At first enjoying a peaceful retirement, former Quebec homicide detective Armand Gamache reluctantly agrees to help a neighbor search for her missing estranged husband and teams up with two former colleagues on a search that reveals the workings of a psychologically damaged mind.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, are happily retired in Three Pines. At least they were. Until Peter Morrow, who was due to return home to the village on the year anniversary of a trial separation from Clara, does not show. At her wits’ end, Clara enlists the help of Gamache. And so begins what will finally be the venerable inspector’s last investigation: and it’s an intriguing one. Peter’s movements over the past year include Paris, Venice, Dumfries (yes, an odd fit), Toronto, Quebec City, and finally rural Quebec: Baie-Saint-Paul, the dense Quebec woods, and the scenic shores of the Saint Lawrence River. And if this goose-chase weren’t trouble enough, Gamache and his faithful second and now son-in-law, Beauvoir, are led into the art world via two Quebecois college professors who share a suspect history: one celebrated by the establishment, and the other firmly rejected by same. And what on earth to make of Peter’s latest works? none of his signature structure, rigidity, sterility, but a wild abandoned mess of colour and texture – a dog’s breakfast.
The Long Way Home is a sound conclusion to Penny’s well-loved Three Pines series. I like that Gamache’s character has been allowed to age: the duress of a long police career and grave injury having taken their toll – so that he’s somewhat off his game here, but he’s real. And I love that he has retired in the idyllic village introduced to us so many novels ago.
"His face showed his age. It was worn with cares and concerns and worries. With pain. But the deepest crevices were made by laughter. Around his eyes and mouth. Mirth, etched deep.” (Ch 1)
BUT SHE'S JUST THAT GOOD.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an ARC earlier this summer, and waited to read it until I'd finished a re-read (this time in audio) of the previous nine books in the series, and lurked along in the on-line discussions. Quel fun!
All through the series, I've never liked the character of Peter, so I wasn't sure I was going to have much sympathy for him or the people trying to find him. When I sang in the choir several years ago, our choir director tried and tried and tried to get us to master the hymn "There is a Balm in Gilead" to the point that I HATED that hymn. And to put frosting on the proverbial cake, I had a pretty negative recollection of trying to get through Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer winner Gilead when our book club read it several years ago. If this current book hadn't been written by Louise Penny, and hadn't been about my all-time favorite mystery personality, I probably wouldn't have wanted to read it. I wouldn't have wanted to see Armand's well-deserved retirement "ruined". I just wanted everything to stay in "Three Pines Fairyland". Fairyland it isn't. Life it is. The characters who have become so familiar to us continue to expand, to mature, and let us into their lives. Ruth Zardo, another of my favorite characters finally allows a tiny crack in her armor to let us in, so those of us who have loved her all along can at last begin to see why.
In the end, the only thing I can say is that once again, Louise Penny does not disappoint. She steals our heart, she takes our breath away, she causes us to lose a huge chunk of time since once we embark on this adventure, we neglect everything and everyone else in our lives. I can't wait for the publication date August 26 because I've already pre-ordered a hard back copy (something I rarely do), and the audio to go with it.
If you're not yet a fan, and think you don't like mysteries, give these a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
I am a huge fan of this series, and all of the things that I've loved about the previous books apply her. The writing is superb. The characters are multi-layered and now feel like old friends. The mystery itself was well plotted. I was actually glad that I was a little under the weather today, allowing me to finish the last 100 pages in one gulp. And in some ways, this was one of my favorite Three Pines books. Ruth was in especially fine form, so that added greatly to my enjoyment. And the mystery centered around the creative process, which allowed Penny to speculate on the process of creating art.
At this time of his life, Armand Gamache is recovering from severe injuries to body and mind, as is his son-in-law and former deputy Jean-Guy. Both are no longer working for the Sûreté du Québec, but duty calls to them regardless. Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie have found the perfect healing village of Three Pines, bi-lingual and calming, they purchased their home there a few years ago. This very small village might more easily be referred to as a neighbourhood, so close and welcoming the residents are. One would think that crime would never attempt to touch such a place, but no place is devoid of such things. But has a crime actually been committed? That is the question. Clara, what some might call a spontaneous artist, slapping paint on canvas with happy abandonment, is worried. She asked her husband to leave for one year and it is now past the time he should have returned. They are both artists, but with entirely different methodology. Why has he not come home? Is he dead or alive?
