One of the pleasures of doing book reviews is getting to discover a new author and escaping into their fictional world. I have been hearing about mystery novelist Louise Penny on the What I Should Read Next podcast by several readers. Anne Bogel, the host, recommended Penny to several of her podcast guests. I decided from those glowing recommendations that I was going to tryout this writer. When I saw The Long Way Home recently on the clearance shelf at my local Half Price Books here in San Antonio; I knew it was time to read this author.
The Long Way Home features retired Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, former head of homicide with the Surete du Quebec. Gamache has retired to Three Pines, a small village in Quebec, with his wife, Reine-Marie, to live a quieter, peaceful life.
One of the Gamache’s oldest friends, artist Clara Morrow, became concerned when her estranged husband, Peter did not meet her for a possible reconciliation of their marriage. It was unusual for Peter to not meet with Clara and she asked Inspector Gamache for his help to find him. The novel takes several twists and turns in order to find Peter’s whereabouts. However, The Long Way Home goes far deeper than your typical mystery novel.
For one, Gamache reads from a small book, The Balm in Gilead, throughout the novel and the spiritual symbolism becomes apparent as you continue reading. Penny’s writing reveals excellent insights into human nature without becoming pedantic or pedagogic. I will admit I kept thinking about Paul’s writings in Romans 7:13-24 from the New Testament as I read this novel. He reveals how entrenched the power of sin is in his life despite his efforts of wanting to do good for himself and others. Penny goes right to the heart of this matter from a secular perspective, however, I found it believable and thought-provoking.
The Long Way Home is an enjoyable, thoughtful work of fiction and has made me want to read (and review) the rest of the Inspector Gamache series. It is one of my favorite reads of 2017 and a great place to start for those (like me) who are new to Louise Penny. Highest recommendation.