In the "wound between the mountains" of Quebec sits the village of Three Pines. Over the course of Louise Penny's celebrated series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache, the village has served as a microcosm of the world, a place representing the best and worst in humanity.
As a result, I'm on record suggesting that Penny has become an equal to P.D. James in the psychological depth of her characters and their emotional connection to place, but in "The Long Way Home" it's just not enough.
Once again the inner lives of Penny's characters are at the forefront, attempting to heal their "sin-sick" souls, but this time it's at the expense of a plot that's sluggish and lacks suspense. Gamache's last case left him spiritually wounded, and he has retreated to Three Pines, where his respite is short-lived.
Gamache's dear friend Clara Morrow asks him to find her missing husband. But it's not until well into the novel that Peter's absence becomes truly suspicious. That's a long time to wait for any mystery.
Another disappointing element is the fact that all the hand-wringing in the village over Peter's disappearance didn't match my emotional stakes in his survival. Peter had a "life filled with great fortune, of health, of creativity, of friends," and yet he had "no idea how very fortunate he was." Even Clara can't decide if she wants him back.
If she's not sure, why should I care?
CAROLE E. BARROWMAN