The Long Way Home is the tenth book in the Inspector Gamache series, but even if you haven't read any of the others, it really doesn't matter - you will soon be swept away by the evocative descriptions of the rugged Quebec landscapes and convinced by the reassuring solidity of the former Chief Inspector of Homicide, Armand Gamache. I've only read one other Gamache thriller - the fifth tome, The Brutal Telling - and, while the references to previous cases and traumatic events in Gamache's and his sidekick Beauvoir's personal and professional lives made me want to delve deeper into the complex characters and fill in the backstories, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel at all.
The stories are set in and around the peaceful village of Three Pines, where everyone knows everybody else and their business. While Gamache has retired, he is drawn into an unofficial investigation when his friend Clara Morrow approaches him to say that her estranged husband Peter has gone missing. The pair had separated, when successful artist Peter found it hard to deal with his upcoming artist wife's new fame and success overshadowing his own, but he was supposed to return home a year later. The only clue they have to his whereabouts (past and present over the last year) are a series of experimental and very abstract paintings that he has sent to his niece/nephew (bizarrely the child's mother has never wanted to reveal his/her sex and the child has such an androgynous style that nobody knows for sure - I can only guess that this had some relevance to an earlier episode !). Following the clues takes them (virtually) to various unusual locations and they end up in a sinister-sounding artist's retreat in the remotest backwaters of the St Laurent river, where everything becomes terrifyingly clear.
It's a chilling, thrilling detective story that will have you trying to work out whodunnit along with the inspector, minus the gore and horrifying violence that seem to be part and parcel of modern crime fiction. The eccentric but believable characters are great fun and Armand's close bond with his wife is endearing. It's a gentle meander through the savage beauty of the Canadian coast, as well as an investigation of the darker side of human nature - jealousy, betrayal and deceit. If you want a less violent crime novel to get your teeth into, this series is absolutely perfect.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £7.99