By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”

–Leonard Cohen

Louise Penny creates characters that are human: flawed, kind, selfish, loving, frightened, and sometimes, even evil. In her ninth Chief Inspector Gamache novel, How the Light Gets In, she allows these characters to interact in situations that will bring readers to both laughter and tears.

As Christmas in Quebec approaches, Chief Inspector Gamache must deal with the aftermath of events that occurred in The Beautiful Mystery.  He has lost his right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir….in fact, Chief Superintendent Francoeur has disbanded his entire team.  The new agents are lazy, disrespectful, and unwilling to assist in the most basic investigations.  Only Isabelle Lacoste remains from Gamache’s old team, attempting to fill too many empty shoes.  Gamache knows that he must not allow Francoeur to drive him to retirement. He knows that Francoeur is responsible for the “cancer” growing in the police department, the Sûreté; he also knows that something in their mutual past can shed light on all this evil.

And then a murder leads Gamache back to Three Pines, the magical village where many of Penny’s previous books take place.  Myrna, the owner of the bookstore in Three Pines, contacts Gamache about a missing friend.  Constance Pineault had left the village a few days earlier and was expected to return in time for Christmas.  Myrna reveals both Constance’s real identity and other information that transforms an otherwise simple missing person’s case into a murder investigation.

Gamache’s struggle with Francoeur and the investigation of Constance Pineault happen simultaneously, drawing readers deeply into the life and psyche of the Chief Inspector.  The familiar residents of Three Pines welcome Gamache back into their fold, giving him comfort and protection.  Ruth, the curmudgeonly poet,  is there to break through the strongest wall with obscenities and hidden kindness.  Gabri, Clara, Gilles and Olivier, with all their strengths and weaknesses, provide the support that Gamache no longer finds in Montreal.  As the investigation proceeds, readers will have the foreboding sense that a denouement will be reached on a number of fronts…and that things may end badly for even the best of people.

It is difficult to describe this book — rich in language and practically vibrating with its strong sense of place — without revealing too much of the plot.  More than a typical mystery, this novel’s depth of character development is so integral to the story that readers won’t be able to imagine the events playing out in any other way.  While Penny has written a book that can stand on its own, I strongly urge you to start with the very first Inspector Gamache book, Still Life.  You will have hours of satisfying reading ahead of you.

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