stories are carried over from one book to the next. And that is part of the magic with this series. With every book you get to know the characters and their lives better. Each new book brings back memories of previous titles because events and actions from earlier stories have a follow up in the sequels. I can only hope that Louise Penny will continue writing this series for a long time yet. I can’t quite imagine my reading life with out Armand Gamache and Three Pines anymore.