How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny




Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #9

Kindle Edition, 416 pages

Published: August 27, 2013 by Minotaur Books

Setting: Québec

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Nominee (2013), Left Coast Crime Award for Calamari (2014)


Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is surrounded by his enemies, and there is speculation that he is on the verge of giving up. Most of his agents, carefully hand-picked and trained over the years,  have been transferred out of the department. His former second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, a young man he loves like a son, has turned against him. Only Agent Isabelle Lacoste remains at his side.

Gamache returns to Three Pines, where a friend of bookstore owner Myrna Landers has disappeared. Meanwhile he is surreptitiously investigating a larger case: a tangled web of crime and political corruption that has been gradually revealed  throughout this series. Various elements of the series, including the Arnot case, Gamache’s struggle with Sylvain Francoeur, the dam conspiracy, and the brutal showdown in the old factory, are interconnected and reach a climax in this book.

How The Light Gets In is different from other novels in this series. Although it retains the charm of the fictional village of Three Pines, it feels less like a cozy mystery and more like a thriller, with tightening suspense and a crime with broad implications. Thrillers are generally plot- rather than character-driven, but with characters who have been lovingly developed throughout nine books, and Penny’s compassionate and insightful treatment of them, both plot and character development are exceptionally strong. Strands of  the plot which have been revealed throughout the series create an impressively complex and multi-layered story. And Penny’s vivid descriptions of the village and the natural world help make the novel mesmerizing.

Louise Penny has said that the Armand Gamache series was inspired by these lines of poetry:

Goodness existed, that was the new knowledge … his terror had to blow itself quite out to let him see it. — W.H. Auden

Throughout this series, through her storytelling and her use of language and imagery, Penny has developed this theme of the interplay between light and darkness: cruelty and compassion, terror and courage, bitterness and hope.  How the Light Gets In is a satisfying culmination of these themes. We revisit old characters, including bitter, marginalized Agent Yvette Nichol, and many elements of the series play a role in the conclusion — even Ruth Zardo’s duck.

Louise Penny’s next Armand Gamache novel, The Long Way Home, will be released next month. Now that the main conflicts in this series have come to a head, I am eager to see what direction she will go next.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s