A New York Times Notable Crime Book and Favorite Cozy for 2011
A Publishers Weekly Best Mystery/Thriller books for 2011
"Penny has been compared to Agatha Christie [but] it sells her short. Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and human psychology too firm...." Booklist (starred review)
"Hearts are broken," Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. "Sweet relationships are dead."
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.
About the Author
LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (six times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.
Read an Excerpt
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT (Chapter 1)
Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow as she walked toward the closed doors.
She could see shadows, shapes, like wraiths moving back and forth, back and forth across the frosted glass. Appearing and disappearing. Distorted, but still human.
Still the dead one lay moaning.
The words had been going through her head all day, appearing and disappearing. A poem, half remembered. Words floating to the surface, then going under. The body of the poem beyond her grasp.
What was the rest of it?
It seemed important.
Oh, no no no.
The blurred figures at the far end of the long corridor seemed almost liquid, or smoke. There, but insubstantial. Fleeting. Fleeing.
As she wished she could.
This was it. The end of the journey. Not just that day’s journey as she and her husband, Peter, had driven from their little Québec village into the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montréal, a place they knew well. Intimately. How often had they come to the MAC to marvel at some new exhibition? To support a friend, a fellow artist? Or to just sit quietly in the middle of the sleek gallery, in the middle of a weekday, when the rest of the city was at work?
Art was their work. But it was more than that. It had to be. Otherwise, why put up with all those years of solitude? Of failure? Of silence from a baffled and even bemused art world?
She and Peter had worked away, every day, in their small studios in their small village, leading their tiny lives. Happy. But still yearning for more.
Clara took a few more steps down the long, long, white marble hallway.
This was the “more.” Through those doors. Finally. The end point of everything she’d worked toward, walked toward, all her life.
Her first dream as a child, her last dream that morning, almost fifty years later, was at the far end of the hard white hallway.
They’d both expected Peter would be the first through those doors. He was by far the more successful artist, with his exquisite studies of life in close-up. So detailed, and so close that a piece of the natural world appeared distorted and abstract. Unrecognizable. Peter took what was natural and made it appear unnatural.
People ate it up. Thank God. It kept food on the table and the wolves, while constantly circling their little home in Three Pines, were kept from the door. Thanks to Peter and his art.
Clara glanced at him walking slightly ahead of her, a smile on his handsome face. She knew most people, on first meeting them, never took her for his wife. Instead they assumed some slim executive with a white wine in her elegant hand was his mate. An example of natural selection. Of like moving to like.
The distinguished artist with the head of graying hair and noble features could not possibly have chosen the woman with the beer in her boxing glove hands. And the pâté in her frizzy hair. And the studio full of sculptures made out of old tractor parts and paintings of cabbages with wings.
No. Peter Morrow could not have chosen her. That would have been unnatural.
And yet he had.
And she had chosen him.
Clara would have smiled had she not been fairly certain she was about to throw up.
Oh, no no no, she thought again as she watched Peter march purposefully toward the closed door and the art wraiths waiting to pass judgment. On her.
Clara’s hands grew cold and numb as she moved slowly forward, propelled by an undeniable force, a rude mix of excitement and terror. She wanted to rush toward the doors, yank them open and yell, “Here I am!”
But mostly she wanted to turn and flee, to hide.
To stumble back down the long, long, light-filled, art-filled, marble-filled hallway. To admit she’d made a mistake. Given the wrong answer when asked if she’d like a solo show. At the Musée. When asked if she’d like all her dreams to come true.
She’d given the wrong answer. She’d said yes. And this is where it led.
Someone had lied. Or hadn’t told the whole truth. In her dream, her only dream, played over and over since childhood, she had a solo show at the Musée d’Art Contemporain. She walked down this corridor. Composed and collected. Beautiful and slim. Witty and popular.
Into the waiting arms of an adoring world.
There was no terror. No nausea. No creatures glimpsed through the frosted glass, waiting to devour her. Dissect her. Diminish her, and her creations.
Someone had lied. Had not told her something else might be waiting.
Oh, no no no, thought Clara. Still the dead one lay moaning.
What was the rest of the poem? Why did it elude her?
Now, within feet of the end of her journey all she wanted to do was run away home to Three Pines. To open the wooden gate. To race up the path lined with apple trees in spring bloom. To slam their front door shut behind her. To lean against it. To lock it. To press her body against it, and keep the world out.
Now, too late, she knew who’d lied to her.
Clara’s heart threw itself against her ribs, like something caged and terrified and desperate to escape. She realized she was holding her breath and wondered for how long. To make up for it she started breathing rapidly.
Peter was talking but his voice was muffled, far away. Drowned out by the shrieking in her head, and the pounding in her chest.
And the noise building behind the doors. As they got closer.
“This’s going to be fun,” said Peter, with a reassuring smile.
Clara opened her hand and dropped her purse. It fell with a plop to the floor, since it was all but empty, containing simply a breath mint and the tiny paint brush from the first paint-by-number set her grandmother had given her.
Clara dropped to her knees, pretending to gather up invisible items and stuff them into her clutch. She lowered her head, trying to catch her breath, and wondered if she was about to pass out.
“Deep breath in,” she heard. “Deep breath out.”
Clara stared from the purse on the gleaming marble floor to the man crouched across from her.
It wasn’t Peter.
Instead, she saw her friend and neighbor from Three Pines, Olivier Brulé. He was kneeling beside her, watching, his kind eyes life preservers thrown to a drowning woman. She held them.
“Deep breath in,” he whispered. His voice was calm. This was their own private crisis. Their own private rescue.
She took a deep breath in.
“I don’t think I can do it.” Clara leaned forward, feeling faint. She could feel the walls closing in, and see Peter’s polished black leather shoes on the floor ahead. Where he’d finally stopped. Not missing her right away. Not noticing his wife was kneeling on the floor.
“I know,” whispered Olivier. “But I also know you. Whether it’s on your knees or on your feet, you’re going through that door.” He nodded toward the end of the hall, his eyes never leaving hers. “It might as well be on your feet.”
“But it’s not too late.” Clara searched his face. Seeing his silky blond hair, and the lines only visible very close up. More lines than a thirty-eight-year-old man should have. “I could leave. Go back home.”
