How the Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Gamache #9), by Louise Penny

Eight stars

Louise Penny impresses as she pulls on a major event in Quebec history, weaving it effectively into the premise of this next novel in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. Major changes have begun with the Homicide squad of the Sûreté du Québec, including the removal of Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir. It would seem that the fallout from their case at a rural priory created more ripples than anyone could expect, with Chief Superintendent Francoeur still sharpening his knives with hateful eyes focussed on Gamache. Newly promoted Inspector Isabelle Lacoste accompanies Gamache on a pre-Christmas jaunt to Three Pines, where they respond to a call from Myrna Landers, the local bookshop owner. It would seem that Constance Pineault was expected the day before at lunch with Myrna and has yet to show up. While this may not seem like much, Constance has not made contact and his known for her punctuality. Gamache agrees to make some inquiries back in Montreal, where he discovers that Pineault has been found slain in her home. After agreeing to take the case for himself, Gamache returns to Three Pines, where he discovers that Pineault is not who she appears to be. It would seem that locals know her secret, that she is actually Constance Ouellet, one of the Ouellet quintuplets that made headlines in the middle of the Depression. Gamache sifts through much of the information available, as well as scores of documents long sealed, to learn more about the Ouellet quints and how they were ‘sold’ to the Quebec Government, thereby turning them into a public spectacle. Surely, Constance wanted nothing more than to live outside of the limelight as soon as she could, though someone must have wanted to extinguish that light for some unknown reason. Meanwhile, the story arc surrounding that bloody raid gone wrong has reached its zenith, with Gamache using covert means to finger the individual who leaked the video of the event. Gamache learns snippets of Inspector Beauvoir’s new cases, all of which include dangerous raids that could easily neutralise his former second-in-command. Might Gamache have to make the ultimate move and how does this all link to the Arnot case, which filled the pages of early novels in the series? Penny continues to dazzle with layered narratives that keep the reader gasping for breath as much comes to a head in the intense closing chapters of this novel. Highly recommended to series fans who have a great handle on the characters and writing style. I hold firm in my suggestion that new readers begin where the series began and progress accordingly.

This series keeps finding new ways to impress me, particularly with this exploration of one of Quebec’s black marks of the mid-20th century. Penny touches on some of the events that occurred with these quints, likely mixing fact with fiction to keep the story moving forward. As always, Chief Inspector Gamache plays a central role in the novel and one can see the intensity surrounding the two major events that have overshadowed his investigations finally coming to a head. Gamache doesn’t let anything derail his concentration, though there is a strong sense that he wants these monkeys off his back, however that might be possible. His determination with a new and severely pared-down team shows his determination to find a killer without letting the politics deter him. Using his sharp skills, Gamache exemplifies his superior skills, even as those around him begin to lose faith in his work. The handful of others around him remain questionable characters, including Inspector Lacoste and former black sheep Agent Yvette Nichol. Both these women hold integral parts in the novel, though readers should not expect smooth sailing or strong support for their superior. The Three Pines residents retain their unique personalities, though there is little that surprises in this piece. Some development and character movement is apparent during the one novel hiatus, something that the attentive reader will notice early in this piece. The story has two significant narratives that run in parallel, complementing one another. Penny balances them, though neither can be seen as taken a backseat to the other. Readers should expect a bumpy ride as the novel pushes forward and takes little time for those who need time to process, while also inundating the attentive reader with much Quebec history and shaming society all these years later. Far from derailed or rogue, as some would have me believe, this series gets better as it progresses.

Kudos, Madam Penny, for another stellar novel. Chief Inspector Gamache and Three Pines are in great hands and I cannot stop wanting more, particularly with that cliffhanger. Thankfully, there are still a handful of novels left in my binge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: