Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Louise Penny Lets the Light In

After languishing all summer at the cloistered monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups with Chief Inspector Gamache, recovering addict Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and the undeniably evil Inspector Francoeur, I feared that Ms. Penny might have come to the end of her outstanding series about the Surete de Quebec. The Beautiful Mystery was overlong on solving the mystery of the bludgeoned monk yet ferociously dark in its treatment of the ongoing power struggle between Gamache and Francoeur. The latter, a man willing to destroy the fragile Beauvoir if it will take down his nemesis, Inspector Gamache once and for all.

It was with trepidation that I began listening - yes, you must listen to these books - to How the Light Gets In, although early reviews told me it would be one of Ms. Penny's finest yet. You see, I've fallen half in love with Armand and Jean-Guy, as well as the denizens of the village of Three Pines where most of the books' action takes place. I simply couldn't bear to see the author ruin the lives of these people I feel I've come to know and understand deeply.

So it is that Chief Inspector Gamache, when he needs a place to hunker down in order to draw the final curtain on the thirty years of diabolical misdeeds by a faction of Quebec's police department, finds himself renting a home in Three Pines, where he can set up a sophisticated computer network with the help of trusted friends, Supt. Therese Brunel and her husband Jerome, who happens to be a super-hacker. The technology involved in cyber-espionage - I can see why Snowden got caught up in it - is absolutely fascinating and had me on the edge of my seat as files were opened and downloaded under split second time constraints.

Ms. Penny has an awesome talent and has been rewarded over and over again for her work. Though I've read that her background is in journalism, not psychiatry, Louise Penny exhibits a remarkable acuity when it involves the human psyche. In Three Pines she has created a place where oddballs and misfits live in relative harmony, caring for each other and banding together when the outside threatens.

 Even her rendering of the inner workings of a dog's mind seem to be spot on. You'll understand how she brings Gamache's German shepherd Henri to life by reading more about her at her website. http://www.louisepenny.com/louise.htm

She is able to inhabit Jean-Guy's mind and depict the horror of destructive self-talk, paranoia, and the psychic pain that he's been fighting ever since his beloved Gamache made the fateful decision to leave him bleeding to death on a factory floor after the department was ambushed in a raid. Each man has been suffering from PTSD throughout the past few novels but now the true extent of the betrayal that's been perpetrated on them is finally coming into the light.

I'll say no more about the plot. You simply must read this book for the complexity of the character development and to appreciate the way the author has been building to this moment through all of her previous novels.  There are curmudgeons who wonder why readers are drawn to fiction, especially to murder mysteries. I say that it is within the pages of fiction that we learn more about human nature than practically anywhere else. Louise Penny is one of many great teachers.


TooManyBooks said...

Sally, you are spot on about listening to these books. I'm almost done with The Brutal Telling. It is just so well written and narrated. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Andrea said...

Sally, I just put this on hold. I am awestruck with her writing.