Olivier’s kindly face disappeared and she saw again her garden, as she’d seen it that morning, the mist not yet burned off. The dew heavy under her rubber boots. The early roses and late peonies damp and fragrant. She’d sat on the wooden bench in their backyard, with her morning coffee, and she’d thought about the day ahead.
Not once had she imagined herself collapsed on the floor. In terror. Longing to leave. To go back to the garden.
But Olivier was right. She wouldn’t return. Not yet.
Oh, no no no. She’d have to go through those doors. They were the only way home now.
“Deep breath out,” Olivier whispered, with a smile.
Clara laughed, and exhaled. “You’d make a good midwife.”
“What’re you two doing down there?” Gabri asked as he watched Clara and his partner. “I know what Olivier usually does in that position and I hope that isn’t it.” He turned to Peter. “Though that might explain the laughter.”
“Ready?” Olivier handed Clara her purse and they got to their feet.
Gabri, never far from Olivier’s side, gave Clara a bear hug. “You OK?” He examined her closely. He was big, though Gabri preferred to call himself “burly,” his face unscored by the worry lines of his partner.
“I’m fine,” said Clara.
“Fucked up, insecure, neurotic and egotistical?” asked Gabri.
“Great. So’m I. And so’s everyone through there.” Gabri gestured toward the door. “What they aren’t is the fabulous artist with the solo show. So you’re both fine and famous.”
“Coming?” asked Peter, waving toward Clara and smiling.
She hesitated, then taking Peter’s hand, they walked together down the corridor, the sharp echoes of their feet not quite masking the merriment on the other side.
They’re laughing, thought Clara. They’re laughing at my art.
And in that instant the body of the poem surfaced. The rest of it was revealed.
Oh, no no no, thought Clara. Still the dead one lay moaning.
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
* * *
From far off Armand Gamache could hear the sound of children playing. He knew where it was coming from. The park across the way, though he couldn’t see the children through the maple trees in late spring leaf. He sometimes liked to sit there and pretend the shouts and laughter came from his young grandchildren, Florence and Zora. He imagined his son Daniel and Roslyn were in the park, watching their children. And that soon they’d walk hand in hand across the quiet street in the very center of the great city, for dinner. Or he and Reine-Marie would join them. And play catch, or conkers.
He liked to pretend they weren’t thousands of kilometers away in Paris.
But mostly he just listened to the shouts and shrieks and laughter of neighborhood children. And smiled. And relaxed.
Gamache reached for his beer and lowered the L’Observateur magazine to his knee. His wife, Reine-Marie, sat across from him on their balcony. She too had a cold beer on this unexpectedly warm day in mid-June. But her copy of La Presse was folded on the table and she stared into the distance.
“What’re you thinking about?” he asked.
“My mind was just wandering.”
He was silent for a moment, watching her. Her hair was quite gray now, but then, so was his. She’d dyed it auburn for many years but just recently had stopped doing that. He was glad. Like him, she was in her mid-fifties. And this was what a couple of that age looked like. If they were lucky.
Not like models. No one would mistake them for that. Armand Gamache wasn’t heavy, but solidly built. If a stranger visited this home he might think Monsieur Gamache a quiet academic, a professor of history or literature perhaps at the Université de Montréal.
But that too would be a mistake.
Books were everywhere in their large apartment. Histories, biographies, novels, studies on Québec antiques, poetry. Placed in orderly bookcases. Just about every table had at least one book on it, and often several magazines. And the weekend newspapers were scattered on the coffee table in the living room, in front of the fireplace. If a visitor was the observant type, and made it further into the apartment to Gamache’s study, he might see the story the books in there told.
And he’d soon realize this was not the home of some retiring professor of French literature. The shelves were packed with case histories, with books on medicine and forensics, with tomes on Napoleonic and common law, fingerprinting, genetic coding, wounds and weapons.
Murder. Armand Gamache’s study was filled with it.
But still, even among the death, space was made for books on philosophy and poetry.
Watching Reine-Marie as they sat on the balcony, Gamache was once again struck by the certainty he’d married above himself. Not socially. Not academically. But he could never shake the suspicion he had gotten very, very lucky.
Armand Gamache knew he’d had a great deal of luck in his life, but none more than having loved the same woman for thirty-five years. Unless it was the extraordinary stroke of luck that she should also love him.
Now she turned her blue eyes on him. “Actually, I was thinking about Clara’s vernissage.”
“We should be going soon.”
“True.” He looked at his watch. It was five past five. The party to launch Clara Morrow’s solo show started at the Musée at five and would end at seven. “As soon as David arrives.”
Their son-in-law was half an hour late and Gamache glanced inside their apartment. He could just barely make out his daughter Annie sitting in the living room reading, and across from her was his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir. Kneading Henri’s remarkable ears. The Gamaches’ German shepherd could stay like that all day, a goofy grin on his young face.
Jean Guy and Annie were ignoring each other. Gamache smiled slightly. At least they weren’t hurling insults, or worse, across the room.
“Would you like to leave?” Armand offered. “We could call David on his cell and ask him to just meet us there.”
“Why don’t we give him another couple of minutes.”
Gamache nodded and picked up the magazine, then he lowered it slowly.
“Is there something else?”
Reine-Marie hesitated then smiled. “I was just wondering how you’re feeling about going to the vernissage. And wondering if you’re stalling.”
Armand raised his brow in surprise.
* * *
Jean Guy Beauvoir rubbed Henri’s ears and stared at the young woman across from him. He’d known her for fifteen years, since he was a rookie on homicide and she was a teenager. Awkward, gawky, bossy.
He didn’t like kids. Certainly didn’t like smart-ass teenagers. But he’d tried to like Annie Gamache, if only because she was the boss’s daughter.
He’d tried and he’d tried and he’d tried. And finally—
And now he was nearing forty and she was nearing thirty. A lawyer. Married. Still awkward and gawky and bossy. But he’d tried so hard to like her he’d finally seen beyond that. He’d seen her laugh with real gaiety, seen her listen to very boring people as though they were riveting. She looked as though she was genuinely glad to see them. As though they were important. He’d seen her dance, arms flailing and head tilted back. Eyes shining.
And he’d felt her hand in his. Only once.
In the hospital. He’d come back up from very far away. Fought through the pain and the dark to that foreign but gentle touch. He knew it didn’t belong to his wife, Enid. That bird-like grip he would not have come back for.
But this hand was large, and certain, and warm. And it invited him back.
