“Old sins cast long shadows,” but Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté de Québec knows how to cut through the darkness and he does just that in How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny’s satisfying, suspenseful ninth Gamache novel. I’m hooked on this series and on the wise, intrepid Inspector, the agents he works with and the wonderfully conceived oddball inhabitants of Three Pines, the secluded village that has featured so prominently in most of these novels. Life has become grim for Gamache; his highly-thought-of homicide department has been wrecked by his Chief Superintendent, who wants him out, and his beloved second-in-command has turned on him, succumbing to drug abuse. But Gamache soldiers on, battling deep-seated corruption in the highest echelons of Québec’s government and solving the strange murder of the last of the famed Ouellet quintuplets (think of the Dionnes). Ralph Cosham narrates again, his voice now truly Gamache’s and his pace perfectly matched to Penny’s graceful prose.
A NEW GUMSHOE
The cat’s out of the bag and won’t go back in—Robert Galbraith, whose debut mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling, got excellent reviews when it came out this spring, is not a promising new kid on the block: “He” is J.K. Rowling, the mega-selling author of the Harry Potter books. So it’s hard to listen to this well-written, tautly plotted crime novel, full of vivid characters with great backstories, set in posh, moneyed London, without looking for hints of Harry and Hogwarts. But, aside from the hero’s vague resemblance to the powerfully built Hagrid, Rowling proves herself a master of a new genre, creating a tough-tender, viscerally smart, Chandler/Hammett-esque private eye with a seedy office and a clever, shapely Girl Friday. Cormoran Strike, said P.I., who lost a leg in Afghanistan, is down on his luck when the brother of an old schoolmate asks him to investigate the death of his sister, Lula, a gorgeous supermodel high atop the celebrity hierarchy and plagued by paparazzi. Suicide or murder? By the time you find out, you’ll be as involved with Cormoran as he is with Lula and her possible killers. And Robert Glenister’s virtuoso performance gives Rowling’s players an extra dimension. Sequel, please!
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
Anapestic tetrameter is not a rare disease. It’s that cozy, singsong verse form we all know from “The Night Before Christmas.” David Rakoff’s posthumously published novel (both his first and his last), Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, written in anapestic tetrameter, will alter that “cozy” perception forever. If you were reading the book, you’d find yourself reading aloud to get the meter right and to revel in Rakoff’s slyly brilliant rhymes—but in this amazing audio, the author reads himself. His voice is scratchy and illness-worn (he succumbed to cancer days after he finished recording), but his expressive, wryly humorous style, so familiar to his “This American Life” audience, is as wonderful as always. Starting in the 1920s and hopscotching through time to the present, Rakoff creates vignettes of oddly linked characters drawn in the quick, vibrant strokes that poetry allows. He’s witty, smart, an extraordinary dissector of the human condition in all its refracted angles and a bittersweet joy to listen to. This is an audiobook to savor and to share.