Leonard Cohen, Louise Penny, and Michael Connelly have nothing to do with each other. Nothing obvious, at any rate.
But there’s an important connection that all these artists share, embodied by the quotation in the title to this post, which consists of a couple of lines from Cohen’s poem/song “Anthem.”
As we approach the Iowa caucuses, the acquittal of Donald Trump, and the State of the Union address — another confluence of three not-so-unrelated items — we could benefit from listening to “Anthem” several times, especially the chorus:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
The connections to the caucuses and to Trump are reasonably clear, but how do the authors Penny and Connelly fit in? Both of them write police procedurals, one set in Quebec and one in LA, seemingly unrelated to this topic. And yet you see that Penny cannot be unrelated when you just take a look at the title of one of her novels: How the Light Gets In. That book is part of her wonderful series about Chief Inspector Armand Ganache, and his colleagues in the Sureté de Quebec, and the quirky inhabitants of a completely fictional small town in Quebec. A lot has happened in the four years since I last reviewed her work. I highly recommend her books, despite the few annoying flaws I discussed in that review. Anyway, the title to this novel is of course taken from the Cohen song, and it rings even more true now, seven years later.
Connelly’s police procedurals also wrestle with themes of good and evil. I’ve reviewed three of his novels over the years: The Lincoln Lawyer in 2006, The Drop in 2012, and The Late Show in 2017. Like Penny, he implicitly reminds us to forget the perfect and to look for the light in everything. There is always a crack, and that’s how the light gets in. At some point in every novel, Connelly’s protagonist Harry Bosch affirms that “either everyone counts or nobody counts.” That too is how the light gets in.