This is a very special series, and Louise Penny a truly remarkable mystery writer. I read mysteries, on occasion, but they're not books to which I get greatly attached. Generally, they are light fluff. I'm not sure you could have convinced me that reading a mystery would reduce me to big soppy tears for most of the last two chapters.
But that's what happened here.
First off, the warning. Do not read this series out of order. There are few mystery series where I think that would matter, but it does matter here. Start at the beginning (you won't regret it) and work your way forward. Because there is an overarching story that is only hinted at in the first couple of books, but becomes more and more apparent as the series goes on.
How The Light Gets In is the culmination of the long arc, and it is worth the trip. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the trip has uniformly been so excellent, so perceptive about people, with mysteries so intriguing and characters so rich. But this is where it's all been headed, and that hit me like a ton of bricks.
Where do we go from here? There are strong hints that this is not the end of the series, but it is the end of the overarching plot about a creeping corruption in the Surete de Quebec. It's rare that I've seen a mystery series with that kind of long-term goal in mind, and one that is parcelled out so perfectly over so many books that the emotional impact when we got to this point nearly broke me.
We're back in Three Pines for this one, which is welcome. I've missed this cast of characters, in their roles as witnesses, suspects, and killers. The crime took place in Montreal , but the victim was on her way to Three Pines for Christmas, and perhaps was killed to keep her from getting there. When Gamache, Chief of Homicide, gets the case, he soon finds out that the woman was one of the famous Ouellet Quints. (Think Dionne quintuplets, with large amounts of artistic license.)
Who would have wanted her dead? The answer is satisfying, but really, the story in this book is the culmination of the Surete storyline. It centres around Gamache's decimated homicide department, dispersed and filled with jackasses, as those above him try to discredit him. It's about who he can trust. And it's about the heartbreaking relationship between him and his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.
There's a point in this book with a duck that started the tears running down my face, and they didn't stop until I'd finished. I'm not going to say any more than that. Those who have read the previous books can guess who the duck is, but I'm guessing they didn't see this moment of grace coming.
Gamache has long believed that kindness and love are stronger, in the end. He investigates those moments when they've turned into their opposite, but he is a fundamentally optimistic and compassionate man. Are those qualities rewarded? I'm not telling, but you owe it to yourself to find out.
I don't care if you're a mystery reader or not. If you are, you'll love these. If you're not, you still ought to check them out. These are something truly special. And as we reach the end of that storyline, if not the series, I am so glad I've been on board for most of the run. The emotional impact was staggering.