Review: How the Light Gets In

photo from macmillan

How the Light Gets In [Chief Inspector Armand Gamanche, #9], by Louise Penny. Minotaur: August 27, 2013. 416 pp, $25.99

I’m generally picky when it comes to genre fiction. I’m skeptical when I read book jackets that begin “Another fabulous [insert character name] adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling author [insert author name]!” I’m not necessarily saying this is how every single genre fiction novel begins, but it seems to be the general consensus.

In fact, I think the main reason I picked up Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In is because it earned a Kirkus star.

How the Light Gets In revolves around secrets. They all do, don’t they? A woman was finally ready to open up to her closest friends, but on the eve of her important visit she’s killed. Later it’s revealed she is one of the first surviving naturally-conceived quintuplets in Canada. As young girls they were seen as a symbol of hope amid the Depression.

Though it’s not in his jurisdiction, Inspector Gamanche chooses to investigate because those close to the victim are also close to him. At the same time, something strange is happening within the bureau itself, and he needs to inconspicuously find out what’s going on before all hell breaks loose.

In How the Light Gets In, secrets are what threatens the lives of the victim, Inspector Gamanche and his family and friends. Sometimes more than their content, the secrets themselves are destructive. The murder investigation leads Inspector Gamanche to a small town called Three Pines, a dead zone in the digital age. Cell phones refuse to work in the city limits. Internet is non-existent. Without common methods of communication, you’d think this place brews secrets.

But, while secrets may be destructive, I want to believe Penny sees their value, even in just the writing of this book. Three Pines is–digitally speaking–a wasteland, but it contains the true heroes of the novel. Everyone is kind and welcoming, and they manage to create lives for themselves without the incessant capabilities to tweet each waking thought.

In How The Lights Gets In, the one true secretive place is the one with the fewest secrets. It’s the oasis of the book, the idyllic setting. This, in turn, begs the question: Which is worse–the information kept too close or the information not kept close enough?

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About katepadilla

I write for the Spencer Daily Reporter in Spencer, Iowa. I keep blogs lifebythebooks, Save Me, San Francisco, and Beauty and Beast Buy a House. I'm also hard at work writing a short story collection inspired by the music of Train.

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