“How the Light Gets In” by Louise Penny


Book Cover - How the Light Gets In

Louise Penny’s “How the Light Gets In,” is the ninth in her Armand Gamache series. 


Respected, renowned, Chief Inspector Gamache is being marginalized. The stuff of legends has an enemy at the Surete du Quebec who wants him gone. Chief Superintendent Francoeur has gutted Gamache's entire homicide department and transferred loyal investigators elsewhere.  Sullen, lazy strangers greet Gamache each day that he goes to the office. Even his trusted second in command for fifteen years, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, hates him and now works for the enemy. The rift appears to be permanent. But, why? What has caused Francoeur to create such chaos in what used to be the finest police force in Canada? What has happened to split the partnership of such a successful pair?


Gamache’s new second in command, Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, a loyal supporter, has trouble understanding his lack of action in front of subordinates when they disobey his directions. She despairs at his humiliation of being undermined. He asks her to trust him and to trust herself, but she doesn’t know if that’s possible when things have gone so far in the wrong direction.


When Gamache receives a note from an old friend in Three Pines needing his help, he travels there, as much to get away from the politics of the job as to help his friend. Her friend is missing and she needs advice in what to do.


The village of Three Pines is full of wacky, brilliant characters that support each other in good times and bad, despite their various quirks, or maybe because of them. (Warning: one of the characters uses strong language) And they have secrets. Who else would populate a place that is cut off from the outside world electronically? No internet, no cell phone, a true dead zone – a perfect place to hide from the ever intrusive outside world and its multimedia.


When a terrible secret from Francoeur’s past intersects with Gamache’s presence in Three Pines, Three Pines residents close ranks to protect their own as well as the trusted newcomers. There is more than one secret to be revealed in the book and they are whoppers. Gamache’s dogged investigation proves how evil some men can be and how long evil men can wait to pull off their plans – how far they will go to destroy others.


“How the Light Gets In” takes an insightful look at past mistakes and how we humans agonize in retrospect over difficult decisions. Should we have chosen differently? Given the circumstances, could we? If someone has failed us, but awful situations led him or her to that betrayal, should we blame them? Or forgive, even if their mistake ruined us?


Penny’s exploration of moral dilemmas that continue to haunt us until resolved, is woven effectively throughout the mysteries in “How the Light Gets In,” setting a serious, thoughtful tone to the book. There is plenty of action with parallel plotlines racing against time, but I found myself more interested in the people whose lives were affected by the drama. I worried about them and cheered Gamache on. It’s rare that I shed a tear during a mystery, but part of the storyline was tragic and I actually murmured out loud, “Oh, no…” at one point.


Penny revealed that each book was written as a stand-alone, but admits that the central characters have deeply developed arcs that will increase the readers’ enjoyment of the series. “How the Light Gets In” was an absorbing read for me, and I will go back and read others. One of Gamache’s profoundly personal old cases was alluded to (no plot spoiler here) and left me curious about the setup.


"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." You’ll have to read the book to find out the significance of those two lines. I have been repeating them for days.


Louise Penny’s Gamache series in order (some titles have two names – the publisher’s decision):


“Still Life”

“A Fatal Grace”/”Dead Cold”

“The Cruelest Month”

“A Rule Against Murder”/”The Murder Stone”

“The Brutal Telling”

“Bury Your Dead”

“A Trick of the Light”

“The Beautiful Mystery”

“How the Light Gets In”

“The Long Way Home”

Penny is the winner of the British Dagger, American Anthony, Macavity, Dilys, as well as five Agatha Awards. She has been translated into 25 languages.


For more information about Louise Penny and her work, please visit www.louisepenny.com


Please follow and like us:

2 thoughts on ““How the Light Gets In” by Louise Penny”

  1. Lovely review! I thoroughly enjoyed this whole series. I love what you said about the author's exploration of moral dilemmas that haunt us. This is one of the things I find engrossing about Penny's books.

    1. Thanks, Irene. 🙂
      The book had a great balance of character development and intriguing mystery. I’m glad to hear that quality exists in the earlier titles as well. Thanks for stopping by!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top