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How the Light Gets In

Don't be fooled by the cozy setting. The latest Chief Inspector Gamache mystery has failure and betrayal just below the surface.

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How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny, St. Martin's Press, 416 pages

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Louise Penny's mysteries might feature a picturesque village, complete with good food and a duck-owning, eccentric poet, but there is nothing cozy about them.

Penny writes with a moral rigor and depth that set her Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries apart. And while she believes in goodness, there's nothing fluffy or weak about it. It's a goodness that remains resolute in the face of failure and betrayal.

“Armand Gamache had always held unfashionable beliefs. He believed that light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places.” But the good chief inspector finds his belief system challenged in How the Light Gets In.

The multiple award-winning author's ninth novel takes its title from a stanza of Leonard Cohen's “Anthem”: “Ring the bells that still can ring,/Forget your perfect offering, /There's a crack in everything. /That's how the light gets in.”

It's hard to believe, but things have gotten worse for Gamache since the devastating conclusion of 2012's “The Beautiful Mystery.”

While Christmas is coming, it is not shaping up to be a Joyeux Noel in the homicide department of the the Sûreté du Québec. Gamache's most-trusted lieutenant, Jean-Guy Beauvoir – whom he'd once hoped to call son-in-law – is clutched firmly in the grip of an addiction to painkillers and is being manipulated by Gamache's corrupt superior.

The rest of his hand-picked team has either abandoned him or been reassigned by the same superior and replaced by a grinning crew of incompetent insubordinates. Only Isabelle LaCoste remains, and even she finds herself doubting the once-infallible Gamache.

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