He’d opened his eyes to see Annie Gamache staring at him with such concern. Why would she be there, he’d wondered. And then he knew why.
Because she had nowhere else to be. No other hospital bed to sit beside.
Because her father was dead. Killed by a gunman in the abandoned factory. Beauvoir had seen it happen. Seen Gamache hit. Seen him lifted off his feet and fall to the concrete floor.
And lie still.
And now Annie Gamache was holding his hand in the hospital, because the hand she really wanted to be holding was gone.
Jean Guy Beauvoir had pried his eyes open and seen Annie Gamache looking so sad. And his heart broke. Then he saw something else.
No one had ever looked at him that way. With unconcealed and unbound joy.
Annie had looked at him like that, when he’d opened his eyes.
He’d tried to speak but couldn’t. But she’d rightly guessed what he was trying to say.
She’d leaned in and whispered into his ear, and he could smell her fragrance. It was slightly citrony. Clean and fresh. Not Enid’s clinging, full-bodied perfume. Annie smelled like a lemon grove in summer.
He’d embarrassed himself then. There were many humiliations waiting for him in the hospital. From bedpans and diapers to sponge baths. But none was more personal, more intimate, more of a betrayal than what his broken body did then.
And Annie saw. And Annie never mentioned it from that day to this.
To Henri’s bafflement, Jean Guy stopped rubbing the dog’s ears and placed one hand on the other, in a gesture that had become habitual now.
That was how it had felt. Annie’s hand on his.
This was all he’d ever have of her. His boss’s married daughter.
“Your husband’s late,” said Jean Guy, and could hear the accusation. The shove.
Very, very slowly Annie lowered her newspaper. And glared at him.
“What’s your point?”
What was his point?
“We’re going to be late because of him.”
“Then go. I don’t care.”
He’d loaded the gun, pointed it at his head, and begged Annie to pull the trigger. And now he felt the words strike. Cut. Travel deep and explode.
I don’t care.
It was almost comforting, he realized. The pain. Perhaps if he forced her to hurt him enough he’d stop feeling anything.
“Listen,” she said, leaning forward, her voice softening a bit. “I’m sorry about you and Enid. Your separation.”
“Yeah, well, it happens. As a lawyer you should know that.”
She looked at him with searching eyes, like her father’s. Then she nodded.
“It happens.” She grew quiet, still. “Especially after what you’ve been through, I guess. It makes you think about your life. Would you like to talk about it?”
Talk about Enid with Annie? All the petty sordid squabbles, the tiny slights, the scarring and scabbing. The thought revolted him and he must have shown it. Annie pulled back and reddened as though he’d slapped her.
“Forget I said anything,” she snapped and lifted the paper to her face.
He searched for something to say, some small bridge, a jetty back to her. The minutes stretched by, elongating.
“The vernissage,” Beauvoir finally blurted out. It was the first thing that popped into his hollow head, like the Magic Eight Ball, that when it stopped being shaken produced a single word. “Vernissage,” in this case.
The newspaper lowered and Annie’s stone face appeared.
“The people from Three Pines will be there, you know.”
Still her face was expressionless.
“That village, in the Eastern Townships,” he waved vaguely out the window. “South of Montréal.”
“I know where the townships are,” she said.
“The show’s for Clara Morrow, but they’ll all be there I’m sure.”
She raised the newspaper again. The Canadian dollar was strong, he read from across the room. Winter potholes still unfixed, he read. An investigation into government corruption, he read.
“One of them hates your father.”
The newspaper slowly dropped. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” he realized by her expression he might have gone too far, “not enough to harm him or anything.”
“Dad’s talked about Three Pines and the people, but he never mentioned this.”
Now she was upset and he wished he hadn’t said anything, but it at least did the trick. She was talking to him again. Her father was the bridge.
Annie dropped her paper onto the table and glanced beyond Beauvoir to her parents talking quietly on the balcony.
She suddenly looked like that teenager he’d first met. She was never going to be the most beautiful woman in the room. That much was obvious even then. Annie was not fine-boned or delicate. She was more athletic than graceful. She cared about clothes, but she also cared about comfort.
Opinionated, strong-willed, strong physically. He could beat her at arm-wrestling, he knew because they’d done it several times, but he actually had to try.
With Enid he would never consider trying. And she would never offer.
Annie Gamache had not only offered, but had fully expected to win.
Then had laughed when she hadn’t.
Where other women, including Enid, were lovely, Annie Gamache was alive.
Late, too late, Jean Guy Beauvoir had come to appreciate how very important it was, how very attractive it was, how very rare it was, to be fully alive.
Annie looked back at Beauvoir. “Why would one of them hate Dad?”
Beauvoir lowered his voice. “OK, look. This’s what happened.”
Annie leaned forward. They were a couple of feet apart and Beauvoir could just smell her scent. It was all he could do not to take her hands in his.
“There was a murder in Clara’s village, Three Pines—”
“Yes, Dad has mentioned that. Seems like a cottage industry there.”
Despite himself, Beauvoir laughed. “There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Annie’s look of astonishment made Beauvoir laugh again.
“Let me guess,” she said. “You didn’t make that up.”
Beauvoir smiled and nodded. “Some German guy said it. And then your father said it.”
“A few times?”
“Often enough that I wake up screaming it in the middle of the night.”
Annie smiled. “I know. I was the only kid in school who quoted Leigh Hunt.” Her voice changed slightly as she remembered, “But most he loved a happy human face.”
* * *
Gamache smiled as he heard the laughter from the living room.
He cocked his head in their direction. “Are they finally making peace, do you think?”
“Either that or it’s a sign of the apocalypse,” said Reine-Marie. “If four horsemen gallop out of the park you’re on your own, monsieur.”
“It’s good to hear him laugh,” said Gamache.
Since his separation from Enid, Jean Guy had seemed distant. Aloof. He’d never been exactly exuberant but Beauvoir was quieter than ever these days, as though his walls had grown and thickened. And his narrow drawbridge had been raised.
Armand Gamache knew no good ever came from putting up walls. What people mistook for safety was in fact captivity. And few things thrived in captivity.
“It’ll take time,” said Reine-Marie.
“Avec le temps,” agreed Armand. But privately he wondered. He knew time could heal. But it could also do more damage. A forest fire, spread over time, would consume everything.
Gamache, with one last look at the two younger people, continued his conversation with Reine-Marie.
