"There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in." (Leonard Cohen) Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna's reluctance to reveal her friend's name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo. As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines? And at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?
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There are so many glowing reviews of this book that I wasn't going to write one, but I just can't help it: I have to write it. I so LOVE this book and this series. I love Armand Gamache and his wife Reine Marie and their wonderful understanding relationship. I love the village of Three Pines and its wonderful, flawed, loving residents.
When you begin an Inspector Gamache novel, you are drawn into his world. And when the story moves to Three Pines, the village embraces you like a huge, loving, comforting hug from Myrna, bookseller extraordinaire.
To my mind, How the Light Gets In is one of the best of the Gamache series, and is a welcome return to Three Pines. While investigating the death of a character clearly based on the Dionne quintuplets, Gamache is also preparing, with the few allies he has left, for a decisive confrontation with his enemies in the Force. As a result, the reader gets a healthy dose of all that's wonderful about Three Pines and its denizens, along with a suspense which grows steadily and inexorably toward the confrontation. Many questions are answered and many puzzles are solved while Gamache maintains his courage and integrity.
Ralph Cosham's narration brings it all to sparkling life, with never the slightest waver or misstep. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between Penny and Cosham at the end of the recording.
I agree with previous reviewers that the Gamache books should be read in order, beginning with Still Life. While you might enjoy the story without the previous details, Louise Penny's characters are so like real people, who have grown, made mistakes, learned things, and hopefully improved as people, that you will miss the full emotional richness if you don't have all that background.
I realize that if you're considering this book, like myself, you've already read every other Gamache novel. And, like me, you're a solid Penny fan. So I KNOW I'm going to take heat for this review. I'll try to make it as quick as ripping a bandaid off.
Let's start off with this: You're going to read this book. You will. You'll do it because there are a lot of plots from previous books that get tied up here and you want to know what path Jean-Guy ultimately chooses, how Clara and Peter are getting on, and whatever happened to Agent Nicole.
And going into this book, you'll be expecting the same fantastic writing that we've always gotten in this series, peppered with poetry and humor.
You're not going to get it.
Well, yes, you'll get the plot closures. In many ways, this book feels like the last of the series. You'll even get poetry and humor, albeit the poetry isn't new, we've heard it before in previous books.
The issue with this book is that you'll have to actually forget MAJOR events in the series to make this one fit. For example, remember in The Cruelest Month when Agent Nicole was getting phone calls all throughout the investigation from a mysterious person who wanted to know everything she and Gamache were doing? And how, at one point, Jean Guy attempts to take the phone from her because he suspects she's spying on the Chief Inspector? It was a fairly important part of the plot, it defined Agent Nicole and gave you some insight into why she behaves as she does.
In the same book, do you remember when a certain agent uses the bistro's laptop to go online to research the drug ephedra? He then leaves the page up on the screen on purpose to tip off the community about the drug they're looking for...?
Of course you remember all of that! It was critical to the story!
Well Penny forgot about it.
Now, as she writes it, Three Pines is a complete "dead zone." You can't get on the internet to research ephedra, and you can't use your cell phone while spying on your boss. And it's always been this way. Those previous books were all in your imagination. Yes they were. Don't argue.
And while in previous works we've seen our Chief Inspector use his ability to read and understand the motivations of people to solve crime, in this book we get something entirely different. Gamache is going to put together a team of hackers to break into the archives of the Sûreté du Québec. No, really. Gamache is going cyber-stalking.
And look. You're listening to this as an audio book, right? So you might not be a programming genius, but you at least know how to download a file and put it on an ipod or smart phone, right? You are likely not baffled by the mysteries of downloading.
Unfortunately, Gamache's team of computer experts don't appear to understand this concept. Nor does it occur to them to copy/ paste a file that they're currently reading.
The entire hacking plot-line required more than a slight suspension in belief. I hate saying this, I really, really do. But it was kind of ridiculous. I found myself wishing that Penny had written more about what she knows (characters, community, art, and poetry) and had left off the computer stuff for other writers.
So is this Penny's best? Her most brilliant writing ever? Well, with all respect to the previous reviewers, I don't think so. While I've listened to her other books multiple times (Still Life is my favorite) - sometimes just for Ruth's poetry - this book clearly doesn't have the same draw the others had.