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Louise Penny, The Magic of Light, and How it Gets In

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Louise Penny has done it again. Magic. Wonderful, captivating, heart-pumping, edge-of-the-seat magic. In her ninth Chief Inspector Gamache novel, How the Light Gets In, Penny brings us to familiar territory. We are back in the isolated village of Three Pines, where cell phones and internet cannot penetrate but good food, fresh air, and used books are always within reach (my definition of heaven). Characters who have become like old and beloved friends join us across the page: Ruth, foul-mouthed but with a golden pen when it comes to poetry; Clara, talented artist known for her bad hair days and visionary portraits; Myrna, former therapist and current bookstore owner; Gabri and Olivier, owners of the bistro and the B&B, one with the voice of an angel and the other with the heart of a reformed devil; and, representing the police of Quebec Province, Armand Gamache, Isabel Lacoste, Yvette Nichol, and Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

Constance Pineault, an old client and friend of Myrna, comes for a visit to the winter-embraced village of Three Pines. Children happily play hockey across a frozen pond, "joyful" snow blankets the houses and gardens, and villagers eagerly practice the Huron Carol for the upcoming holiday concert. Hot chocolate is never more than a step away, to drink beside a well-stocked fireplace. In such an atmosphere of peace and comfort, Constance cannot help but fall in love with Three Pines. When she leaves, she promises to return, offering an enigmatic message about the hockey games she used to play with her siblings.

How many siblings turns out to be not only the clue to her message, but also to murder. How many murders? How the Light Gets In provides more than the usual number: evil runs deep in this book and this time round, I was never certain that good, in the form of Chief Inspector Gamache, could prevail. The forces against him are more powerful than ever, and worst of all, his friend and fellow inspector, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, has fallen most horribly to the dark side.

How the Light Gets In is a story about crime (against nature and against the rules of society), corruption (personal and political), and murder (both actual and metaphysical). Hope and fear, good and evil, friendship and betrayal, love and hate, innocence and corruption: Penny explores the battling dualities that exist in all of us, and the necessity of battle (and even failure) to create resilience. Her novel about death and decay becomes a book about how to live: everything broken has a crack, but that is how the light gets in. And guided by the light, we live, even thrive. But only if the light gets in.

With a writing style that is a mix of poetry and music (sentences that roll, then break, then roll again) and a commitment to her readers that is as strong and true as Chief Inspector Gamache's love for his fallen man in arms Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Louise Penny makes magic. In How the Light Gets In, she again conjures up place, people, and plot so vividly that there is no escaping: this is a book, like all her novels, that cannot be put down, and will be read, again and again.