“Do you really think I don’t want to go to the vernissage?” he asked.
She considered for a moment. “I’m not sure. Let’s just say you don’t seem in a hurry to get there.”
Gamache nodded and thought for a moment. “I know everyone will be there. I suppose it might be awkward.”
“You arrested one of them for a murder he didn’t commit,” said Reine-Marie. It wasn’t an accusation. In fact, it was said quietly and gently. Trying to tease the truth of her husband’s feelings from him. Feelings he himself might not even be aware he had.
“And you consider that a social faux pas?” he asked with a smile.
“More than just a social faux pas, I’d say,” she laughed, relieved to see the genuine humor in his face. A face now clean-shaven. No more moustache. No more graying beard. Just Armand. He looked at her with his deep brown eyes. And as she held them she could almost forget the scar above his left temple.
After a moment his smile faded and he nodded again, taking a deep breath.
“It was a terrible thing to do to someone,” he said.
“You didn’t do it on purpose, Armand.”
“True, but his time in prison wasn’t more pleasant because of that.” Gamache thought for a moment, looking from the gentle face of his wife out into the trees of the park. A natural setting. He so yearned for that, since his days were filled with hunting the unnatural. Killers. People who took the lives of others. Often in gruesome and dreadful ways. Armand Gamache was the head of homicide for the famed Sûreté du Québec. He was very good at his job.
But he wasn’t perfect.
He’d arrested Olivier Brulé for a murder he didn’t commit.
* * *
“So what happened?” Annie asked.
“Well, you know most of it, don’t you? It was in all the papers.”
“Of course I read the reports, and talked to Dad about it. But he never mentioned that someone involved might still hate him.”
“Well, as you know, it was almost a year ago,” said Jean Guy. “A man was found dead in the bistro in Three Pines. We investigated and the evidence seemed overwhelming. We found fingerprints, the murder weapon, stuff stolen from the dead man’s cabin in the woods. All of it hidden in the bistro. We arrested Olivier. He was tried and convicted.”
“Did you think he’d done it?”
Beauvoir nodded. “I was sure of it. It wasn’t just your father.”
“So how come you changed your mind? Did someone else confess?”
“No. You remember a few months ago, after that raid on the factory? When your father was recovering in Quebec City?”
“Well, he began to have his doubts, so he asked me to go back to Three Pines to investigate.”
“And you did.”
Jean Guy nodded. Of course he’d gone back. He’d do anything the Chief Inspector asked of him. Though he himself had no such doubts. He believed the right man was in prison. But he’d investigated, and discovered something that had truly shocked him.
The real murderer. And the real reason for the killing.
* * *
“But you’ve been back to Three Pines since you arrested Olivier,” said Reine-Marie. “This won’t be the first time you’ll have seen them.”
She too had visited Three Pines and become friends with Clara and Peter and the others, though she hadn’t seen them in quite a while. Not since all this had happened.
“That’s true,” said Armand. “Jean Guy and I took Olivier back after his release.”
“I can’t even imagine how that felt for him.”
Gamache was quiet. Seeing the sun gleaming off snowbanks. Through the frosted panes of glass he could see the villagers gathered in the bistro. Warm and safe. The cheery fires lit. The mugs of beer and bowls of café au lait. The laughter.
And Olivier, stalled. Two feet from the closed door. Staring at it.
Jean Guy had gone to open it, but Gamache had lain a gloved hand on his arm. And together in the bitter cold they’d waited. Waited. For Olivier to make the move.
After what seemed an age, but was probably only a few heartbeats, Olivier reached out, paused for one more moment, then opened the door.
“I wish I could’ve seen Gabri’s face,” said Reine-Marie, imagining the large, expressive man seeing his partner returned.
Gamache had described it all to Reine-Marie, when he’d returned home. But he knew that no matter how much ecstasy Reine-Marie imagined, the reality was even greater. At least on Gabri’s part. The rest of the villagers were elated to see Olivier too. But—
“What is it?” Reine-Marie asked.
“Well, Olivier didn’t kill the man, but as you know a lot of unpleasant things about him came out in the trial. Olivier had certainly stolen from the Hermit, taken advantage of their friendship and the man’s frail state of mind. And it turned out that Olivier had used the stolen money to secretly buy up a lot of property in Three Pines. Gabri didn’t even know about that.”
Reine-Marie was quiet, considering what she’d just heard.
“I wonder how his friends feel about that,” said Reine-Marie at last.
So did Gamache.
* * *
“Olivier is the one who hates my father?” asked Annie. “But how could that be? Dad got him out of prison. He took him back to Three Pines.”
“Yes, but the way Olivier sees it, I got him out of prison. Your father put him in.”
Annie stared at Beauvoir, then shook her head.
Beauvoir went on. “Your father apologized, you know. In front of everyone in the bistro. He told Olivier he was sorry for what he did.”
“And what did Olivier say?”
“That he couldn’t forgive him. Not yet.”
Annie thought about that. “How did Dad react?”
“He didn’t seem surprised, or upset. In fact, I think he’d have been surprised had Olivier suddenly decided all was forgiven. He wouldn’t have really meant it.”
Beauvoir knew the only thing worse than no apology was an insincere one.
Jean Guy had to give Olivier that. Instead of appearing to accept the apology, Olivier had finally told the truth. The hurt went too deep. He wasn’t ready to forgive.
“And now?” asked Annie.
“I guess we’ll see.”
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. Copyright 2011 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Clara is simultaneously elated and terrified by the long-awaited celebration of her art, while other artists throughout the novel struggle with varying degrees of success and recognition. How do you see both the rewards and the hardships of life as an artist?
2. "I was much too far out all my life/And not waving but drowning." How do Stevie Smith's lines apply to various characters in the story? Who seems to be drowning? Do you think they can be saved?
3. There are many old friendships in this bookfrom Lillian and Clara, to Gamache and Beauvoir, to the relationships among people in Three Pines. How do these friendships helpor in some cases hurtthe people involved? What do you make of Clara's trip to see Lillian's parents?
4.Old grievances also play an important role in the story. When do you think that forgiveness is, or is not, possible? How much can people change?
5. Who could possibly be happy sitting in a disgusting church basement on a Sunday night? Beauvoir wonders at the AA meeting. What do you think of that meeting, and the subsequent glimpses of what Suzanne calls "one drunk helping another"?
