Book review: ‘The Long Way Home’ by Louise Penny

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Inspector Gamache suffered a great deal of trauma over his illustrious career, and it has taken its toll. Recently he had been forced to kill a man in his pursuit of cleaning up the Provincial Police Force for Quebec.

He and his wife have retired to Three Pines so Gamache can rest and recover. He is finding retirement to his liking and recovery is in progress, assisted by Myrna, the psychologist/bookstore owner who has found the healing power of the reclusive village of Three Pines, too.

Their friend, Clara, and her husband, Peter, had had a falling out a year ago over Peter’s reaction to his artist wife’s success. He couldn’t adjust to her recognition surpassing his own. A date had been set for them to meet in a year and find out where their relationship stood. Peter hadn’t showed. Since he had always been a very punctual person, Clara was worried. It would not be like him to not meet even if he had decided they were over. Something must have happened to him, but what?

When your friend is a renowned investigator, you turn to him; when a friend is in trouble, you should try to help. Thus, the stage is set for Gamache to leave his refuge, a proposition that is somewhat worrisome.

Establishing Peter’s location immediately after leaving Three Pines proves quite easy. He used his credit card. Why he chose the places he chose or what he actually did there remained a puzzle. Although it became somewhat clearer after Clara, Myrna, Gamache and Beauvoir (Gamache’s former second in command) visited the locations. The four of them made up the investigative team. Because Clara felt she knew Peter best, she demanded to be in charge, and that’s how it was until the skills of Gamache were required.

Peter’s first stop made sense — Montreal, a place to gather his thoughts. Then to Paris, but to a residential area, not an art district. Then to Florence, Venice, and then Dumfries, Scotland, and finally, perhaps, Toronto. Some of those cities might make sense for an artist trying to find his muse, but Dumfries? In Toronto, Peter had withdrawn $3,000 from his checking account and from there, no trace.

And then another puzzle. Peter sent several paintings to a nephew; that wasn’t necessarily strange, but the paintings were: “… like a dog’s breakfast. If the dog had no sense of taste.” So, the investigative team examined the painting and tried to deduce their meanings. What did they say about Peter, about his state of mind?

At some point, the team realized that at least some of the strange, paintings were artistic representations of geographic areas. Peter and Clara’s original art school had been in Toronto, one of Peter’s stops. As it turned out, he had been there seeking information about now-retired professors. He had not been specific enough to suggest where he might be going.

Eventually the team does puzzle out Peter’s location. But he’s been gone a year, has obviously changed in that time, and is no longer the detailed artist he had been when he left. And he hadn’t kept the agreed-upon date. What had happened? Had he really lost all interest in Clara, in his former life? Is he even still alive? That’s what Gamache still must find out.

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