A TRICK OF THE LIGHT by Louise Penny

Book Quote:

“The Chief believed if you sift through evil, at the very bottom you’ll find good. He believed that evil has its limits. Beauvoir didn’t. He believed that if you sift through good, you’ll find evil. Without borders, without brakes, without limit.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  SEP 02, 2011)

Three Pines is a village near Montréal that is so small it does not appear on any map. For its size, this town has had an inordinate number of murders; solving them is the job of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté de Quebec and his team of detectives. This time, the victim is a woman, Lillian Dyson, whose art criticism years ago was so caustic that she was responsible for putting an end to budding careers. Louise Penny’s A Trick of the Light is all about artists—their insecurities, craving for recognition, pettiness, resentment, and jealousy.

Two artists, Clara Morrow and her husband, Peter, live in Three Pines, and Peter has been moderately successful. However, it is Clara who is having a private solo exhibition, a vernissage, at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montréal. For years she toiled in relative obscurity, receiving nothing but “silence from a baffled and even bemused art world.” Now that Clara has come into her own, Peter has mixed feelings about his wife’s long overdue fame.

This novel deals with relationships and emotions. Gamache is still barely on speaking terms with Olivier Brulé, who bears a grudge against him. Moreover, Gamache still has nightmares about a bloody raid he conducted that went terribly wrong, nearly taking his life and that of his second-in-command, Jean Guy Beauvior. Jean Guy is a wreck, who relies on pain pills to get through the day and is planning to end his miserable marriage (“all the petty sordid squabbles, the tiny slights, the scarring and scabbing”).

Louise Penny understands what makes people tick. She knows that they often show one face to their family, friends, and neighbors, while they bury their true feelings under a façade of amiability. A Trick of the Light exposes the soul-destroying anger, the disappointments, and the bitter rancor that can eat a person up from within. She specifically examines the mind-set of alcoholics, who are capable of doing extensive damage before they are ready to admit that they desperately need help.

As a murder mystery, this is a fairly routine effort. There is little suspense (the list of people who had motive, means, and opportunity to kill Lillian is not particularly large) and most readers will not be shocked when Gamache unmasks the culprit. Penny is a stand-out for other reasons: her eloquent use of language, analysis of people’s psychological foibles, and her beautiful and sometimes humorous description of life in a place so tiny that everyone is intimately acquainted with everyone else. Ruth, an old drunk who insults people with wild abandon, Olivier and his beloved partner, Gabri, and Armand’s lovely wife, Reine-Marie, are all on hand, along with an assortment of art dealers, gallery owners, associates of the homicide victim, and the detectives who are under Gamache’s command. Penny explores what makes art memorable and also what it is like to struggle creatively. This alone makes A Trick of the Light both fascinating and, at times, poetic.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 287 readers
PUBLISHER: Minotaur Books (August 30, 2011)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
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September 2, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Canada, Character Driven, Reading Guide, Sleuths Series, y Award Winning Author

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