6. Lillian particularly highlighted these lines in the AA book: "Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead." How does this idea recur throughout the novel, both for characters who are in AA and for others?
7. How do you regard Olivier Brule and the villagers' differing responses to his return to Three Pines? If you have read previous books in the series, how have your impressions of the village evolved?
8. What do you think will ultimately happen to Peter and Clara's marriage? What would you like to see happen?
9. Gamache "believed if you sift through evil, at the very bottom you'll find good. He believed that evil has its limits. Beauvoir didn't. He believed that if you sift through good, you'll find evil." What do you believe?
10. Chiaroscuro, as Beauvoir discovers, "means a bold contrast. The play of light and dark." How do both darkness and light manifest themselves in the novel? How is it possible to tell the difference between genuine hope and "a trick of the light"?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think my wife may be getting jealous as I was up almost all night again with another Louise Penny novel. One would think that some many murders in one little village would be impossible, but Louise Penny makes it seem plausible. The only issue I have with her books is the wait until the next one. Personally, I think she is a genius and I would place her among my favorites, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Steig Larson, and Tom Clancy. Penny's writing is truly amazing. I feel like I would like to go to Three Pines and meet the people who live there. Armand Gamache is someone I would not only like to meet, but to work for. All of the cliches about being a "page turner" and "I could not put down" apply to all of Penny's works, but especially to this one. The one caution I have is that you really need to read Bury Your Dead to fully understand what is happening to Gamache and his fellow investigators. The entire Inspector Gamache series are great books. I heartily recommend that you read them in order, but it is not a requirement to enjoying these mysteries. I read this in two nights, pity I had to go to work, but I can now turn my attention to my wife and avoid the problems that Peter Morrow is now dealing with.
Louise Penny, in her latest book, A Trick of the Light, shows herself not just a talented mystery plotter, but an adroit literary novel artist as well. Into the familiar setting of the Three Pines village in Quebec, Penny brings back her beloved characters, including Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, his team members Jean Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste, who must investigate the murder of a former vicious art critic, whose body has been discovered in the garden of Clara Morrow, who has just had a successful vernissage at a art museum in Quebec and an afterparty at her home in Three Pines. The murder obviously casts a pall on Clara's success, as motives and suspects are abundant. Penny deftly presents the light and dark in varying character's souls, and injects these with a light touch of humor, as when Beauvoir convinces a couple of snarky artists that he is an art critic, and that Gamache is a writer from the Louvre. Beauvoir's reaction to the aftermath of a "smudging ritual" held by Myrna, Clara, Dominque, and Ruth, as they found a clue, is priceless: "It wasn't enough that they were English and had a prayer stick, but now they'd lapsed into pig latin. It was no wonder there were so many murders here. The only mystery was how any got solved, with help like this."(p.117)Penny also interweaves sub-plot areas with several prominent gallery owners and an AA group, to which the victim belonged, with the threads of the investigators and residents of Three Pines. Red herrings abound, and it's not until the penultimate chapter that the murderer is revealed. The last chapter, in particular the closing lines of the book, brought me to tears, and I thought of a line of poetry by Emily Dickinson: " Hope is the thing with feathers." Lovely book, and I'm only sorry there aren't more stars for me to fill out! Highly recommended. --Jane Fricker
I'm running out of adjectives to describe how wonderful -- how beautiful -- Louise Penny's books are. The inhabitants of the town of Three Pines are so compelling that you will never want to finish reading. As always, there are moments of great humor, suspense, and sorrow in the midst of a great murder mystery. The dead body is never the centerpiece, though -- it's her fascinating characters and how they blend, and break, that keeps us riveted to her stories.
I purchased this book two days ago and I just could not put it down. It has it all. will definitely buy more.
If you think that Louise Penny writes only cozy little mysteries set in beautiful Qu¿bec, then reconsider. Her characters are complex, sometimes flawed, and her writing explores some of the darkest corners of human feelings. She is a marvelous writer and an adept observer of mankind, and her writing draws one in and forward through her books. Keep writing Ms. Penny! denversmile
Louise Penny has a gift for pulling me into Three Pines and into the lives of her characters. From tears to laughter, disgust to amazement, my reaction to this new book is WOW. This is another great read. If you are not familiar with this series I say start at the beginning with "Still Life" so that you can appreciate the character development. What a wonderful writer!!
Louise Penny has done it again. She has created yet another extraordinary novel (her 7th in the series) that is, yes, a mystery story, but as her devoted readers have come to expect, so much more. Her writing is so rich with the lives of her characters and so full of sly wit and grace that the only regret I had was knowing that it will be another year until I can read the next book! Her Chief Inspector Gamache returns to Three Pines in "A Trick of the LIght" and enters the art world where all is not truth and beauty. To tell you any more of the plot would only deprive you of the joy of experiencing it all on your own. I was lucky enought to receive an Advanced Reader's Copy of the book and it was a pleasure to once again let Ms. Penny take me on a satisfying journey through the human heart and brain in all of its strengths and weaknesses and sorrows and joys. Enjoy!
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book and I truly couldn't put it down! Ms. Penny's writing is such a joy to dive into and so while I wanted to race to the end, I savored the dialogue, description, and wonderful character development as I read it. I refuse to give spoilers as that would ruin the book for others, but I will say that mystery fans will enjoy the progression of the story as it builds wonderfully and gives a great ending. I will also say that if you are a fan of the Gamache series, you better call in sick when this book comes out so that you don't have to be bothered by distractions like work... :) AND if you haven't read the other Gamache books, after reading this one, you will be racing to the book store for the first in the series! Enjoy!
The tranquillity of the little Canadian village of Three Pines is again shattered by murder. The artist Clara Morrow is celebrating her successful art exhibition with a party but others in the village and the investigative team are recovering from cataclysmic events, detailed in earlier books, that have changed their relationships forever. The threads of continuity that come from earlier titles in the series do mean that, if you are new to the series, you should read them in order. But if someone gave you A TRICK OF THE LIGHT for Christmas do read it now. But I guarantee you'll want to go looking for the first in the series and then read them in order.What I love about the Penny books is the way that while the murder mystery central to the story is being explored and investigated, background material and evidence researched and assembled, other questions are posed for us to think about. There is the meaning of the title for example, but I won't discuss that here because it is introduced quite early in the book. Another question is whether someone can change in character or is a nasty vindictive person always nasty and vindictive?The brilliantly drawn characters are part of what attracts me to this series too, and the nature of the relationships between them. As you read the series different characters are explored and embellished novel by novel. Six months have elapsed since BURY YOUR DEAD in which both Armand Gamache and his assistant Jean Guy Beauvoir were critically wounded and lost four young colleagues. Gamache appears to have made a complete recovery but Jean Guy is not doing so well. The relationships between Gamache and his team and the residents of Three Pines provide great tension points in the novels too. Gamache has visited the village of Three Pines so often that he regards most of them as friends, and they him, and so when another murder occurs the issue of whether friendship will obscure good judgement in a police investigation comes to the surface again.
