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A Trick of the Light
Chief Inspector Gamache #6
Louise Penny

Minotaur Books
2011 / ISBN 9780312655457
Police Procedural / Canada / Contempoary

Reviewed by L J Roberts

First Sentence: Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow as she walked toward the closed doors.

Artist Clara Morrow s first major art show in Montreal was stressful enough, without finding a body in her garden in Three Pines the following morning. Although uninvited to the local after-party, the woman is one Clara and her husband, Peter, had both known. Inspector Armand Gamache and his second, Jean Guy Bouvier transition from being friends of this small community s residents, to being investigators looking for a killer.

Between books, one could wonder whether Ms. Penny is really as good as all the acclaim would indicate. No; she’s much better. Each book is a stunning testament to her skill and ability to both create a nuanced mystery while exposing that which makes us human; both our foibles and our capacity for hope. She has created the town of Three Pines; similar to Brigadoon as it doesn’t appear on any maps. Yet it has become fictionally real to the point it’s hard to believe it’s altogether fictitious. Penny s skill at description applies not only to physical settings, but to people s emotions, and is filled with subtly, intelligence and depth of understanding, as well as humor. It wasn’t enough that they were English and had a prayer stick, but now they’d lapsed into pig latin. It was no wonder there were so many murders here.

Penny s characters are real, complex and realistically layered. They got up his nose, to be sure. But they also got under his skin. One sees the impact of past events on Gamache and Beauvoir through each other’s eyes, rather than a third-party narrator and the balance of their personalities is so well done. Her characters are people you’d want to know; in some cases, they are people you’d like to be. She also has the ability to show realities in our own experience, albeit past or present and, possibility, help us avoid those things being in our futures.

Cliff-hangers are something I abhor. Yet again, Ms. Penny proves there can be exceptions to the rule as she does include such a one but, rather than with a sense of gimmickry, it is a thread, complete unto itself, providing a lead to a new, future plot.

The danger of reviewing Ms. Penny s writing is that one can tend to sound pandering. This is a series which should be read in order so as to become friends with the characters and immersed in the world of Three Pines. Yet I do feel a lack of words to do this book justice. A Trick of the Light is a sad, tragic, hopeful, beautiful book, rather similar to the art described therein one can either glide along the surface of a good detective story, or plunge into its depths and acknowledge the dark depths while believing that the characters will find the light.

Reviews of other titles in this series

A Rule Against Murder #4
A Trick of the Light
A Long Way Home #10

Reviewed 2011
© 2011