Clara Morrow, who lives with her husband Peter in the Quebec village of Three Pines near the border with Vermont, is now experiencing what she has always for – her own show of her paintings. Peter is also an artist, and officially supporting Clara but also expressing an ambivalence – you can call it jealousy.
The show is in Montreal, at the Contemporary Art Museum, and it is followed by a rather large party in the village square of Three Pines. Both the exhibition launch and the party are packed with gallery owners, artists, critics, friends and even enemies. In the art world, friends and enemies can be the same people.
The Morrow home fronts the square, and a discovery is made in the garden – the body of a dead woman. She is wearing bright party red, obviously a guest, and yet at first no one recognizes her. Her neck had been broken, neatly snapped.
The victim turns out to be a former art critic for a Montreal newspaper, an artist, a recovering alcoholic, and Clara’s childhood and college friend. As it turns out, most of the guests knew her. And more than a few had a motive for killing her – horrible press reviews that destroyed early careers and vicious personal attacks are only some of the reasons why she might have been killed. Clara herself has to be considered a suspect, for what happened in the past.
The death and the art world that provides its context is the heart of Louise Penny’s seventh Inspector Armand Gamache mystery, A Trick of the Light.
And it wouldn’t be a Louise Penny if the murder was the only action. Penny layers her stories, providing a richness to the characters and settings that make the stories come alive. In this seventh mystery, published in 2011, Gamache and his chief lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir are both still recovering from the attack on the Quebec Surete police that formed a considerable part of the story in Bury Your Dead. Gamache knows that someone in the Surete released the video of the shootings of police to attempt to force him to retire. Beauvoir is struggling with a possible addiction to oxycontin pain pills and the realization that he has fallen in love with Gamanche’s married daughter, Annie.
It is a wonderful brew of passion and suspense that Penny concocts. A Trick of the Light is another wonderful story.
Top photograph: The Montreal Contemporary Art Museum.