Authors: Louise Penny
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Adult, #Contemporary, #Suspense
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As with all my books,
How the Light Gets In
would not have been written without the help and support of Michael, my husband. No Michael, no books. It’s simple and true, and I will be grateful to him through this life and into the next.
There are, in fact, many people who helped with this quite complex book. My friend Susan McKenzie and I spent two days at Hovey Manor, beside a lake in Québec, in a classic journalists’ “story meeting” … hashing out ideas, thoughts, connections. Tossing out ideas, some crazy, some too sane and safe. Picking them up, examining each, taking out the best bits and building on them. When you find someone good at it, it’s a magical process. But it demands being creative and constructive. Not finding flaws, but finding that hidden gem, recognizing a step to the better idea. It demands being an active and respectful listener. Susan is all those things. We’re a great team and she helped make this book so much better.
I was also helped in many of the technical issues by Cassie Galante, Jeanne-Marie Hudson, Paul Hochman, and Denis Dufour.
Merci, mille fois.
Lise Page, my assistant, is invaluable. She’s an early reader, a constant cheerleader, a tireless workmate, a creative soul. I know my books and my career would not be where they are without Lise—and they sure wouldn’t be as much fun!
My brother Doug is also an early reader, a gentle critic, and a wonderful support. You know, after a while in a career filled with blessings, it’s difficult to keep calling up friends with more and more great news. I know without a doubt they’re happy for me, but it can slip over into what might feel like (and might very well be) bragging. But still, when great things happen, I want to talk about them. Doug is the person I call. A man always happy for me (or kind enough not to tell me to be quiet and go away).
Linda Lyall designs and manages my website and newsletter and puts in long hours making sure the public face of the series does Gamache et al. justice. Thank you, Linda!
My agents, Teresa Chris and Patricia Moosbrugger, have shepherded the Gamache books over the sometimes rocky, and deeply unpredictable, terrain of today’s publishing world. They’ve been sure and courageous and chosen their battles wisely … which allowed me to concentrate on my only real job. To write a book I’d be proud of.
I have no children. These Gamache books are not trivial to me. They’re not a pastime, they’re not cash cows. They are my dream come true. My legacy. My offspring. They are precious to me, and I put them into the hands of the great people at Minotaur Books and St. Martin’s Press. Hope Dellon, my longtime editor and friend, who never fails to make the books far better. Andrew Martin, the publisher, who took a tiny book set in a little Québec village, and put it on the
New York Times
list. Sarah Melnyk, my publicist at Minotaur, who knows the books, knows me, and has been a ferocious and effective promoter of Chief Inspector Gamache.
And thank you to Jamie Broadhurst, Dan Wagstaff, and the people at Raincoast Books in Canada, who’ve put Gamache on bestseller lists in my own country. So exciting.
And thanks to David Shelley, the publisher of Little, Brown UK, for taking over the series. I know the books are in good hands with him.
Finally, I’d like to thank Leonard Cohen. The book is named after an excerpt from his poem/song—“Anthem.”
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
I first used that stanza in my second book. When I contacted him to ask permission and find out what I’d have to pay for it, he got back through his agent to say he would give it to me for free.
I’d paid handsomely for other poetry excerpts, and rightly so. I’d expected to pay for this, especially given that at the time, six years ago, Mr. Cohen had just had most of his savings stolen by a trusted member of his team.
Instead of asking for thousands—he asked for nothing.
I cannot begin to imagine the light that floods into that man.
And now you’re holding my imperfect offering. It was written with great love and gratitude and awareness of how very lucky I am.
Audrey Villeneuve knew what she imagined could not possibly be happening. She was a grown woman and could tell the difference between real and imagined. But each morning as she drove through the Ville-Marie Tunnel from her home in east-end Montréal to her office, she could see it. Hear it. Feel it happening.
The first sign would be a blast of red as drivers hit their brakes. The truck ahead would veer, skidding, slamming sideways. An unholy shriek would bounce off the hard walls and race toward her, all-consuming. Horns, alarms, brakes, people screaming.
And then Audrey would see huge blocks of concrete peeling from the ceiling, dragging with them a tangle of metal veins and sinews. The tunnel spilling its guts. That held the structure up. That held the city of Montréal up.
And then, and then … the oval of daylight, the end of the tunnel, would close. Like an eye.
And then, darkness.
And the long, long wait. To be crushed.
Every morning and each evening, as Audrey Villeneuve drove through the engineering marvel that linked one end of the city with another, it collapsed.
