Book review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Easy does it… successful homicide detectives don’t have to be the toughest, fastest-talking cops on the block.
The Long Way Home by Louise PennyThe Long Way Home by Louise Penny
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Take Chief Inspector Armand Gamache; he used to be the most celebrated policeman in Québec but he didn’t get where he was by throwing his weight around. Brains and not brawn have been the key to cracking his most difficult cases.

For those not familiar with multi award-winning Canadian author Louise Penny’s charming and cerebral detective, it’s never too late to join him at his home in the quiet village of Three Pines on the outskirts of Montreal.

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The Long Way Home is Penny’s tenth novel in a series that is now cult reading for crime fans who like their mysteries to come with breathtaking scenery, powerful themes, a charismatic leading player and clever, compelling plots.

Add on the elegant mastery and acute observation of Penny’s writing, enigmatic stories that grow in depth and vision with each chapter in Gamache’s life, and you have a blissful reading package.

After events that almost ended his life, Armand Gamache, now the former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found in retirement a peace he could never have imagined possible.

Away from the front line of policing in Montreal, he has slipped happily into a mundane routine with his wife Reine-Marie in Three Pines where he sits on a bench to admire the Rivière Bella Bella as it winds between the mountains rolling off to Vermont.

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But when his friend and neighbour Clara Morrow asks for help, he can’t bring himself to refuse her despite the old wounds it threatens to re-open. Clara’s husband Peter is missing, having failed to keep his promise to come home on the first anniversary of their trial separation.

Along with another neighbour Myrna Landers and his son-in-law and former second-in-command Jean-Guy Beavoir, Gamache travels further into Québec, to the mouth of the St Lawrence River and deep into the tortured mind of Peter Morrow, a man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist that he would sell his soul.

As Gamache gets closer to the truth, he uncovers a deadly trail of artistic jealousy, rivalry and deceit. Can Gamache bring Peter home safely or, in searching for answers, has he placed himself and those closest to him in terrible danger?

As ever with Armand Gamache’s complex cases, the plot unfolds in slow but tantalising fragments of narrative, investigation and action which roll back layers of the past and its hidden secrets to uncover a devastating truth.

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Along the way, we encounter soaring landscapes, emotional maelstroms, dark humour, ‘sin-sick souls’ and the magic of a writer who knows how to make people human and her stories sing.

The singer and her song in perfect harmony…

(Sphere, hardback, £19.99)