Friday, September 2, 2011

A Trick of the Light

by Louise Penny
New York : Minotaur Boooks, 2011.

The day is finally here: Clara Morrow's solo show at the Musee d'Art Contemporain, and all the big wigs of the art world, as well as her friends from Three Pines, have come to her vernissage, followed by a party at her house to celebrate her success. But then a dead body shows up, in Clara's garden. At first, no one seems to know her, but as the investigation goes on and her identity becomes known, it turns out quite a few people disliked her. Now, she seems to be on the straight and narrow, even a nice person. So who was she - cruel or kind? Can people really change?

In many ways, this book is a study in contrasts: good and bad, light and dark. Forgiveness. Revenge. Clara really comes into her own as a main character. She has always been a central person in the town, but this is about her shining moment, as well. I kept wondering to myself, as she deals with sudden publicity and fame, reviews for her previously obscure and unknown art, how much of herself Ms. Penny put into Clara. I don't mean that I think Clara's personality is like Louise Penny's, just that she makes a clear comparison between the struggle of Clara as an artist and the struggle of writers. I think many of Clara's hopes and fears, the vulnerability she has now that she has become "known" outside her circle of friends, must be similar to what the author herself experienced as her series became better known and began receiving accolades. The more well-known you are, the more you have to lose with bad reviews, and judgments made on your writing or yourself.

As I was reading it, I couldn't help but compare my response to that of the previous book in the series, Bury Your Dead. Then, the complex mysteries and many-stranded story held my interest throughout as I struggled to put the pieces together to find out what happened to Armand Gamache. In A Trick of the Light, I read more slowly and introspectively (though I admit, I still read the book in only two days). I was carried along by the internal struggles of the characters I have come to know and care about. Did I nearly cry over Bury Your Dead? This book made me cry twice, and not only that, but laugh and cry at the same time in the end. While the story, and my reading experience, is completely different from Bury Your Dead, in many ways it was a supremely fitting follow-up. This is a series I couldn't recommend more highly, and it keeps getting better.

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