In light of the news that Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In has reached the #1 spot on The New York Times Bestseller list (for the week of September 15), this review is likely to come off as preaching to the choir. But in case there are a few folks out there who have not yet discovered the wonder that is the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, I shall continue.
Last year, Louise Penny ended The Beautiful Mystery with an emotional cliffhanger that has had readers worried about the long-term ramifications for Inspector Armand Gamache and his friends and colleagues. How the Light Gets In deals with these issues as well as bringing to close a storyline that began eight books ago in the first “Three Pines” mystery, Still Life.
To reveal much about this novel would spoil the experience for the reader. What I can tell you is that many of Penny’s characters are at crossroads in their lives as we enter this book. And I say enter deliberately here, as one does not so much as read a Louise Penny novel as inhabit it. These characters have become so real to longtime readers of the series that we can often be found discussing them as though they are real acquaintances. When they are happy, we rejoice and when they hurt, we ache for them, with them.
The mystery at the heart of How the Light Gets In concerns a missing persons case involving a friend of Myrna Landers. What Gamache doesn’t know at the beginning is that this missing woman, Constance Pineault, is also one of the most famous people in the world. So, how is it that she seems to have disappeared on her way to Three Pines?
As compelling as this mystery is, the heart of the story is the plot against Gamache and his Sûreté crew. This vindictive campaign has reached a full boil over the previous eight novels and there is the sense that it will end here, one way or another.
Nobody can write about the dichotomies in life like Louise Penny. Friendships that are splintered by betrayal, love that is seeded with mistrust, hate that stems from fear, and loyalty that is unconditionally steadfast are just a few of the huge concepts that are tackled in this novel (and series). But Penny does it with such deft precision that you just know she is revealing the human condition in all of its flawed splendor.
Reading a Louise Penny novel is, in short, something of a spiritual experience. There is a sense of being cleansed by the joy and pathos of Gamache’s journey. Based on the sales figures for How the Light Gets In, it is clear that readers are willing to kneel at the altar of her novels and find peace through her beautiful words, time and time again. Viva Gamache!
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.