Book: A Trick of the Light: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny (NEW 8/30/2011) from St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio
Thank you, Macmillan Audio, for sending me A Trick of the Light: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel on CD just in time for my road trip to Santa Fe. A mystery is just the thing for our road trips, because both Ken and I generally like mysteries, and they keep our interest without demanding deep concentration. I had a great experience with Back of Beyond by C. J. Box on my road trip in Nova Scotia.
However, I will tell you right up front that I would have enjoyed A Trick of the Light more in print form… maybe. Because it is set in Quebec Province of Canada — Montreal and the fictional village of Three Pines, most of the names are French and characters use French language expressions liberally. Even though I know a little French, I was uncomfortable not being able to visualize the words, particularly names, on the page.
The second problem with an audio book like this–there are LOT of characters to keep track of. Had I been reading a physical book (or even an e-book), I would have been able to turn back and find a reminder of who was who. Third, I simply did not like the reader, Ralph Cosham. The press release states that Ralph Cosham has read all Louise Penny‘s previous six audiobooks, and quotes AudioFile Magazine’s review, “My only quibble is that the Penny-Cosham team kept me listening past my bedtime.”
My problem was not missing my bedtime as we drove through the wide open spaces of southern Arizona and New Mexico. Rather, I had trouble staying awake. I found Cosham’s tone tedious and lacking the clear differentiation between characters that makes for an outstanding audio book experience.
A point in this book’s favor is its setting in Montreal, which we fell in love with when we visited in 2001. The old brick buildings, the gilded and gorgeous Church of Notre Dame, the amazing French restaurants, the pommes frites, the street musicians, the waterfront–Montreal is a prime travel destination.
The inside view of a cut-throat world of art, museums and critics should have been just my cup of tea. In talking to Chief Inspector Gamache, one of the art dealers says “It’s a vicious place, full of greed and fear.” And that provides plenty of backstory and lots of people with motives to murder a former art critic in the garden of Clara Morrow, an artist celebrating her first showing at the Musée Montreal. (Moan-ree-Al)
The title refers to the chiaroscuro effect–light and dark contrasting in paintings, and by extension, the contrast between the dark side and the “light”, or good side, of people and between the truth and lies the policeman must sift through.
The cast of characters has gathered in the small village of Three Pines, invited to a party to celebrate Clara’s success. The author lives in a similar small town near Montreal, and clearly understands the dynamics of village life. Reading about this village–despite the fact that it is the site of a murder–makes one want to wander the roads near Montreal in search of a similar little Eden.
All of this adds up to exciting potential for a police novel, but for me it fell flat. The story develops ever so slowly, and lacks any real excitement. Gamache solves the crime mainly by his intellectual musings. He is an extraordinarily intelligent and well-informed policeman. But the classic “gather all the suspects in a room” ending drags on for several pages before wrapping up the case.
Louise Penny writes New York Times bestsellers, gobbled up by readers in The United States and Great Britain (and presumably Canada). However, her style is not for me–particularly not as read on this audio book. Your mileage may vary, (after all she sells super amounts of books and gets great reviews) and if you disagree, please let me know.
Disclaimers: As I mentioned above, Macmillan Audio provided this book for review. The pictures are scans of print photos taken on our trip to Montreal in 2001, all rights reserved. I have provided a link to Amazon, and if you are inclined to order anything from Amazon, please use my link because I earn a few cents when you do. Thanks.