Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Posts Tagged ‘missing man’

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.





AFTER I’M GONE by Laura Lippman: Book Review

After each book I read by Laura Lippman, I’m reminded why she’s one of my favorite authors.  After I’m Gone has only reinforced my feeling.

Some people have incredible charisma, and Felix Brewer was one of those.  Not especially good-looking, not college-educated, he nevertheless charmed everyone he met and was able to parlay this into life with a beautiful wife, three lovely daughters, a large house in Baltimore, and a significant presence in the city’s Jewish and philanthropic communities.  However, he always wanted more.

But somehow, in After I’m Gone, things have gone awry.  Felix is hiding in a horse van, hoping not to be stopped by the police, because he’s on his way out of the country to avoid a fifteen year prison sentence.  He’s with his mistress, Julie Saxony, but he has no intention of taking her with him, nor is he taking his wife and children.  It’s July 4, 1976.

Bambi, Felix’s wife, has known almost from the beginning of their life together that not everything Felix did was legal.  It wasn’t exactly illegal, or at least not all of it, but it was slippery.  “People will gossip.  But we’ll be so respectable–so rich–that no one will be able to afford to look down on us,”  he tells her.  Bambi deals with that, just as she deals with knowing that Felix is unfaithful, consoling herself with the thought that he loves her best. 

Sandy Sanchez is the instrument that will open up this thirty-five-year-old history.  He’s a former police detective in Baltimore, working as a consultant on cold cases for the force.  Going through some old files, he comes across a photo of Julie, Felix’s girlfriend at the time he disappeared.  Julie vanished ten years after Felix did, but her body was not discovered for another fifteen years.  Her murder has never been solved, so Sandy decides it’s worth a closer look.

In addition to following Sandy’s pursuit of Julie’s killer, over the years we are introduced to the oldest Brewer daughter, Linda, on the night of the 1980 presidential election; Rachel, the middle daughter, caught in an unhappy marriage with a cheating husband; and Michelle, the spoiled youngest child, who never knew her father and perhaps misses him the most.

And there’s the beautiful Bambi, still turning heads at forty, fifty, sixty.  Too proud to ever let friends know how dire her financial situation really is, she manages from month to month, holding her breath as the bills pile up. 

The lives of everyone in the book have been touched both by the presence of Felix Brewer and by his absence.  It’s fascinating to watch the dynamics so many years after he leaves.  It’s as if his energy and personality are still vibrating nearly four decades later.  It’s not simply that his family and friends are still missing him, although they are.  It’s also that their lives are so different than they would have been if he had not left. 

After I’m Gone joins all the other novels by Laura Lippman as a wonderful read.  The characters are real, as are their reactions to what is happening to them.  The plot is outstanding; more than simply a mystery, it is a narrative about how each person’s life impacts so many other lives.

You can read more about Laura Lippman at this web site.

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







HOW LIKE AN ANGEL by Margaret Millar: Golden Oldie

How Like an Angel was written in 1962, exactly fifty years ago. It’s a true classic.

Joe Quinn, licensed Nevada private detective/security guard, has been cleaned out at the Reno gambling tables and has grabbed a ride back to California with a friend.  The friend, in a hurry to get home, leaves him at the side of the road some forty-five miles from San Felice, Joe’s destination.  The friend tells him that there’s a religious community just up the road that will give him food and drink and shelter for the night, so without any other resource to fall back on Joe takes his advice.

The Tower is a community of twenty-seven people, including three children, that is headed by The Master. The members have renounced all worldly goods–telephones, television, regular clothes–the better to get to heaven; it is their belief that wearing wool robes, going barefoot, and bathing no more than weekly in cold water will assure them a place in Paradise.  Even their given names have been left behind–now they are known as Sister Blessing, Brother Tongue, Brother Crown, and Brother Light of the Infinite, for example.

During his overnight stay, Joe is approached by Sister Blessing, who acts as the nurse and manager of The Tower.  She appears kind and concerned about Joe’s physical and emotional well-being, and when she learns that he is a detective she asks him to do a job for her.  She emphasizes that this is against the rules of the community, and she pays him with money secreted from the others that her son sends her every Christmas.

Sister Blessing’s request is that Joe go into Chicote, a nearby town, and find a man named Patrick O’Gorman. He’s not a friend or relative, she assures Joe, and she doesn’t want Joe to contact him in any way.   Whether O’Gorman is in Chicote or not, she tells Joe to “come back here and tell me about it, me and only me.”

Joe is only slightly interested, but he’s broke and doesn’t have any other job offers.  So he gets a ride to San Felice in the community’s truck the next morning and starts asking questions.  And early on he discovers that Patrick O’Gorman has been missing and presumed dead for five years.

The novel takes a number of twists and turns, and circles back on itself again, but every detour has a reason and every red herring is perfectly contrived.  About ten pages from the end of the book I realized what had happened in the past and what was about to happen, and I was blown away.  The plot is so skillful and well thought out that it made me want to start reading How Like an Angel over again to see if I could have/should have figured out the ending sooner.

Margaret Millar lived from 1915 to 1994; she was the wife of Kenneth Millar, better known to mystery fans as Ross Macdonald.  Imagine having that couple to your house for drinks and dinner!