Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A TRICK OF THE LIGHT by Louise Penny

I am not really an art lover, nor do I like to read a book from the middle of a series unless I’ve read its predecessors.  I made an exception here, and I’m glad I did.  Clara and Peter Morrow are both artists living in a small village near Montreal.  Peter has always been the more acclaimed of the two, but now Clara is having a private show at a prestigious gallery, and Peter’s jealousy is making it tough for him to be happy for her.  As if their marriage isn’t strained enough, now art critic Lillian Dyson has been murdered in their garden.  Clara and Lillian were childhood friends, but Lillian became more and more acerbic as time went on, writing scathing reviews of Clara’s work and just about everyone else’s.  A convergence of gallery owners, art dealers, and other artists in town for the exhibition all come under suspicion, as all of them have reason to despise Lillian.  However, Lillian has recently joined AA and seems to be trying to make amends with all of the people she has antagonized, and her fellow AA members are all possible suspects as well.  Leading the investigation is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, who is a friend of Clara’s and Peter’s.  He and his right-hand man, Jean Guy Beauvoir, are both recovering, both physically and emotionally, from a horrific incident in a prior novel.  I wasn’t wild about the fact that all this past history kept coming up, but I guess a certain amount of stage setting is necessary.  The mystery unfolds at a measured pace, as we become acquainted with all the characters’ possible motives for murder.  The backstory of Beauvoir’s crush on Gamache’s daughter seemed a little trite to me, especially since he basically blames his prescription drug addiction on this unrequited love.  Actually, my favorite section of the book is the beginning, in which Clara is nervous to the point of panic about her solo show.  We soon learn that she is fearful of the reviews, regardless of their take on her art.  If the reviews are negative, she’ll be devastated, but if they’re positive, her marriage may be unsalvageable.

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