Monday, September 02, 2013

Armand Gamache #9: HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, Louise Penny

Canadian author Louise Penny has pleaded with readers: Don't reveal too much about this book to others. A lot of threads are being woven, snipped, accentuated, resolved ... leave it to the next reader to discover all the complexity of this ninth in her amazing and compelling Chief Inspector Gamache mystery.

So here's a bit of Q&A instead:

1. Does the book take Gamache back to the Canadian Eastern Townships village of Three Pines, with its eccentric residents and its isolation from the rest of the world? Yes, absolutely -- although Gamache makes more trips back to the Sureté office than he's ever done before, revealing a new talent for rapidly driving himself to locations where he can follow up possible clues to what's rotten in his investigative organizaton.

2. Are there major roles for wild but insecure artist Clara Morrow and her husband Peter? One yes, one no. But Olivier and Gabri deliver both comfort and decisive action. And crazy poet Ruth Zardo abuses them all wonderfully with her acerbic tongue and her twisted sense of humor.

3. Is there a new set of characters that's important? Well, the non-Three-Pines investigation that leads off the story relates to the death of the last of a set of famous quintuplets -- yes, Penny had the Dionne quints in mind at first, but invented the rest (see her note at the end of the book) -- and Penny's portrayal of late-life Constance Pineault and her moment of self-discovery in Three Pines is poignant and memorable. I ended up wanting to visit Constance's grave (pinch, pinch -- these people are NOT real, hard to believe when they are portrayed with such nuance).

4. Do you need to read the other books by Penny before starting this one? For the first time ever, I'm answering YES. You don't actually have to read all eight of the preceding books, but at least start with The Brutal Telling (number 5) and work forward from there. Otherwise you won't appreciate the many forms of heroic choice taking place in the book.

5. (The question asked by all Louise Penny mystery addicts) Will there be more? Oh, you know this answer -- the author has repeatedly said she doesn't ever picture stopping the series! She has a great website and regular monthly newsletters (, well worth reading. Plus, I saw at least two major threads here that insist on another book. So, no matter what you think you're seeing for Gamache, have faith -- I am quite sure there are more to come, and knowing Penny's work pattern, I'm also sure she's working on the next. But I refuse to speculate on who will be doing what, where!

So clear a couple of days on the calendar, pick up a copy of HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, and satisfy your curiosity, as well as that very human hunger to see how "real" people work their way through terrifying problems and whether happiness can be retrieved after disasters.

Oh, the title? It's from a Leonard Cohen song, "Anthem." Read it all, here. You'll have a better idea of where Armand Gamache is going ... and why.

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