Ms. Penny really does spoil the genre for anyone else. I will have to dive into some non-fiction to 'cleanse the reading palette' because trying to read any mystery or even literary fiction is going to be difficult after this one. Maybe a graphic novel....The entire cast of characters from the Three Pines series is here, continuing to develop. There's a murder in a garden, and every single person in this cast of characters is allowed to rise to the top of the suspect pile for the reader. Her nuanced presentation of the psyches of these characters gives us as much meat as the physical forensic evidence when it comes to solving the crime. She weaves the themes of vengeance and forgiveness into the palette of the workings of the world of art and all the various players in the making and marketing of paintings, and overlays that with a stunning depiction of Alcoholics Anonymous and its workings.The writing is so gorgeous. There are phrases that have so much descriptive power the reader has to stop to catch a breath. There are no extra words, but at the same time, she allows her characters the luxury of thoughtful contemplations that give us incredible insights into their motivations. Minor characters from earlier books in the series are growing in importance, and crusty, lovable, irascible ones are becoming more so. By this time in the series (this is #7) we feel these people are our friends, our neighbors, and we want life to be good for them. We want to go have a drink in Gabri and Olivier's Bistro. We want to walk around the park. We want Gamache and Beavoir to heal.Although this is #7, Penny gives us a story that can stand alone, and a mystery that resolves itself only at the very end of the story, while leaving us with enough lingering questions about what's next for several of the characters that we're already panting for #8. Ralph Cosham gives us a melodic and cultured narration that allows us to absorb the unique cadence of Quebeçois.
Another fine installment in my favorite current mystery series. I really enjoyed how Penny riffed on how many murders take place in Three Pines. In this one, an estranged childhood friend of Clara's is found dead in Clara and Peter's garden on the night of the big art opening. Why was she there and who killed her are the questions of the day along with the exploration of relationships at which Penny excels. My only quibble is that everyone seems a little unaware of how AA and 12 Step Programs work even though I'd assume they are as prevalent in Montreal as anywhere else. As always, Gamache is the most interesting, smart and empathetic detective in fiction and Ruth one of its most compelling elderly characters. Highly recommended, but please start at the beginning of the series.
Three Pines is a village in Canada that can not be found n any map, yet reading her mysteries is like coming home and revisiting friends you have not seen for a while. Penny mixes regular people and their human failings with humor, love and insight. Her story lines explore the mystery needing to be solved with psychological insights into their motives and personalities. Just love her writing.
Just about everyone I know who reads mysteries and has read Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache's series loves and recommends it. I actually have the first book in the series in my TBR collection. Several books into the series later, I'm finally reading one of her books--just not that first book in the series. I was a big stickler for reading series books in order until I began blogging. I am not sure what's happened to me. Of course, in this instance, I didn't have time to play catch up with the series--seven books total. A Trick of the Light was short-listed for an Independent Literary Award and so I was under a deadline to read it.No matter. Like with a lot of mystery series, the book stands well on its own. In this case, however, I really do wish I had read the previous books as I have a feeling many of the characters have made appearances before, all tied to another mystery. And that other mystery, well, could it be from another book that is now spoiled? Spoiled in the sense of my knowing the outcome as opposed to being ruined, I mean. There's also the characters' personal stories, which take place over the course of the books--there is so much I feel I missed out on. Yet, the author did a good job of putting enough of the pieces together in this one novel to make it okay that I didn't start with the first book in the series. I just wish I did.Anyhow, I went into Louise Penny's novel with high expectations. Not only was it a nominee for an award but it also came so highly recommended. Fortunately, I wasn't disappointed. I loved just about everything in this book: from the depth of the characters, including many of the minor ones; the easy and sometimes comical banter between the characters; the serious and sensitive handling of the crime and the issues surrounding it; the atmospheric setting; and the superb writing.I am not well versed in the art world. My mother-in-law paints beautiful landscapes and my husband can put together a lovely sketch, but I'm a stick figure woman all the way. Stick figures with big heads. So, the setting was one that was a bit foreign to me (besides being set in Canada). I felt right at home in Three Pines, however. It sounds like a place I wouldn't mind living.There was one scene in particular that was difficult for me to read, the one where the detectives have to tell the parents of the victim that she's dead. It was heart breaking. All I could think about was how horrible it would be to be in their shoes and how I hope I (or you) never have to experience anything like that in our lives. I have read and seen lots of scenes like this over the years, but having just had a child of my own, I am a little more sensitive to it right now, I think.The other aspect that of the novel that really got to me was the focus on addiction, particularly alcoholism. It is a problem that touches many of us in one way or another. For me it was in living with an alcoholic parent. The author approached the topic in a very hands on way, offering different perspectives through the various characters, many of which were in different stages of addiction. I don't think it's a major spoiler to mention this--although I won't get more specific.I really appreciated how the author presented the characters--how she used the theme of light and dark in drawing them out. Everyone, including the main protagonist, Inspector Gamache, had many shades to him. On one hand he was near perfect, admired by just about all; on the other, he had his share of secrets and doubt.Will I read another Louise Penny novel? Absolutely! I will never get caught up with all the series I want to read if I keep this up!
I absolutely love this series. I think that Louise Penny keeps getting better. This latest installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache series brings us back to Three Pines, which is accurately described by Ms. Penny as the village that "produced bodies and gourmet meals in equal proportion" (p. 237). Yes, believe it or not, another body has shown up in Three Pines. And of course, Gamache and his team artfully piece together secret after secret until the last piece falls into place. But, Penny does not forget about the history that these characters have. Storylines from previous books continue right alongside the main mystery, and at times, these overshadow the murder investigation simply because we know these characters so well by now that we care about the trajectories of their lives. Penny's mysteries are rich with emotions. The inner lives of her characters are on full display. And because of this, turning the last page felt like leaving old friends.
