First Line: As Clara Morrow approached, she wondered if he'd repeat the same small gesture he'd done every morning.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has retired from the Sûreté du Québec, and with his beloved Reine-Marie and their dog Henri have moved to the village of Three Pines. Gamache relishes the peace he finds there among friends and loved ones, and his wounds-- both inner and outer-- are healing.
Every morning Clara Morrow watches Gamache sit on a bench in the morning sun, reading a book and looking off into the distance. One day she decides she can wait no longer, so she joins him on the bench and tells him what is troubling her. Clara's husband Peter has not returned as he promised on the anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache to help find her husband. At the thought of leaving Three Pines, Gamache almost becomes physically ill, but he rises from the bench, begins contacting those who will help them, and joins Clara on her search for Peter.
If you've heard all the praise for Louise Penny's books and are thinking of reading this-- her tenth book to feature Armand Gamache-- first, I urge you to think again. Each book in this series is a chapter in a much larger tale; therefore, to begin reading a book at chapter ten may leave you wondering what in the world is going on.
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 Long Way Home by Louise Penny
Minotaur Books © 2014
Hardcover, 384 pages
Police Procedural, #10 Armand Gamache mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.