cover of Louise Penny's 10th novel about chief inspector gamache

Since her first novel (Still Life) in 2005, Louise Penny has seen nearly all her books nominated for literary awards — and won most of them. How the Light Gets In is the tenth of the Canadian mystery writer’s eleven novels featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec. If the skill Penny demonstrates in this extraordinarily complex work of fiction is any indication of the quality to be found in her other ten books, I’ll be reading them all.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

How the Light Gets In hangs on two challenging mysteries that bedevil Gamache: who has killed the fifth of the famous Ouellet quintuplets, and why has the Chief Superintendent (Gamache’s boss) gutted the brilliant homicide department Gamache built over the years? What is the man’s agenda? (FYI, the quints were inspired by but not modeled on their real-world contemporaries, the Dionne Quintuplets, two of whom are alive today.)

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

Either plot alone would suffice as the backbone of a mystery novel written by someone else. That there are two such plots, each suspenseful in its own right, is an amazing testament to Louise Penny’s talent.

But it’s the characters in this book that steal the show from the plotting. Somehow, Penny manages to weave an almost-credible tale involving the last of the famous quintuplets who dominated the news in Depression-era and World World II Quebec (and the world) . . . with an embittered old poet who never goes anywhere without her pet duck, Rosa, by her side . . . plus a Mutt-and-Jeff gay couple who run a restaurant and a B&B . . . and a reformed lumberjack who whispers apologies to trees . . . plus Cambridge-educated Gamache himself, with his extraordinary powers of self-control and deduction. And the dialogue that ensues when these characters intermingle is often sparkling. It’s literate, surprising, and extremely funny in spots. In short, it’s a brilliant book.

What more have you got, Ms. Penny? Bring it on!

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