A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny.
For a tiny village that's not on any maps, Three Pines has more than its share of murders. Even the residents and the police voice that opinion. Luckily, the head of the Murder Squad at the Sûreté du Québec knows the village and its denizens well.
Artist Clara Morrow, who lives in Three Pines, has finally been "discovered" and is having her first solo show at the Montréal Musée d'Art Contemporain. After the show, her husband Peter has organized a party/barbecue in the garden of their home in Three Pines, with dozens of guests, some invited by other guests.
The next day, returning with a pile of newspapers that reviewed Clara's exhibit, Peter finds a body in the back yard. Hidden the night before in a flower bed in a remote corner of the garden, it's quite noticeable in the morning sunshine, due to its bright red dress.
The body is that of a childhood friend of Clara's, with whom she hasn't had contact in many years. Lillian Dyson, unable to succeed as an artist herself, had become a critic known for her cruelty to burgeoning artists. What she was doing at the Morrow's party was a mystery; she had no idea where Clara lived and none of guests admitted seeing her. Because Lillian was so good at alienating people, there is no shortage of suspects for the crime.
Gamache and his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, once again move their homicide team to the old railroad station in Three Pines in order to investigate. Gamache and Beauvoir are still not completely recovered from the injuries they received in a warehouse raid many months earlier, though Gamache is in much better shape than his deputy. Somehow, though, the two men manage to make use of their inner demons as they solve the puzzle of Lillian Dyson's death in Three Pines.
Each of Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache novels has been outstanding, and each has seemed better than its predecessor. A Trick of the Light is no exception. As she has in the six earlier books, Ms. Penny draws us into the world of Gamache and Beauvoir and their team, and the isolated community of Three Pines. The policemen's relationship with the villagers doesn't hinder them from being objective, and all concerned are aware of this.
The characters are deftly created, as well. Few of them are one-dimensional; Ms. Penny is able to portray even the most minor characters as multi-dimensional.
There are a couple of problems with the book, however. It is necessary to have read the previous books in the series to have a proper understanding of this one (though perhaps reading the six books in the series for the first time is not really a problem). Secondly (and truly sadly), the reader eventually reaches the last page, the last sentence, the last word of the book with the realization that there will be a wait of many months for the next.
A Trick of the Light will be released on August 30, 2011.
*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.