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I'm a grad student, an avid reader, a huge nerd, fervent roleplayer, wife, cat lover, tea snob, and obsessive keeper of lists.
A Trick of the Light - Louise Penny I dabble in reading mysteries - I enjoy them, but I don't generally seek them out.

Louise Penny is an exception to this rule. These days, she's the one mystery author I will actively seek out, often borrowing copies of her books we've given to my mother or mother-in-law. Her books are always a pleasure to read, combining well-crafted mysteries with wonderful characters.

And this is where these books shine. In most mystery series, the recurring characters are the detective and maybe some subordinates. That is true in this case as well. But these are the only books I've seen that all take place in the same location, in this case, the small Quebec town of Three Pines. And so not only are the police characters you get to know and love, so are the people who live in Three Pines, and are the suspects, witnesses and onlookers to various crimes. (So far, although one long-term character was arrested for committing the murder in one of the books, none of the victims have been people we know. I suspect that may be coming, and that it'll hurt.)

Penny has a deft hand at drawing characters who are lovable but deeply flawed, and often in pain. The Three Pines community in A Trick of the Light is still reeling from the arrest of one important character for murder two books ago, and its aftermath. Friendships have been strained, and some have been strengthened. Artist Clara Morrow, one of my favourite characters, has finally gotten a solo show in Montreal, and is poised for big success, but that might be more painful than she realizes. Her artist husband, Peter, is still eaten up by jealousy about the recognition she's getting for her work, and that finally comes to a head in this book.

And then, the morning after her show opening and celebratory party, a woman is found dead in her garden. A former friend, and former art critic who savaged her works as a young artist, along with the works of many other people just starting out.

A Trick of the Light is about the art community and the reactions to new artists, but it is also about Three Pines. And finally, it is about hope. If you like mysteries, this is a series well worth seeking out. In addition to everything I've said, the writing is also some of the best I've seen in mysteries. Using the same characters over and over allows for developments outside the mysteries (which are themselves excellent) that greatly enrich the experience. But start at the beginning of the series. They're all worth reading.

One final note - Ruth Zardo is one of my favourite characters of all time.