on 18 September 2013
I (and a lot of other readers and listeners) have been eagerly awaiting Louise Penny's latest mystery - How the Light Gets In.
This is the ninth entry in this absolutely brilliant series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.
Gamache is an unfailingly polite, soft spoken, caring, thoughtful , principled man. He is also dedicated - to his family, his friends and solving his cases. But he is reviled by his boss. The reasons for this have been alluded to from the beginning, increasing in intensity through each book, culminating in a cliff-hanger in book eight - The Beautiful Mystery. Penny has masterfully built this tension and animosity through each book. In How the Light Gets In, Penny finally gives us answers in a stunning finale, that mirrors real life.
Three Pines is the fictional small Quebec town that features prominently in Penny's books. The inhabitants of the town are rich and varied and have become as near and dear to my heart as Gamache himself. Their personal lives are as much a draw as the mystery in each book.
The crime portion of this book also takes inspiration from real life. The last surviving member of the Ouellet quintuplets is found murdered in her home after failing to arrive for a scheduled visit to Three Pines. Canadians of course will recognize the story of the Dionne quintuplets.
Although Penny provides enough background so that each book could be read as a stand alone, I encourage you to pick up the first book - Still Life. You'll fall in love with Gamache and the village of Three Pines - and be very glad that there are eight more (so far!) books to go. I cannot wait to see what's in store for book number ten.
I've actually chosen to listen to the last few books. Ralph Cosham is the reader and he completely embodies the mental image I had created for this wonderful character. The low, somewhat gravelly tone of Cosham's voice and his well modulated pace just draws you further into the story. His French accent and pronunciation is well done and believable. The voices he provides for other characters are just as well done. The cranky old poet Ruth is a favourite of mine. Actually, all the residents of Three Pines come alive with his interpretations, and make me wish I could visit to Three Pines and chat with them. At the end of the last disc, there was an unexpected bonus - an discussion between Cosham and Penny. It turns out that Ralph doesn't read the books before he narrates for the audio version. He prefers to discover the story as he reads. Can you imagine keeping all the voices straight and reading through without preparation? How the Light Gets In was an absolute joy to listen to. Highly, highly recommended.
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen
on 12 September 2013
I received my copy from Sphere through Nudge.
"Service, Integrity, Justice."
It is the motto of the Sûreté de Québec, although these days it seems to be forgotten by almost everybody working for this police force. Almost everybody only though, because for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache it is as true today as it was the day he started his career. But Gamache finds himself nearly alone these days. His hand-picked team has been dismantled around his ears by those higher up and replaced by officers determined to undermine all his efforts to provide a good service.
It is the weeks before Christmas when Gamache is asked to travel to the village of Three Pines to investigate the disappearance of woman. When the woman is found she is dead, murdered. But that isn't the only mystery surrounding her. This woman turns out to be not quite who she appeared to be. She is one of the most famous Canadians to have ever lived and now it is up to Gamache and his skeleton team to uncover not only the mystery surrounding her death but also the one that was her life.
But bigger and far more devastating forces are at work. Plots, devised decades ago are about to come to fruition, and although Gamache knows who some of his opponents are, he has no idea what there ultimate goal is and how high up the chain the corruption has risen.
By the time all mysteries are solved and all the secrets revealed it may well be too late for Gamache, the few people still loyal to him and the entire village of Three Pines.
I fell in love with Louise Penny's books over five years ago when I first discovered her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels and since then that affection has been growing deeper and deeper. This woman writes complex mysteries, populated with realistic and intriguing characters. She has given her readers the village of Three Pines. A village not to be found on any map; a place where modern technology doesn't work; a community that would appear fairy-tale-like if it wasn't for the people who live there. Kind and mean, honest and dishonest, likeable and disagreeable, happy and sad, secretive...; the people living in Three Pines are as multi-facetted as you and me. And, after nine books, they are as real to me as you and I are.
And then there is Armand Gamache. An honourable man who firmly believes that justice is an achievable goal. A police officer who hasn't become cynical, after decades of service, and still believes that given half a chance most people will choose to do the right thing. A man who would rather sacrifice himself than expose those he loves to danger. Gamache is a man who knows that "Service, Integrity and Justice" and above all love, are the forces that rule his life and his actions, even when all around him appear to have left those values far behind.
It is very hard to say anything beyond what I wrote above about this story without giving the plot away. What I can say though is that this book will provide answers to questions that have been lingering in these books ever since the very first one "Still Life" was published. This book will explain why Gamache is so hated by his superiors, despite - or maybe because of - the quality of his work and his deep rooted integrity. Questions that were asked books ago, only to be apparently forgotten, get their answers in this story in such a satisfying and conclusive way that part of me is afraid that this may be the last Gamache story. (Please let me be wrong.)
