Saturday, September 7, 2013

Quebec's Agatha Christie?

ISBN-10: 0312655479 ISBN-13: 9780312655471 Published: Minotaur Books, 08/27/2013 Pages: 416 Language: English
Tomorrow at noon, Flyleaf will be hosting award-winning mystery author Louise Penny for a discussion of her newest novel, How the Light Gets In, the ninth in a series of books centered around Chief Inspector Gamache. Finding myself deluged with questions about Penny's appearance well advance of her arrival, I decided to read How the Light Gets In and see for myself why Penny has such a devoted following. Full disclosure: I read the novel without any previous knowledge of the author or the book series, which various customers have (politely) told me was a mistake. Indeed, the book does participate in larger story and character arcs that I cannot fully engage with, but I feel that Gamache's latest outing also works as a stand-alone novel (readers may also be familiar with my compulsive chronological tendencies from previous entries, and so be assured that I am operating out of necessity in this instance).

Ridiculously lengthy preamble aside, How the Light Gets In is a crackerjack mystery novel that successfully integrates thriller and literary fiction elements into its Quebecois bouillabaisse. You see, the Gamache series takes place largely in French Canada, and derives a great deal of its character and personality from the region's rich culture. I wouldn't be surprised if many readers would feel an urge to decamp immediately for Penny's idyllic small town Three Pines, which is equipped (I feel obliged to add) with an independent bookstore and a nearby bistro. 

How the Light Gets In is comfort food in the best sense of the phrase. Penny eschews the almost pornographic depictions of violence and sexuality that many modern mysteries employ in the absence of creativity. Penny's novels are more old-fashioned puzzlers, with an added focus on characterization. You might (or might not) be surprised to find out how effective creating likeable characters is in producing suspense, an evergreen literary tactic if there ever was one. So, come on down to Flyleaf and listen to an experienced craftsman share a few tips of the trade. Before you know it, you'll be settling into a comfy armchair with one (or two, or three...) of Penny's books, sipping warm café au lait and waiting impatiently for winter.

No comments:

Post a Comment