This book takes us inside the minds of several people, as most if not all the books in this series do. Louise Penny treats her creations as indiviuals she knows personally and that is what makes her books so comforting yet brilliant. We know these people. They are complete, flawed, righteous, giving, loving, supportive, in other words, they are Everyone in Anytown. As this story takes us through the growing pains of art and love, new discoveries about the population of these people are made. I love a book that teaches me something new, and this one teaches me a lot about art and its connection to heart and soul. It teaches me how to see into a painting.
Why can this group of friends not find Peter? It's almost as though he has stepped into a painting and disappeared. Yet, they are able to track his journey, but where will it take them in the end and what will they find? Clara, his wife, is sure she will find him but even the former Chief Inspector has little idea where and how to look. The journey takes this odd bunch of friends halfway 'round the globe and back. Though their journey has been extensive, it has been fruitful in an unusual way. Sometimes insight comes from surprising places. As some pieces fit together others fall apart. I loved this book for its depth of perception, its humour, its colour, its mystery, the many surprises, and the opportunity to get to know these characters and their village.
The previous novels have seen the inspector through cases that have left him mentally and physically shattered, but now he is happily retired to the little village of Three Pines. Gamache’s recovery has been a slow one, and although he still walks with a bit of a limp, at this point he is struggling more with the mental part of recovery than with the physical. So when his neighbor Clara Morrow asks his help in finding her husband, Gamache is reluctant to put on his policeman hat again to search for a man whose wife has not seen him for almost exactly one year.
Luckily for Gamache, he has someone upon whose help he can always call, his new son-in-law and former police colleague, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Because of what the two men have recently been through together, their bond will never be broken – even though each man believes that he is the one looking after the other, and not vice versa. And so it is, that an unlikely team of four (Gamache, Beauvoir, Clara Morrow, and Clara’s best friend Myrna Landers) forms to look for the missing Peter Morrow, a man on a dark journey all his own.
Peter’s dark journey will soon take our unlikely quartet of detectives on one of their own, a quest that will ultimately find them fighting for their lives at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in what could be the most remote village in all of Canada. It is in this little outpost that they will learn just how wrong they have been about Peter Morrow, and about why he has not returned to his wife despite his promise to come home on the one-year anniversary of his departure.
Fans of this excellent series may be surprised to learn that reading The Long Way Home starts to feel as tough an undertaking as what the Gamache team itself is enduring. The 373-page novel’s pace is slowed by too many baby-steps toward a resolution, blown investigatory theories, and obscure art theory to make for comfortable reading. And then, after all of that, the book’s climax, when it finally is reached, is too predictable to compensate for its tedious build-up. Longtime fans of the series, however, will find satisfaction in the way that Armand Gamache’s personal history is moved along, and they should not miss The Long Way Home.
Back in A Trick of the Light, the seventh book in this series, Clara Morrow asked her husband Peter to leave their home in Three Pines for a year. Peter's jealousy of Clara's success as a painter showed Clara how flawed Peter was. In this book the year is up but Peter has not returned to Three Pines and he has not been heard from. Clara is not sure if she wants him back but she knows she can't make that decision until she sees him. She asks Gamache, now retired with his wife in Three Pines, to help her find Peter. Gamache asks his son-in-law (and former colleague) Jean-Pierre to help him. They manage to track Peter by his bank records to Paris, Rome, Venice, a small town in Scotland, Toronto and finally to the Charlevoix region. But there the track goes cold and Gamache, Clara, Jean-Pierre and Myrna decide they have to go to the area themselves. They know Peter has been painting while he has been away because he has sent some of his paintings to his sister's child. The paintings are unlike anything Peter has ever done before. It is even hard to tell which side is the top of the paintings. The paintings are not very good but they do show emotion which Peter never showed before. Maybe there is hope for him and Clara yet?
