Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Trick of the Light

Art, artists, curators, critics, gallery owners and dealers: they all play their parts in "A Trick of the Light", by Louise Penny. This is Penny's seventh mystery novel, set in the fictional Eastern Townships village of Three Pines.

The theme of the book is "chiaroscuro", an art technique that employs high contrasts of dark and light. And so we read about hate and love, betrayal and forgiveness, addiction, vengeance and yes, murder.

I enjoy the references to the English-French dynamic that plays out in Montreal and the "Cantons de l'Est", and to real institutions and locations: neighbourhoods, streets and restaurants. I appreciate the "sense of place" in Penny's work, and I hope this same delight in my city finds its way into my own work.

Penny's books are considered to be in the sub-genre of "the cozy", with its setting in a small, insular town, and its avoidance of explicit violence or sex, similar to the Miss Marple murder mysteries.

What I have always noticed about Penny's novels is the theme of art that runs through them. Penny herself lives in the Eastern Townships and counts artists, musicians and writers among her friends. She credits them for opening a window onto this world for her.

Her eighth novel in the series, "The Beautiful Mystery" was released yesterday.  Set in a monastery, its title refers to ancient Gregorian chant, and it deals with the paradoxes of discord and harmony, voice and silence, belonging and solitude.

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