How The Light Gets In
By Louise Penny (Minotaur, 416 pages, $29.99)
One of the best Canadian crime series goes from strength to strength. Louise Penny takes us to the exquisite Quebec village of Three Pines and the stalwart Sûreté Inspector Armand Gamache. Three Pines, as all fans know, is a hidden jewel, not on the map, in a mountain cleft that makes it unreachable by computer or mobile phone. In short, a place to escape the stress of modernity and all its devices. And, of course, there’s murder.
This time out, it’s days to Christmas and the dead are in Montreal. Gamache is at war with his superiors, who are attempting to oust him by turning his homicide department into a rabble of disrespect and incompetence. He has also lost the aid and friendship of his long-time associate Jean-Guy Beauvoir. So when a Montreal murder takes him to Three Pines, it’s a relief to be among the kind and caring folk there.
The mystery demands access to the outside world and so, flying against the very charm of Three Pines, local heroes Myrna, Gabri, and Olivier agree to help Gamache set up a satellite dish. It’s an emergency move, one hopes, but after case is solved, it’s still there. Does this mark the end of Three Pines’ isolated perfection? We’ll have to wait for the next instalment of this marvellous series to find out.
By Benjamin Black (Henry Holt, 304 pages, $30)
My first literary introduction to Ireland included leprechauns and singing pubs. That may have been the myth but, in the prose of Benjamin Black, 1950s Dublin was a dank and oppressive place, dominated by religion and bereft of charm. Benjamin Black, a.k.a. John Banville, is a master at the perfect scene and the artful image. That’s what makes his series featuring the enigmatic medical examiner Quirke so memorable. This novel begins with a dead body in a lock and leads to death and destruction in the Catholic church, Ireland’s most powerful and most demanding master. Beautifully written, with unforgettable characters and perfect pacing, this is one of the best books of the year.
Children Of The Revolution
By Peter Robinson (McClelland and Stewart, 400 pages, $29.95)
It’s been over 25 years since DCI Alan Banks first solved a case in Yorkshire and 20 books later, mulling retirement, aging gracefully, Peter Robinson’s solid detective is still a joy. This time out, he returns to what, for Robinson, is always the best plot line – the motive buried in personal history. The dead man is a disgraced college professor abandoned by all who knew him, living a solitary and penurious life. But there’s 5,000 pounds in his pocket. There are plenty of suspects in his recent past but it’s his time as a member of a revolutionary cabal in 1970s Essex that interests Banks. And Banks’s interest opens old and dangerous memories. One of the series’ best.
Let It Burn
By Steve Hamilton (Minotaur, 288 pages, $29.99)
This superb series, set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, deserves more praise than it gets. The latest has Alex McKnight leaving his usual small town and heading for Detroit, the place where his career as a city cop ended. McKnight doesn’t expect to stay but he drops in on the old precinct house to see the guys. Then a cold case he investigated 20 years before grabs him. Hamilton grabs the reader on page one and keeps going. On the way, he fills in some of Alex McKnight’s history.
By Kelley Armstrong (Random House Canada, 496 pages, $29.95)
I am not a fan of mysteries that cross over into other genres, and I don’t like books that begin with infant narrators. So when I tell you that, despite that, Omens kept me reading on, you can bet it’s a good book. The regrettable kiddo lasts only a few pages and does play a part in the plot. Then we hop to the worst week in the life of Olivia Taylor Jones, beautiful, smart, cultivated and rich, enjoying the fruits of her entitled life. When the press discovers that she is the daughter of two notorious serial killers, everything changes. With a splat, all those entitlements go awry when the press discovers that Olivia is really the daughter of Todd and Pamela Larson, the most notorious serial killers in the Midwest. In a heartbeat, her real name, Eden Larson, and her picture are front-page news. Led by a series of seemingly random events, Olivia heads to the small town of Cainsville, Ill., and what she hopes is seclusion, but Cainsville has been waiting for Eden , and the mystery of her parents has just begun. A clever whodunit with some very nice twists and the fantasy actually works.