Any worry I had that the series would falter when Gamache retired from La Surete is put to rest with this book. He will keep on doing what he does best as will the rest of the characters in Three Pines. (Ruth Zardo is still my favourite of the minor characters.)
This was my first Inspector Gamache novel and that was a mistake. I should have read the preceding novels first! Even at the end of the book I was still sure I was missing important nuances of plot , conversation and place.
That said, I enjoyed this book. The mystery lurks into being in the first paragraphs and keeps one on edge for the remainder of the book. The characters are well defined. The plot is rich with suspense and is logically rendered. You will care about the characters and be surprised by the ending. There is humor in the characters, especially Ruth and Rosa, as well as humanity and empathy.
If you know a bit about art and artists you will be ahead of the game. If you know nothing about art and artists you will learn a lot about their temperaments and work styles. Neither instance will detract from the story.
5 of 5 stars
The story of Clara and Peter Morrow has been a constant thread throughout this series, and The Long Way Home continues this story by showing us the corrosive power of jealousy. This book has much more to do with searching and less to do with mystery, which may not set well with some readers, but if you are as intensely involved in the lives of these wonderfully realized characters as I am, you will be willing to let Penny tell her story in her own fashion. For me, soul searching can be every bit as fascinating as the search for a missing person-- as long as someone as gifted as this author is telling the tale.
As Clara, Myrna, Gamache and Jean-Guy follow Peter's trail closer and closer to "the land God gave to Cain," readers are treated to conversations with beloved characters like Ruth who, in her own inimitable way, has profound advice to share. As usual with Penny's writing, gestures, glances, and words left unspoken can have great import, and conversations can range from the existence of a tenth muse to overworking a painting.
Lest the search for a jealous man become too grim, Penny shows that she can do more than bring her characters or scenes of nature and food to life. Having Clara, Myrna, Gamache and Jean-Guy experience life aboard ship is a brilliant section that gives the book some badly needed lightness and humor.
Yes, this book is a bit of a departure from the rest of the books in the series, but that's not a bad thing. Gamache is retired, so there's no way he can lead an investigation into a murder. The Long Way Home is not your typical police procedural. In fact it moves quite a distance from that particular subgenre. What this retired man can and will do is to leave his comfort zone to go in aid of a friend, and as such I found it to be a brilliant and loving continuation of Penny's series.
At the beginning of The Long Way Home, Armand Gamache looks out over the village and wonders, "Was Three Pines a compass? A guide for those blown off course?" For me, Louise Penny's creation is exactly that, and each time a new book is released, I feel the pull of that compass to remind me to return to the shelter of that small and wonderful village.
The community of LaPorte, in the 15th arrondissement, reminded me of the Canadian community that attracted one of the Niebuhr brothers towards the end of his life. I think it was called L'Arche, The Ark, a community that created a home for special needs adults. I need to find the proper reference.
Three Pines is still one of my favorite book destinations.
Skipped lots of it, read the rest only because my book club is reading this one. Didn't ever feel the need to go back and read what was skipped.
Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector in the Surete de Quebec, has retired to Three Pines with his wife, Reine-Marie. They enjoy visits from her daughter and son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who still works for the Surete. Gamache is engaged in healing his soul of what he sees as many sins, with the help of bookstore owner Myrna, a retired psychologist. When Clara tells him of her plight, he cannot refuse to help.
Most of the story involves tracking Peter's movements and hunting for him. Even the obscene, drunken poet and duck raiser Ruth Zardo gets in on the search (although while it's fun to have Ruth along, we never see why she decides to be so involved). The characters also talk about fate quite a bit, particularly having an appointment with death. I don't remember such a focus in the previous volumes, and I wonder why it appears here.
Penny's prose is wonderful as ever. She has a lot to say about art and artists in this book, particularly the difference between operating from the head and operating from the heart. It was hard not to read that as a commentary on her own writing. I was disconcerted at several points by the "wisdom of the heart" displayed unerringly by her major characters. All too often they stare at something and have an epiphany that we don't get to share just yet. Too many of the novel's short chapters end with a character having a serious foreboding in her heart. It's almost as if Penny has taken her press clippings, which proclaim her wisdom in such matters, to heart a bit too much.
