Monday, December 5, 2011

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny


Artist Clara Morrow, is a resident of Three Pines, Quebec. Clara's had more than her share of career heartbreak, but has finally made it. She's got a show at the Musee d'Art Contemporain in Montreal, and husband Peter has organized a party--catered, of course, by B & B owners Gabri and Olivier--back in Three Pines to celebrate. Everyone is invited, from fellow denizens of the village to high-flying figures in the Montreal art scene. The one person who was not invited is the dead one who turns up in Clara's garden the next morning.

It's bad enough that the body turns out to belong to art critic Lillian Dyson, known and feared for her cutting reviews which are filled with brutal turns of phrase such as "He's a natural, producing art like a bodily function." And it's even worse that Clara and Lillian had once been best friends, for many years, in fact, until a terrible falling-out in college. But worst of all, the falling-out was the result of a scathing, backstabbing review of Clara's own work by Lillian.

Add gentle, sweet Clara Morrow to the list of potential suspects.

It's in the nature of murder mysteries set in small, out-of-the-way villages that they suffer from a murder rate that is disproportionate to their size. Louise Penny is self-aware enough to have one of her characters gently tweak this convention in her latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel, A Trick of the Light.

 

Not for the first time Three Pines struck Myrna as the equivalent of the Humane Society. Taking in the wounded, the unwanted. The mad, the sore.

This was a shelter. Though, clearly, not a no-kill shelter.
Chief Inspector Gamache and his team, several of whom are conveniently in town for Clara's party, are once again drawn into an investigation in Three Pines. And, once again, Gamache will have to call upon his not insignificant powers of empathy, keen insight, and objectivity. Both Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir, his second in command, are suffering--in stoic silence--the effects of the raid gone terribly wrong a number of months earlier, in which both were injured and lost several comrades as well. This investigation will take the homicide detectives into the surprisingly sordid underbelly of the art world, as well as the world of recovering addicts.

Louise Penny has created a series which gets better with each successive novel. She adds depth to the characters and continues to mine the richness of the setting without yet coming up dry. And please, if you haven't read Louise Penny's work, don't let that small village filled with loveable, prickly, often oh-so-quirky characters fool you into thinking that the Three Pines mysteries are cute and cozy, for that they most assuredly are not.

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