Review: How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyFormat read: print ARC provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache, #9
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Date Released: August 27, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” —Leonard Cohen

Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna’s reluctance to reveal her friend’s name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?

My Review:

Saved by the duck.

In the end, everyone is saved by the crazy poet Ruth Zardo, and her adopted duck, Rosa. And the reminder that we are all strongest in the broken places.

It all starts with one woman dead and one woman missing. Audrey Villeneuve commits suicide at the Champlain Bridge, and Myrna Landers’ friend Caroline Pineault fails to come to Three Pines for Christmas. In the usual way of things, Gamache passes by the recovery of Villeneuve’s body on his way to Three Pines to talk with Myrna.

Of course, nothing is as it seems with either case. And neither is the apparent destruction of Chief Inspector Gamache’s formerly impressive Homicide Division in the Sûreté du Québec. The only thing that is entirely too close to what it appears to be is the descent of Gamache’s former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, into addiction, depression and self-destruction.

Caroline Pineault is not merely missing, she is dead. Murdered. In the wake of her death, her true identity emerges. She was the last of the Ouillette Quintuplets, a Depression-era miracle and media creation. Gamache needs to know not just how she died, but why. It is who he is. It is what he does.

But while he seems to be investigating her strange but probably relatively normal murder, he is setting other wheels into motion. Wheels that have been grinding slowly but inexorably for more than 30 years.

Wheels that will either finally cleanse the corruption out of Gamache’s beloved Sûreté, or grind him and every single one of his friends and allies, into dust.

And blow the tiny town of Three Pines along with them.

Escape Rating A+: There are so many mysteries in How the Light Gets In. There’s the relatively simple one of “who killed Caroline Pineault?” even though that turns out to be nothing like it seemed at first, because she turned out to be someone different than she appeared to be.

And yes, every time I read “Ouilette Quints” I saw “Dionne Quintuplets”. I had to look them up after I finished. Similar but not the same. Still.

A Fatal Grace by Louise PennyThe big mystery is one that has been hanging over Gamache since A Fatal Grace. Not just who is after him, but why? What happened 30 years ago to corrupt Pierre Arnot? Who is really behind the rot? How deep does it go? What is it really about?

The revelations surprise even Gamache, but once he understands, the long dark journey finally makes sense.

And speaking of long dark journeys, after The Beautiful Mystery (see review for details), I did wonder if the series wasn’t Jean-Guy Beauvior’s journey, even though the series is named for Gamache. At the beginning of the series, Gamache already is who he is going to be. He does some soul searching after Bury Your Dead, but it doesn’t change his essential self.

still life by Louise pennyJean-Guy is the person who grows up and changes the most through the series. He has the most to learn at the beginning of Still Life, and his lessons are the most painful, but he does learn them. With a little help from Rosa.

And the incredible, marvelous, crazily fantastic people of the village of Three Pines. The village and its inhabitants are as great a creation as Gamache himself. I can’t wait to go back.

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