Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team from the Sûreté du Québec have survived (at least most of them) a terrible shootout with terrorists at a warehouse in Quebec, but they did not survive unscathed.
Gamache and his second in command Jean Guy Beauvoir still suffer from their wounds and from the effects of post traumatic stress. But life goes on. The job goes on. Murderers still have to be found and put away.
Gamache and his team are once again called to the idyllic hidden village of Three Pines where murder seems to be a cottage industry. This time, an outsider has been murdered. She was an artist and former art critic and childhood friend of local artist Clara Morrow.
However, their friendship had ended in acrimony long ago and now, inexplicably, the victim had turned up at a time of celebration for Clara. She had had her one-woman art show at the famed Musée in Montreal and she and her friends had returned to Three Pines to celebrate the show with a party. Sometime during the night, the murder was committed in Clara's garden. The body is found the next morning and the investigation begins.
This story probes deep into the art scene in the villages and in Montreal where nothing, it seems, is as it first appears. Appearances are often merely a "trick of the light." It is a world of shading and nuance and everyone seems to be guarding some secret. But which one of those secrets was a motive for murder? Gamache must sort through all the clues and find the truth.
The plot of A Trick of the Light turns on the problem of addiction - addiction to alcohol or drugs or addiction to the need for acceptance and approval. The organization Alcoholics Anonymous plays a big role in the investigation. The victim was a member and it appears, at least for a time, that that membership may have played some part in her murder. We get to learn quite a lot about how AA works and about the lifelong struggle of members to get and stay clean and sober.
Once again Louise Penny has created very rich characters with strong accents of dark and light in their personalities. She displays, as in all her books, a firm understanding and a sympathy for human psychology.
Her recurring characters, including Armand Gamache, are people that we continue to get to know better, book by book, and that the reader wants to see have positive outcomes in their lives - even as, in this case, I suspected one of them of murder!
The relationship between Armand and Jean Guy is a complex one and Penny explores it gently. Jean Guy has not yet learned the Chief Inspector's empathy for others or his patience. He is very dismissive of the struggles of the AA members, even as he fails to recognize and address his own addiction to prescription drugs.
He loves the Chief Inspector as a mentor, as a father almost, and wants to make him proud, yet he is suffering from so much guilt and anger in relation to the warehouse shootout that it is affecting his judgement.
Moreover, he is going through a separation and divorce from his wife and he has realized that the woman he truly loves, has always loved, is the Chief Inspector's daughter Annie, who is also married. Poor Jean Guy! So many problems.
All of the Three Pines villagers that we've come to know and love are here in this seventh book in the series, especially Ruth, the curmudgeonly old poet, who, in her own inimitable way holds them all together. It's good to be able to visit with them all once again. Even if it did take a grisly murder to bring us back together.