And yet... the characters remain wonderful, and they remain themselves, and they grow a bit. I really would have liked to see more of Gamache seeking balm for his soul; perhaps after this interruption he can get back to it in the next book. We see more of Myrna, which is nice, although she's guilty of some of the chapter-ending insights and foreboding mentioned above. It was enjoyable to see Gamache insisting on letting Clara take the lead at some points, and to see her wanting to do it. While much of the story moves at a rather leisurely pace, it picks up toward the end, and the conclusion is a punch in the gut.
Overall, this one is IMHO not quite as good as the last couple in the series, but it's near that level, which places it above most of what's being published these days.
I would be remiss not to mention the cover: the jacket is made of a canvas-textured paper that's very appropriate to the artist theme within. Like the story, the artwork is not quite as beautiful as last year's How the Light gets In, but it's lovely.
The most recent and arguably best in the long-running mystery series featuring (former) Chief Inspector Gamache. The plot centers around the search for a missing friend, but the joy of reading Penny's books, and especially this one, are the lovely village of Three Pines and its quirky inhabitants. In Penny's hands, the Canadian landscape comes vividly to life, and her insights into human nature stay with the reader long after the book is closed. Highly recommended.
This is one of my absolute all time favourite series. Penny's lead character is Quebec Sûreté Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The crimes and mysteries are always intricate, well plotted and well written. There was a subtle secondary plot that began early on in the first nine books and it exponentially grew through the first nine books, culminating in a startling conclusion in How the Light Gets In.
Where could this series go after such a ending? Spoilers ahead.....
Many questions that were left at the end of book nine have been answered in the opening pages of The Long Way Home. I felt a little cheated that the resolutions surround Gamache's protégé Jean Guy had taken place without me and that life has moved on without the reader being involved. Gamache has retired to the small village of Three Pines, an oft used setting for Penny. Over the course of the series, readers have come to know and love the residents.
Some more than others. Clara and Peter are artists who make their home in the village. A year ago, Peter left, promising to Clara to return in a year to see if their marriage could be repaired. The year has come and gone with no word from him. Clara enlists Gamache in her search to find him.
So, we have a case that again utilizes Gamache's skills, albeit in an unofficial capacity. The path and the clues to Peter's whereabouts are found in a series of paintings and the world of art. Penny does an admiral job bringing her visual plotline to the written page, but I did find it a bit esoteric and slower paced than I would have liked. And okay, by the end I was tired of hearing about the upside down smile painting. Jean-Guy, after having factored so heavily in previous novels, has been relegated to the sidelines. There were some odd side stories - notably the androgynous niece/nephew Bean. As a colleague and I discussed one morning, The Long Way Home almost seems like a character study with the mystery of Peter's whereabouts as the secondary plotline.
But my real problem was with Clara. The residents of Three Pines have become quite 'real' over the course of the series. I quite like most of them - notably Ruth and her duck Rosa. But here's my problem - I was never taken with Clara to start with and throughout The Long Way Home my dislike of her steadily grew. This is a testament to Penny's writing skills, but it made it harder to become fully engaged in the case and its outcome.
I've chosen to listen to the last three or four books in this series. Ralph Cosham is the reader. His wonderfully paced, rich, sonorous voice completely embodies Gamache for me. The low, somewhat gravelly tone of Cosham's voice and his well modulated pace just draws you further into the story. His French accent and pronunciation is well done and believable. The voices he provides for other characters are just as well done. The cranky old poet Ruth is a favourite of mine. Actually, all the residents of Three Pines come alive with his interpretations, and make me wish I could visit to Three Pines and chat with them. Sadly Ralph Cosham passed away this past September.
I enjoyed The Long Way Home, but didn't love this one. Penny is at work on a new novel - and it will be one I'll definitely read. I'm curious as to where she will take Gamache et al next.