A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

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11226736

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7

Kindle Edition, 339 pages

Published: Minotaur, 2011 (1st published January 1, 2011)

Setting: Québec

Literary Awards: Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2012), Anthony Award for Best Novel (2012), Dilys Award Nominee (2012), Agatha Award Nominee for Best Novel (2011)

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After spending years in the shadow of her more successful husband, Peter, who is also a prolific painter, artist Clara Morrow has finally achieved the moment in the spotlight she has dreamed about all her life.

She is both euphoric and terrified on the day her solo show opens at the Musée in Montreal. Her paintings include brilliant portraits which capture many aspects of humanity, including bitterness, anguish, despair, and hope, and many painters and prominent art dealers have gathered for her debut. Unfortunately for Clara — but luckily for mystery fiction fans — the night ends with a corpse in the Morrows’ garden.

The victim is someone from Clara’s past, a woman who lives on the fringes of the art world. She may have arrived to make amends to Clara, just before she was brutally killed. But it appears that she had made many enemies along the way, and the case becomes increasingly complicated.

Meanwhile Clara faces painful truths about her long-standing relationship with Peter, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir battles demons and struggles with unrequited love, and the petty, competitive, cut-throat art world stirs up bitterness and drama. 

I categorize these books as cozy mysteries because of the lack of explicit violence and sex, echoes of Agatha Christie’s style, and village charm. There is a bit of profanity here and there; it’s made all the more gratifying because it’s laid on with a light hand. However, this series defies being tidily placed in a niche, and I think that accounts — in part — for its popularity with mystery lovers. There are traces of a police procedure mystery, characteristics of a more complex psychological novel, and elements of literary fiction. 

I also appreciate the myriad themes in these books, including jealousy, love, loneliness, guilt, grief, regret, and redemption. Like Clara’s portraits, Penny’s books illuminate many facets of human nature, both light and dark. A Trick of the Light, which explores addiction, recovery, loss, betrayal, resentment, and reconciliation, is a satisfying addition to this series.

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