“It’ll be all right.” She laughed to herself. At herself. “It’ll be all right.”
She cranked the music louder and sang loudly to herself.
But still her hands on the steering wheel tingled, then grew cold and numb, and her heart pounded. A wave of slush whacked her windshield. The wipers swept it away, leaving a half moon of streaky visibility.
Traffic slowed. Then stopped.
Audrey’s eyes widened. This had never happened before. Moving through the tunnel was bad enough. Stopped in it was inconceivable. Her brain froze.
“It’ll be all right.” But she couldn’t hear her voice, so thin was her breath and so great the howl in her head.
She locked the door with her elbow. Not to keep anyone out, but to keep herself in. A feeble attempt to stop herself from flinging open the door and running, running, screaming out of the tunnel. She gripped the wheel. Tight. Tight. Tighter.
Her eyes darted to the slush-spattered wall, the ceiling, the far wall.
Dear God, cracks.
And the half-hearted attempts to plaster over them.
Not to repair them, but hide them.
That doesn’t mean the tunnel will collapse,
she assured herself.
But the cracks widened and consumed her reason. All the monsters of her imagination became real and were squeezing out, reaching out, from between those faults.
She turned the music off so she could concentrate, hyper-vigilant. The car ahead inched forward. Then stopped.
“Go, go, go,” she pleaded.
But Audrey Villeneuve was trapped and terrified. With nowhere to go. The tunnel was bad, but what waited for her in the gray December sunlight was worse.
For days, weeks, months—even years, if she was being honest—she’d known. Monsters existed. They lived in cracks in tunnels, and in dark alleys, and in neat row houses. They had names like Frankenstein and Dracula, and Martha and David and Pierre. And you almost always found them where you least expected.
She glanced into the rearview mirror and met two frightened brown eyes. But in the reflection she also saw her salvation. Her silver bullet. Her wooden stake.
It was a pretty party dress.
She’d spent hours sewing it. Time she could have, should have, spent wrapping Christmas gifts for her husband and daughters. Time she could have, should have, spent baking shortbread stars and angels and jolly snowmen, with candy buttons and gumdrop eyes.
Instead, each night when she got home Audrey Villeneuve went straight to the basement, to her sewing machine. Hunched over the emerald green fabric, she’d stitched into that party dress all her hopes.
She would put it on that night, walk into the Christmas party, scan the room and feel surprised eyes on her. In her clingy green dress, frumpy Audrey Villeneuve would be the center of attention. But it wasn’t made to get everyone’s attention. Just one man’s. And when she had that, she could relax.
She’d hand over her burden, and get on with life. The faults would be repaired. The fissures closed. The monsters returned to where they belonged.
The exit to the Champlain Bridge was in sight. It wasn’t what she normally took, but this was far from a normal day.
Audrey put on her signal and saw the man in the next car give her a sour look. Where did she think she was going? They were all trapped. But Audrey Villeneuve was more trapped. The man gave her the finger, but she took no offense. In Québec it was as casual as a friendly wave. If the Québécois ever designed a car, the hood ornament would be a middle finger. Normally she’d give him a “friendly wave” back, but she had other things on her mind.
She edged into the far right lane, toward the exit to the bridge. The wall of the tunnel was just feet away. She could have stuck her fist into one of the holes.
“It’ll be all right.”
Audrey Villeneuve knew it would be many things, but all right probably wasn’t one of them.
“Get your own fucking duck,” said Ruth, and held Rosa a little closer. A living eiderdown.
Constance Pineault smiled and stared ahead. Four days ago it would never have occurred to her to get a duck, but now she actually envied Ruth her Rosa. And not just for the warmth the duck provided on the bitter, biting December day.
Four days ago it would never have occurred to her to leave her comfortable chair by the bistro fireplace to sit on an icy bench beside a woman who was either drunk or demented. But here she was.
Four days ago Constance Pineault didn’t know that warmth came in many forms. As did sanity. But now she knew.
“Deee-fenssssse,” Ruth shouted at the young players on the frozen pond. “For God’s sake, Aimée Patterson, Rosa could do better.”
Aimée skated past and Constance heard her say something that might have been “duck.” Or “puck.” Or …
“They adore me,” Ruth said to Constance. Or Rosa. Or the thin air.
“They’re afraid of you,” said Constance.
Ruth gave her a sharp assessing glance. “Are you still here? I thought you’d died.”