A Trick of the Light - a cozy mystery winner
A Trick of the Light #7 Inspector Gamache by Louise Penny
Award: Anthony Award for best novel and several nominations
Published 2011, 339 pages
I just finished this book today and want to get my thoughts down while the story is fresh in my mind. I read a couple Louise Penny books last year and enjoyed them - enjoyed them so much I thought I'd read the series from the beginning. PLUS, almost every installment has been an award winner - that says SOMEthing! So I started end of last year and I'm up to book 7 out of a total of 17, though I read a couple of these later ones out of order.
If you're not already hooked on the Inspector Gamache series, it is set in Canada, and the anchor of the series is the kind, thoughtful and very Renaissance man, Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of the homicide division. Through the series we meet his wife of 20+ years, his children and some of his friends (and dog!). His trusted friend and second in command is Jean Guy Beauvoir who figures prominently in every story.
The third main character is the village of Three Pines in the backwoods of Quebec. This village is filled with a collection of quirky characters with the focus falling on one or another in each different story. For such a small village, there are an extraordinary amount of murders, and because it's located near Montreal, and Gamache eventually befriends many of the residents, he (of course) and his team always go to the town to solve the mystery.
One of the residents is an artist and gets a solo show at the national museum, sparking envy and jealousy - within her marriage and within the art community. And, of course, there's a murder - right in her garden on the night of her biggest triumph. And there the whodunnit starts.
"Beautiful art isn't in fashion. Edgy, dark, stark, cynical, that's what galleries and curators want. They seem to think they're more complex, more challenging, but I can tell you, they're not. Light is every bit as challenging as dark. We can discover a great deal about ourselves by looking at beauty."
I love the way each book delves in depth into a different aspect of the world. In Bury Your Dead #6, Gamache is taking some time off and visiting a friend in Quebec City. A historian is killed, giving Penny the opportunity to explore and share details of the history of Quebec City and the divisions between the French and English. In another, the murder is in a remote monastery and readers learn about monastic life and Gregorian chants.
In this book, the focus is the art world and the way artists, gallery owners, curators, and critics all intertwine and support and betray each other. I enjoyed the peek into the world of some broken artists and a cruel critic and snobby gallery owner.....just realized that's kind of stereotypical characters, but I didn't feel that at all when reading it due to Penny's excellent writing.
All in all, an excellent mystery, some fabulous characters, set in a quaint, quiet village (except for the murders) makes for exceptional reading. This is definitely a series worth following. The books can all be read as standalones but are more enjoyable when read in order so you get to know the characters more in depth.
photos of WA state by Terrie & Dan Purkey