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THE LONG WAY HOME by Louise Penny: Book Review

For the admirers of all things Québécois, there’s good news for your end-of-summer reading.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is back!

Actually, he’s retired Chief Inspector Gamache now.  After a series of incidents that nearly took his life, he has left the force, and now he and his wife, Reine-Marie, are living in the village of Three Pines, the scene of many of his earlier cases.  Now it is his wish to live in there quietly and enjoy the company of his wife and the many friends they’ve made in the community over the years.

But, bien entendu, this is not to be.  Clara Morrow, one of  Armand’s neighbors, very hesitantly comes to him with a problem.  A little over a year ago she and her husband, Peter, decided on a trial separation.  

All through the years of their marriage Peter had been the famous one, a painter of renown throughout Canada.  More recently, however, Clara’s paintings have been recognized for their originality and brilliance, and while her star rose, Peter’s fell.  He has not dealt well with this, not used to being the also-ran in their relationship, and finally Clara asked him to leave their home.  

As Clara tells Armand and his son-in-law, police detective Jean-Guy Beauvoir, at last she had recognized something that was long obvious to their friends.  “He never understood my art.  He tolerated it.  What he couldn’t tolerate was my success.”

The plan was for Peter to return, or at least contact Clara, a year from the date he left to discuss the state of their relationship.  But that date came and went with no word from him.  And now, several weeks later, she has finally worked up enough courage to ask Armand for his help.

Clara has no idea where her husband has gone, but she is convinced that wherever he is, he is painting.  Joined by Armand, Jean-Guy, and her closest friend, Myrna, Clara begins to search for her husband.

Reading The Long Way Home is, in fact, like going home for readers familiar with this series.  Now that Armand and Reine-Marie are finally ensconced in their new home, which actually is the oldest house in the village, they are with their friends on a daily basis. 

Besides Clara, there is Myrna, a psychologist and owner of the village bookstore; Olivier and Gabri, the gay couple who own a bistro in Three Pines; and Ruth, the prize-winning poet with a foul mouth and a duck who appears to speak only vulgarities.  And on the weekends, the Gamaches’ newly-married daughter, Annie, often arrives with her husband, Jean-Guy, Armand’s former colleague and still his close friend. 

Armand Gamache is a good man, struggling with his own demons after nearly losing his life and being unfairly vilified by a colleague during his tenure as chief inspector of homicide in the Sûreté du Québec.  He is working hard to banish these demons, not wanting to go again into any situations that might bring them to the forefront of his thoughts.  But when Clara asks him for help, he cannot refuse.

As with all of Louise Penny’s novels, the characters, with their virtues and flaws, are very, very real.  Watching them age and grow, the reader may see some of her/himself in some or all of them.  This trip back to Three Pines is suspenseful, wonderful, and sad.

You can read more about Louise Penny at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.





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