The wonderful Canadian author Louise Penny is back with the next installment in her award winning series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, his team, and the villagers of Three Pines in A Trick of the Light.
This seventh novel starts with a dream-come-true moment for artist Clara Morrow–a solo show at Montreal’s famed Musee d’Art Contemporain. Penny launches us into the heart of Clara’s terror with the opening lines “Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow as she walked toward the closed doors.”
Despite her nerves, Clara’s show is a success, the culmination of a life’s work beside her husband, Peter, also an artist. Their celebration continues to a party that evening at their home in the tiny Quebec village of Three Pines, filled with the assortment of quirky and endearing character’s who readers of Penny’s work have come to love and admire.
But the tone quickly changes when a woman’s body is found the next morning in Clara’s garden, and the victim turns out to be a college friend of the Morrow’s and a former close friend to Clara. Who would want to murder Lillian Dyson? And why is she in the Morrow’s garden? The head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec is called in, and Inspect. Gamache brings his team and all of their troubles with him, as they are still healing from the physical and psychic wounds incurred in last year’s magnificent Bury Your Dead.
The art world is represented in Three Pines, from artists to gallery owners, and all quickly come under suspicion, as well as the Morrow’s themselves. Penny develops the theme of shadow and light that embraces all of her novels, as she explores the face we show the world and the one we keep to ourselves. Gamache’s investigation will uncover deep secrets, and truths that have been hidden which color the world when they are exposed to the light of day. There are consequences for all of the people involved, as Gamache finds a killer even as he struggles with the problems buried deeply within his team and himself.
I thought Bury Your Dead (which just won an Anthony and a Macavity after already winning an Agatha and a Dilys), with its three main story lines and dramatic turns, couldn’t be topped. I was wrong. The message here, that ‘trick of the light,’ will capture you. Penny’s description of the universal shading of truth and deception, along with the way each person seeing the same situation can have dramatically different points of view, are all compellingly illustrated. The ending of this book moved me deeply with its last visual scene.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Penny in person a few weeks ago in Maine, on the second day of her book promotion tour. A delightful storyteller, her wit and charm captivated the audience of over a hundred squeezed into the downstairs of Kennebooks bookstore, hanging on her every word.
After reading a brief passage from the new book, Penny described her pathway to becoming a novelist, including her childhood fears, long journalism career, and years of interviewing authors for the CBC. She answered questions readily and honestly, with a wise wit, often quoting from poets who inspire her. She also described the eighth book in the series, which readers will have to wait a year to read.
Any reader who had read Penny’s blog has a good sense of the person behind the novels: the importance of her husband, Michael, their dogs and their home; the small comforts we can identify with and share, from good food to good friends; her delight as the books have gained prominence and continue to win awards. Penny has the distinction of winning FOUR Agatha Awards in a row, a first for any mystery novelist.
Penny was gracious about her success and thanked her enthusiastic readers for helping to spread interest in the series. Her audience was left with a sense of meeting a “new” old friend, one her readers hope will continue to amaze and delight us in the future.