The strength of Louise Penny's writing lies in the beautiful way she uses her words. The prose is almost lyrical and paints a vivid picture of the surroundings and the people in these stories. Neither Penny nor her main character, Gamache, has need for dramatics. Penny doesn't need to go into graphic detail to show her reader the horrors people are capable of. It is the quiet way in which she tells her story, the love with which she infuses her words, the affection she has for her characters and her superb plotting that bring her readers an unforgettable reading experience. An experience I hope to be able to repeat many times in the future.
on 28 August 2013
Having waited eagerly for the next instalment of the Inspector Gamache series I downloaded this to my Kindle yesterday and have just finished it. The suspense is kept up throughout and finally there is a resolution of many of the storylines which have run through the last few novels. A very good read and shortly I will go back and read it again to appreciate all the nuances which I missed in reading very fast to get to the finale. I do think readers new to Inspector Gamache will need to go back a few books to appreciate this one fully. Louise Penny is a great mystery writer, literary and erudite as well as witty.
on 29 October 2014
I'd not come across this author or her characters before so I was pleased to be able to try something that was fresh for me. The first chapter grabbed me immediately. There seemed to be an old-fashioned or timeless feel to the characters and writing which is appealing. I found it a great antidote to the modernity of current cop thrillers, guns and chases. However I also found the plot ingenious and it was well worked. There are a number of cleverly woven story lines. For all the feel of something gentle both in the setting of Three Pines and the character of Gamache it still manages to create a high degree of tension.
On one level it certainly is a cop thriller type story however I found it vastly superior to a number of books that are marketed in that way. The thriller aspect is very good and well paced however even catching the series at this late stage I found wonderfully well rounded and interesting characters revealed to me. Their flaws and their qualities are nicely balanced and portrayed and I can easily understand some of the reviews of fans of the series. There is a sense of comfort, of meeting an old friend even for someone who has only just met these characters and Three Pines (which is a character itself). I found it a deeply satisfying read and it had that familiar feeling you get with all really good books as you approach the end - you are desperate to know how it will end but you don't want the story to finish. I've now bought some of the earlier books in the series and will look forward to getting to know some of the people better. For those who have not come across Louise Penny's work before I would highly recommend it however you may want to start a little earlier in the series than this. If you decide not to don't worry - you will want to read the earlier ones by the time you finish. For those who know the characters you don't really me to tell you just how good this story is - you will probably be buying it anyway and rightly so.
Disclosure - I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
on 17 September 2013
I thought this was one of her best but wondered if it was also the last as it would seem to have rounded off the series rather nicely. It was full of suspense and also you felt for the protagonists. I would recommend the reader to start on the early books first to get to know the characters as the nooks build up on each other.
on 7 January 2014
I ordered this from my bookseller to get my hands on it as soon as it was published here in the UK. He lost it. Disaster, so I bought the Kindle version from Amazon and had the delight of being able to start reading it within seconds. I came across Louise Penny in my library and read all the Gamache novels but out of order. While I know that you can read them as stand alone novels, the linking themes makes it more and more compelling to know how good and evil are resolved. I have reread the Kindle version but now, months later, finally have my hard back edition and reading it will be my new year treat. I think that Louise Penny scores highly in every aspect of thriller writing. Her characterisation is complex and consistently credible. Her plots are interesting and properly resolved and the human drive that creates each dilemma is thoughtful and truthful. I found How the Light gets In hugely satisfying. Two thoughts, I am delighted with her success in Canada and the US but I do not understand her low profile in review terms here in the UK. Second, reading her blog I see she has finished the first draft of her next novel and I have no idea what it is about and whether it is a new start or links in any way to the Gamache series. Thank goodness for her website! If you are wondering whether to order her books, I'd say do and I hope you thoroughly enjoy them.
First Sentence: Pandora was still pretty.
A suspected suicide is found at the base of the Champlain Bridge. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is still dealing with the forces at the highest level of the Sûreté du Québec set on destroying his career. He is without his college and friend Jean-Guy Beauvoir, yet determined to learn what is the motive. A trip to Three Pines is prompted when Gamache receives a call of Myrna, owner of the used bookstore. An acquaintance of hers had visited and was due back for Christmas but hadn't returned or been heard from. These three seemingly disparate threads come to be one of Gamache's most dangerous cases of his life.