Once again Louise Penny crafts a superb mystery set in the small village of Three Pines somewhere in the province of Quebec. Three Pines cannot be found on any map. As one of the characters says you have to be lost to find it. The two major businesses in town seem to be creating a sense of well being and murder. A bit incongruous you might say and you would be right. On the surface, we see a village full of peace and tranquility peopled by characters such as Clara & Peter. These married artists are trying to achieve their dreams of recognition and acceptance in the art world. A couple who share art, but not the art of sharing. Ruth, the prize winning poet, whose beautiful poetry is only eclipsed by her excessive drinking and foul mouthed rudeness. Gabri and Olivier the gay couple who own the B&B and the bistro. One opens his heart and hearth to all, the other has secretly taken advantage of others for monetary gain. The paradoxes that abound in Three Pines seem to feed a hunger for murder. As Clara is finally being recognized for her art with a celebration party in her home, an uninvited guest turns up murdered in her garden. It turns out to be an art critic who Clara hasn't seen since Clara received a scathing review from her years ago. Once again Chief Inspector Gamache has to deduce who among those visiting or living in this deceptively quiet village is a cold blooded killer. As in all Ms. Perry's books we enjoy meeting the characters, feeling and sharing their emotions, their doubts, hopes, and fears. The joy and learning are in the journey not just in reaching the destination. The book stands alone very well, but your enjoyment will be further enhanced by reading the previous book in this series, Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel. This book provided for review by the well read folks at Amazon Vine.
Dear Ms. Penny,Can you possibly figure out a way to write faster? One book a year is certainly not doing it for me. Not at all. Sure, each book is a finely crafted mystery that keeps me furiously turning pages but you see, once a year is woefully inadequate to quell my addiction.Take, for instance, this latest episode of the Chief Inspector Gamache series. I mean he was at the top of his form and this book rivals Bury Your Dead in it¿s intricacies of plot and characterizations. And even though no one who has read the previous books could ever contemplate the idea of Clara Morrow as the murderer, there you were, putting that idea out there as a possibility; and then surprising us at the end with one of the series regulars doing a disappearing act. I mean, really. Who expected that?And then the whole idea of chiaroscuro as the theme for the story was so sophisticated and yet so well wrought. And then indicating all the ways that human beings can demonstrate this contrast between the light and the dark was just, well, brilliant.And what about this new development for the dour, silent Jean Guy Beauvoir? That wasn¿t ever hinted at before and certainly added another dimension to the idea of ¿mystery¿ that hadn¿t been there before.And thank you, thank you for returning the lovely Three Pines to its place of prominence in the narrative. Safe, cozy, warm¿..just the place for a murder to take place.So once again I have to ask, please can¿t you write faster? Another whole year to find out how these new ideas pan out? How am I supposed to carry on as if everything is normal while I go through withdrawal for another twelve months? 52 WEEKS!!! Oh the agony!!Sincerely,brenzi
This book is the seventh and latest entry in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. I¿ve enjoyed all her novels, and it is getting too difficult to say ¿This was the best one yet.¿ But I can say that this book was VERY good, and Penny fans will probably prefer this over her previous book, Bury Your Dead.In contrast to Bury Your Dead, this novel takes place almost entirely in Three Pines. Clara Morrow is celebrating the success of her first solo art show, and decides to hold a party back at her place. The next morning the body of a woman is found in the Morrows¿ garden ¿ and no one recalls seeing the woman at the party.Chief Inspector Gamache and his crew are called in to investigate. The dead woman had a lot of enemies, including Clara Morrow, so suspects abound. In addition, Peter Morrow continues to fight his jealousy of his wife¿s success, Beauvoir is struggling to overcome his painful injuries from the shooting in the last book, and Gamache is investigating who leaked the video of the shooting - while trying to make peace with Olivier.I highly recommend this book, but only for those who have read the previous novels in this series. I suppose this novel could stand alone, but there are many references to previous events in the series ¿ so to get the most out of these mysteries, it is best to read them in chronological order.(I received this book through Amazon's Vine Program.)
I enjoy books that keep you guessing, keep you changing your choice118471773 of killers, and then surprises you at the very end.A TRICK OF THE LIGHT by Louise Penny is a book like that. There are numerous suspects, each with strong motives and ample opportunity. Just when you decide on one suspect, a new lead is revealed that takes you in another direction.Artist Clara Morrow finally has a solo show at the famed Musee in Montreal. All of the right people from the art world are there. Afterwards, a private party is held in Three Pines, the village were Clara and her husband Peter live. But Clara¿s joy is short-lived when a body is found in her garden the next morning. To complicate matters, the body is that of Clara¿s childhood friend Lillian Dyson. The two had a bitter falling out years before when Lillian wrote a horrid review of Clara¿s work which almost caused her to quit painting.Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec homicide unit and his team are called in to investigate. Gamache and his second-in-command, Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir, are very familiar with Three Pines and its villagers. As the team begins to investigate the death and life of Lillian Dyson, they learn more about the art world and how Alcoholic Anonymous plays a role in the tragedy.While Lillian¿s murder takes center stage in this book, there are several sub-plots that are superbly woven in. There was a police tragedy the previous year that weighs heavily on Gamache and Beauvoir for different reasons. A TRICK OF THE LIGHT deals with the contrast between not only good and evil, but between forgetting and forgiving and hope and fear.One of my favorite characters could be considered a minor player, Ruth Zardo. Ruth, the crusty and loud poet with a heart of gold. Ruth, who talks brassy and crude to cover that her heart is broken and lonely.Author Louise Penny¿s writing is fluent, almost mesmerizing. She holds you transfixed with her descriptions of Three Pines, its people and those who come to visit. She has created a quaint village with a serene landscape. Three Pines isn¿t on any map, but is found by those who need to be there.The narration by Ralph Cosham is like delectable icing on a triple chocolate cake. Listeners quickly become immersed in the world of Three Pines as Cosham¿s soothing, yet commanding, voice brings the French accents to life.A TRICK OF THE LIGHT is the 7th installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, but is a stand alone book. Penny delivers a moving end to this book while continuing the story.
