Saturday, September 3, 2011

The art of murder

A Trick of the Light, Louise Penny

One of my first posts, back in February, was about Louise Penny's Bury Your Dead - not just about that book, but how I had found her first book and then let it languish too long on the TBR pile.  Once I did read Still Life, I fell in love with the characters, especially Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the head of Homicide for the Sûreté de Québec, and with the small village of Three Pines, in the Eastern Townships, where many of the stories are set.

Earlier this year, I found Penny's blog, which I now follow (it's on the blog roll over on the right).  She posts about writing and editing and publicity, the world of publishing today  (I just read a more dated picture of this world in Elizabeth Peters' Naked Once More).  I've been to many book signings and heard authors talk about this world, about their own processes and experiences, but I've never followed an author before and watched how it all unfolds day by day.  At first I was concerned that this would affect reading the actual book.  I can't watch "the making of" features about TV shows or films that I like, because once I know how something is done, particularly special effects, it spoils my willing suspension of disbelief and takes me out of the story.

That wasn't a problem with A Trick of the Light, where I was quickly caught up in the story.  While Bury Your Dead was set largely in Québec City, this book takes us back to Three Pines, and to the familiar community.  This small village doesn't even appear on maps of the province, giving it something of a Brigadoon air, despite its high murder rate.  Unlike Susan Hill's Lafferton series, though, there is not one serial killer (let alone five). The crimes in Louise Penny's books are personal, rooted in people's relationships to each other, both past and present.

A Trick of the Light opens in Montréal, at the vernissage for Clara Morrow's solo show at the Musée d'Art Contemporain.  Clara is the center of life in Three Pines, as Armand Gamache is the center of his homicide team (and in some ways the moral center of the entire police force); the two balance the stories.  The show is a great success, and at long last Clara is winning recognition as the amazing artist that she is.  But then someone is murdered at the after-party, back in Three Pines, in the Morrows' garden.  The victim was a former art critic, and the suspects fellow artists and dealers, including Clara and her husband Peter, who has had greater success than Clara but with less talent.  This book shows us the world of contemporary art from the inside, and behind the scenes it is of course messy and ugly.

In the previous book, Bury Your Dead, Gamache and his team were recovering from a police action that left four officers dead and the survivors physically and emotionally wounded.  The recovery is by no means complete, particularly for Gamche's second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, who is also dealing with complications in his private life, including a divorce.

As usual, the solution of the case came as a surprise to me, but especially with Louise Penny's books I am reading more for the characters, their rich relationships, the wonderfully detailed setting, and the humor, which rises from the characters and their relationships.  She is currently on tour for A Trick of the Light, and she will be in Houston this next Tuesday.  I am so looking forward to meeting her, to thank her for her marvelous books.


  1. Oh, I'm jealous (but happy for you)that you've gotten to this already (and that you'll have a chance to meet her!) I have a little bit of a crush on Armand Gamache...

  2. Oh I have a literary crush on him too, Audrey! Reine-Marie is a lucky woman :) I hope you don't have to wait too long to read it.


Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!