It is not easy to describe the images that go through the mind of a phobic, yet Ms. Penny does and does it brilliantly. That is just the beginning of another book by this incomparable author. There are some who mistakenly classify Ms. Penny's books as "cozies." They are not. They are multi-layered character studies. Even though set in the seemingly idyllic town of Three Pines, her stories reinforce the fact that darkness can intrude anywhere.
Penny's characters are wonderful. They are not perfect people but ones which are very human, with strengths, weaknesses, faults, and enormous depths. Ruth is a literary treasure. Gamache is a man of integrity and principle; someone to be admired and exemplified yet with blind spots of his own. The town of Three Pines is a character onto itself. It may be imaginary, yet the town and its residents, are brought to life.
Her descriptions are evocative..."But this was the snow of her childhood. Joyful, playful, bright and clean. The more the merrier. It was a toy." At the same time, there is a sense of plaintiveness here as well..."Why do decent young men and women become bullies? Why do soldiers dream of being heroes but end up abusing prisoners and shooting civilians?...Because everyone else does...Corruption and brutality is modeled and expected and rewarded." That's only one example of Ms. Penny's voice and superb dialogue. She is one of those rare authors whose writing often compels you to read it aloud to others, both because of its excellence and its message. Why do I quote so much of her work? How could I even begin to express things as perfectly?
The multi-threaded plot has a complexity that gives real depth to the story. There were a couple instances where I thought I'd caught an inconsistency or wondered whether something could have been done another way, only to realize one should always trust Ms. Penny as her choices are the exact right ones. There are unexpected, powerful twists, but never done in a way that seems manipulative. At times, the protagonist is as surprised as the reader. There is tension, drama and tremendous suspense.
Ms. Penny, in an interview for the television series, made reference to..."these books are love letter to where I live, to the village I live in, to the people I live with..." I don't think she realized how much they would also become love letters to those of us who love her books.
"How the Light Gets In" is an excellent story of contrasts and the question of good overcoming evil; of light and darkness. This may be Ms. Penny's best book yet, although we're talking in minute comparisons of excellence from her previous books. However, this is not where a new reader should start the series. Although each book could stand on its own, the entire series should really be considered as a whole and begun at the first book.
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN (Pol Proc-CI Armand Gamache-Canada-Contemp) - Ex
Penny, Louise -
Minotaur Books, 2011
on 30 August 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best detective series, August 30, 2013
This review is from: How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Hardcover)
This is the ninth in Louise Penny's series of detective stories set mainly in the fictional village of Three Pines, Quebec and featuring Inspector Gamache, his colleagues of the Homicide Department and the colourful and eccentric villagers of Three Pines. These books could have just been another series of cosy mysteries set in a twee setting but they are much, much more. They are part gripping mystery, part morality tale (the conflict of good and evil figures large) and part psychological studies of deeply flawed human beings. Inspector Gamache is a figure of probity, compassion and authority with all too human doubts, a strong family background and a courage which allows him to face down both his enemies and his demons, though not without some epic struggles.
Although it adds to the richness of the Louise Penny experience to read this series in order, each book can be read as a stand-alone.
Superb characters, you really get to know them, even the ones that appear just at the edge of the scenes. And such an excellent twisty storyline. I won't elaborate on this, as it'll spoil the ending completely. It's a story that creeps up on you, right to the end where is gels together VERY nicely - it's quite an excellent finale, I loved it.
I had no idea this was part of a series, and this is what...the 9th book following Detective Inspector Gamache? Honestly, it was so well written you'd never have guessed. Any background you might need was all there as you found yourself wading deeper into the book. You could totally read this as a stand alone book without reading the others first.
Just one thing, be patient. It's a meaty book (my copy was over 530 pages long). It starts slowly, then stews for quite some time before it really gets going. Even with that in mind, I would recommend it and have no hesitation in giving this 4.5 out of 5.
(I couldn't click just the 4 stars up there, as that wouldn't do it justice.)
Penny has single-handedly reinvented the cosy village crime novel, giving it both a deep moral seriousness and an almost fairy-tale eccentricity. At the heart of the book is Armand Gamache, a truly good man who, without cynicism, believes in the good in people and does everything with complete integrity.
Surrounding him are his police colleagues and the eccentric inhabitants of Three Pines village. Moving between Quebec and the village, this is a complex story of death, corruption, secrets and lies.
Penny has a sure touch with her characters who spring to multidimensional life. In a lesser novelist's hands, the story could turn into slushy sentimentality but Penny avoids that, keeping it on the right side of that line, partly through her sly wit and partly through our deep affection for her characters.
I've dipped in and out of this series and this book may not be a good place to start: for fans and afficionados, though, it it draws some recurring plot lines to a satisfying conclusion.