Finally, a new Inspector Gamache mystery after waiting sooo long. This novel explores the psyche of the art world, as Clara has her first showing of her art. After the event, an old friend of Clara's is found murdered in Clara and Peter's garden. The novel explores many angles of emotional distress: Gamache's feeling that he failed his team during that terrible bloodbath in the factory, Jean Guy's feeling that Gamache left him for dead in the factory, Ruth waiting for her duck to return, Peter and Clara dealing with Clara's success, and Olivier's attitude to the people of Twin Pines and his acceptance of Gamache's apology. The novel also touches on alcoholism and the fight to remain sober. The novel ends on hope: Clara and Peter may work through their problems, Ruth's duck may return, and Jean Guy will finally join the world.
Clara finally has a solo art show at a prominent museum in Montreal. There is a party back in Three Pines after the opening. The next morning the body of a childhood friend (and later enemy) of Clara is found in Clara's garden. The victim was an artist who had been a recovering alcoholic. The beauty of this novel is that it is a novel of contrasts, with the light and dark metaphor playing prominently into it. Her characters are realistic and flawed. Gamache allows Agent Lacoste to take the lead in this investigation to see if she's ready for a likely upcoming promotion. The officers, especially Jean-Guy, are still dealing with the psychological aftermath of the ordeal in the last novel (Bury Your Dead). There are hints of what will come in future installments. Do I really have to wait a year for the next one? The only consolation is that with Penny, it is worth the wait.
I just can't say enough good things about Louise Penny and Chief Inspector Armande Gamache. Many familiar faces from Three Pines enter this novel as artist Clara is finally doing a show of her artwork. Murder mars the next morning, when instead of checking the papers for reviews, a body is found in Peter and Clara's garden. Penny utilizes such great skill with choosing words and the interaction between the characters always seems so meaningful. Gamache and his second in command, Beauvoir are still feeling the effects of their injuries from Bury Your Dead, adding a lot of realism to the story.
The tiny Quebec village of Three Pines is beginning to resemble Cabot Cove. One wonders what attracts crime to such a beautiful place that isn¿t even on a map. Clara¿s solo art show has garnered the attention of art critics and gallery owners. The festivities are marred by the discovery of a body in Clara¿s garden. The deceased is a childhood friend of Clara¿s with whom she had had a falling out decades ago. Lillian Dyson had made a lot of enemies in her life as a caustic art critic. Armand Gamache, the head of homicide, along with his trusted second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, set up shop again in the town¿s fire station to interview witnesses. The only problem is, no one remembers seeing Lillian at the party. All of the colorful characters of Three Pines are on hand. Gabri and his partner Olivier, who is still having a hard time forgiving Chief Inspector Gamache for having him incarcerated in a previous case; Clara¿s husband Peter, who is having a hard time being happy for his wife¿s success since he has seen his own art work floundering for years; and especially the town drunk Ruth, whose own caustic words are hysterical but somehow make her endearing. Gamache and Beauvoir are still suffering from the after effects of a warehouse shooting that had left four of Gamache¿s people dead. Beauvoir appears to be dependent on pain pills and has a faltering marriage. Someone had leaked a video of the warehouse debacle so Gamache has enlisted the help of someone outside the department to find out the hacker¿s identity. Gamache feels the murder is linked to an art critique Lillian had written years ago. All he has to do is find out which artist she had gleefully ruined with her comments. I couldn¿t help seeing how easily the words ¿art critic¿ and ¿artist¿ could be substituted with ¿literary critic/book reviewer¿ and ¿writer.¿ Gamache takes the reader along as he works through the case in his typical cerebral way. He is Columbo and Perry Mason rolled into one. This series is more than entertaining. It is addictive.
Three Pines continues to grow upon me. And what an excellent ending!! I won't give it away!In this book, Penny takes us behind the tawdry scenes of the art establishment. Clara is the focal point in this book....Peter grows up a bit. There is hope for him yet.Gemache and Beauvoir continue to work through the gremlin underbellies of the factory ambush. Somehow, the reader can feel there is hope that that puzzle, too, will be solved.Look, Penny is not writing [War and Peace] here. But she takes her genre, develops her characters, and carries her readers through well-developed plots gracefully and with humor.So, when you are on your deathbed, with one hour to live...who is it you need to forgive?
Every book in this series gets better than the one before. There is mystery in the art world of Montreal, as well as a good glimpse into the workings of AA. I love Armand Gamache, especially his strong and steady approach to each detail of his life.
Clara Morrow, one of the most-loved residents of Three Pines, finally gets her own art show. Her special night is marred by the murder of an uninvited guest. Once again, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team descend on Three Pines, straddling the lines between friend and suspect, investigator and witness.Although this isn't my favorite book in the series (I think it will be hard to top Bury Your Dead), it's still a very good novel. While each book in the series has a self-contained crime and investigation, there are larger story arcs developed across multiple novels. This book has a transitional feel that left me feeling a little unsatisfied.Those who haven't yet visited Three Pines may find it incredible that, in this 7th book in the series, readers can suspect that any of the characters they've come to know and love could be capable of murder. However, Penny casts suspicion too well for my comfort. Just how well can we know another person? Are we able to see others' true character, or do we see what we want to see, or what they want us to see? Is a person's basic nature fixed, or are people capable of change? Penny raises these sorts of questions, and leaves it to her readers to decide.Some characteristic passages:The Chief believed if you sift through evil, at the very bottom you'll find good. He believed that evil has its limits. Beauvoir didn't. He believed that if you sift through good, you'll find evil. Without borders, without brakes, without limit.And every day it frightened him that Gamache couldn't see that. That he was blind to it. Because out of blind spots terrible things appeared. --------------------------------------------------------------------------Many might have thought the Chief Inspector was a hunter. He tracked down killers. But Jean Guy knew he wasn't that. Chief Inspector Gamache was an explorer by nature. He was never happier than when he was pushing the boundaries, exploring the internal terrain. Areas even the person themselves hadn't explored. Had never examined. Probably because it was too scary.Gamache went there. To the end of the known world, and beyond. Into the dark, hidden places. He looked into the crevices, where the worst things hid.And Jean Guy Beauvoir followed.Penny explores those dark, hidden places in human nature. Her books aren't always comfortable to read, but they're worth the discomfort. They leave me with the same sort of feeling you get after a cleansing rainstorm. You know that the dust will start to build up again, and there will be more storms to endure, but just for this moment, there is peace.