Chief Inspector Armand Gamanche has retired from the Quebec Surete. He and his wife have moved from Montreal to the village of Three Pines, not far from the Vermont border. Three Pines is the place Gamanche finds a sense of peace and rest, even though it has been the scene of so many murders investigated by Gamanche.
One of the Three Pines residents is Clara Morrow, an artist who rather unexpectedly became something of a sensation with a recent show in Montreal. Her husband Peter had been the nationally recognized artist in the family, until Clara’s show. And then it appeared she had surpassed him. Peter reacted badly, so badly that he tried to sabotage her work.
The Morrows had agreed to separate for a year, and then meet to decide if their marriage could survive. The year passes, and Clara hears nothing. Finally, she asks Gamanche to help find Peter. Gamanche asks his long-time Surete assistant and now son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, to help. The clues are sparse. They discover Peter had gone to Paris, Florence, and Venice, and then to a small town in Scotland. The three cities make sense for an artist trying to find himself and renew his art, but a small town in Scotland?
Using what appear to be some very bad paintings left with Morrow family members in Toronto, Gamanche and Beauvoir continue their search. The closer they get, the more they find danger, and murder.
The Long Way Home by Canadian author Louise Penny is the tenth (of twelve) Chief Inspector Gamanche novels. As is Penny’s style and depth, it is an intriguing mystery, but it is also much more – a reflection into what is art, what inspires artists, and what happens when the muse flees. Or is killed.
The residents of Three Pines themselves figure as part of the investigating team; it is one of their own who is missing. And Penny has created some of the most memorable ongoing characters in mystery fiction, including the psychologist-turned-bookstore owner Myrna Slater, the celebrated poet with the waspish tongue and four-letter vocabulary Ruth Zardo (and her wonderful duck Rosa), the café and bed-and-breakfast owners Olivier and Gabriel, and now also Reine-Marie, Gamanche’s beloved wife.
The Long Way Home is vintage Gamanche and vintage Louise Penny, an ugly story of murder, jealousy, and revenge told so beautifully that the ugliness is muted and controlled.
Photograph of the Charlevoix, Quebec, area by Charles Rondeau via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.