Review: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

A Trick of the Light by Louise PennyA Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Setting: Quebec, Canada

Source: Ebook, purchased

Publishing Date: 2011

352 pages

Synopsis: “Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”

But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow’s garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara’s solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they’ve found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.

My thoughts

This series is as much a study of humanity as it is a mystery series. A Trick of the Light takes place mostly in Three Pines–the little Quebec village near the Vermont border where most of these books take place. In this book Clara Morrow finally has her solo art show at the museum in Montreal. Afterward, the Morrows have a party at their home in Three Pines and the next morning a body is found in the garden. Gamache and his team search for the killer among the villagers and guests of the party. There are plenty of suspects available for Gamache and his team. The problem is sorting through them and trying to see the truth.

This series keeps getting better and better. I’ve read two books in the series so far in 2018–Bury Your Dead and A Trick of the Light. These two books are among my favorite books of the year so far. I recommend reading the books in order. Some things won’t make sense otherwise and the books build on each other depending on what has happened in earlier books. I’ve been slowly reading the series for the past two or three years and am so glad–and that I still have more books to read before I catch up.

Chiaroscuro

He trotted out a word, he’d heard someone use that evening, a word he’d never heard before and had no idea what it meant. He’d turned to the painting of the Three Graces, the elderly and joyous old women, and said–

“The only word that comes to mind is, of course, ‘chiaroscuro.'”

Not surprisingly, the artists looked at him as though he was mad.

Because of Clara’s art show and the party in Three Pines after the show for friends as well as the art crowd there is lots of art talk in this book. The word “chiaroscuro” is used several times in the book–sometimes humorously. I had to look up the word. It means “the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.”

Clara’s paintings seem very straightforward and simple at first, but a discerning eye can see so much more in her paintings. Her treatment of light and shade captivate some people, but leave others wondering what all the fuss is about. Is it all just “a trick of the light?” Ms. Penny does such a great job in this book slowly showing the secrets and motivations people hide and how hard it is to sift through secrets and motivations to figure out what is “a trick of the light” and what is really true.

Relationships

There are many undercurrents from events that happened in earlier books. The relationship between Gamache and his second in command Jean-Guy Beauvoir was damaged during a previous book and that damage shows up in this book. Beauvoir must work through issues toward a better, more realistic relationship. We also discover more about Beauvoir in this book. I have a feeling that’s going to cause problems in some future books!

Characters in this series are neither all good nor all bad. Reading about the villagers in Three Pines is always so interesting. They’re all unique and they all have flaws. Some of those flaws are huge. For example, Peter Morrow is jealous of Clara’s success. Clara has struggled for years to find success as an artist whereas Peter found his artistic success early. Now it appears Clara will be a bigger success than Peter.  He does try to fight his jealousy, but is sometimes unsuccessful. Sometimes he subtly tries to undermine her confidence as an artist and Clara doesn’t have much self-confidence in her abilities to begin with. She has always seemed oblivious to Peter’s jealousy though Gamache has certainly seen and understood Peter’s feelings. Peter and Clara have to figure out what their relationship is really all about in this book. And does their relationship have something to do with the murder?

I compulsively read this book and got to the end and thought–“Wow!”

My Rating: A

Awards

  • Anthony Award for Best Novel (2012)
  • Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2012)
  • Dilys Award Nominee (2012)
  • Agatha Award Nominee for Best Novel (2011)

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!