Friday, September 6, 2013


I've been waiting for Louise Penny's How the Light Gets In.

Of course, I'm not the Lone Ranger. Probably half the mystery story readers in the world have been waiting for this book.

In Penny's last Chief Inspector Armand Gamache book The Beautiful Mystery, most of Gamache's allies in the Surete abandon him. Even his most trusted ally, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, comes to hate him.

Jean-Guy is Gamache's son-in-law as well as his assistant.

The book ends bleakly with Gamache's superior Chief Superintendent Francoeur beginning to succeed in destroying Armand Gamache.

And in How the Light Gets In, the bleakness continues.

Jean-Guy is now divorced from Gamache's daughter Annie. He is hopelessly addicted. And, because Gamache still loves him, he is Gamache's weakest link.

Gamache and his assistant Inspector Isabelle Lacoste investigate the murder of Constance Pineault, the last of a group of world-famous quintuplets.

At the same time, Gamache and a small group of allies fight the encroaching evil of the corrupt police force, the Surete du Quebec.

As I read this book, I kept thinking of the title of the Ray Bradbury book, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

How the Light Gets In takes the old police procedural theme of superiors working against you to the level of evil. If it can't be stopped, the corruption of the Surete and the government will kill thousands.

Gamache fights the evil, not with anger or bitterness, but with the knowledge that at the cracks, the light gets in. (Penny quotes a powerful poem to that effect.)

This book is about how the light gets in, not about where or why. The light gets in through love.

At one point, Gamache thinks about his dog Henri, a dull animal. “But [Gamache] realized Henri already knew all he'd ever need,” Penny writes. “He knew he was loved. And he knew how to love.”

Gamache and his allies end up in Three Pines, the little village which recurs in these books. Three Pines is not on any printed map. Three Pines has no cell phone or Internet service. It is too deep in a valley and isolated.

Gamache and his crew fight from there.

And a real fight it is! You need to read the book to understand.

I have just a couple more things to say:

Penny is such a master of character.

Gamache has a surprising ally from the Surete, someone who before has appeared brilliant but incompetent (always unstable, maybe an enemy).

The crazy poet Ruth gives up her most important thing out of love.

And one of the victims turns out to be the greatest hero of the book. She died trying to expose the evil.

People compare this book to all kinds of classics. To me, this book is just Louise Penny, and that is enough. Her work is unique, incomparable. It stands alone. 


Whatever happens, Isabelle,” said Gamache, “you must trust yourself. Do you understand?” 


Three Pines might be stable but it was never still. 


This isn't inaction, this is simply a deep breath.”


pattinase (abbott) said...

THis really makes me want to read a second book my Penny.

Joe Barone said...

I think she is worth the reading.