58 pages 1 hour read

Louise Penny

The Long Way Home

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2014

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

The Long Way Home (2014) is the 10th novel in the Inspector Gamache series written by the Canadian author Louise Penny. Like the other books in the series, the novel revolves around the village of Three Pines, Quebec, although it also encompasses events in other places. In addition to a central mystery focused on a wife’s attempt to find her estranged husband, the novel explores themes of art, creativity, ambition, and loss. This guide references the 2014 Minotaur Books edition.

Plot Summary

Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are settling into a quiet and happy life in the village of Three Pines, where they have been living for several months. Gamache has had a celebrated career as the head of homicide investigation at the Sûreté du Québec, the police force of the Canadian province of Quebec. But after a traumatic event (covered in the previous novels and only hinted at here), he wants to live a peaceful life as a civilian. Three Pines is a close-knit community, and Gamache and Reine-Marie are good friends with most of the villagers.

One of their friends, an artist named Clara Morrow, confides in Gamache about something that has been weighing on her. A year ago, Clara and her husband Peter agreed to a 12-month separation. Peter is also an artist, and for most of their marriage, he was successful and far better known than Clara. However, several years ago, Clara’s portraits began to receive attention, and she became famous. At about the same time, Peter’s career stalled, and he became jealous. They had no contact in the year they were apart. However, the agreed-upon date of their reunion has now come and gone, and Peter has not come back. Clara is worried that something has happened to him and asks for Gamache’s help to find Peter.

Gamache agrees to help in an unofficial capacity and begins investigating with the assistance of his son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Other villagers, including bookstore owner Myrna and eccentric poet Ruth also become involved. They find out that, after separating from Clara, Peter went to Europe and spent time in France, Italy, and Scotland. From there, he went to Toronto, and then to Quebec City. There has been no trace of him for several months, which casts an ominous tone over the investigation. Peter has several family members in Toronto, but they are not able to provide much information, since he was largely estranged from them. However, the investigation uncovers some unusual and jarring paintings that Peter sent to his sister’s child during the year of his absence. The paintings are completely different from Peter’s previous style, and while they seem abstract at first, Gamache and the others realize that the paintings are stylized landscapes representing places that Peter visited.

One of the images leads Gamache to believe that Peter might be in Baie-Saint Paul, a picturesque town on the banks of the St. Lawrence River that is popular with painters and artists. Gamache, Jean-Guy, Clara, and Myrna travel there, but while they can confirm that Peter was there, no one seems to know where he went or why he left. A local gallery owner, Marcel Chartrand, takes an interest in helping them, especially since he spent time with Peter while he was in town. Marcel explains that Peter expressed an interest in finding someone named Norman, but Marcel knows of no such person. Marcel mentions, however, that some time ago a mysterious man who went by the name of Noman led an artists’ commune in the woods nearby.

The only person named Norman who Clara can think of is a former professor named Sebastien Norman, who taught at the art college she and Peter attended and where they met and fell in love. Professor Norman was eccentric and unpopular, and he lost his job at the college for tormenting students, including Clara. Peter was not close with Professor Norman, but Gamache and the others begin investigating this possible lead. It becomes clear that, after losing his job at the college, Norman moved to Baie-Saint Paul and founded the commune. However, the commune disbanded, and Norman abruptly disappeared, more than 10 years ago,

Further investigation reveals that Norman has ties to a remote fishing village called Tabaquen and that Peter likely went there as well. Feeling increasingly concerned about Peter’s fate, Gamache, Jean-Guy, Myrna, Marcel, and Clara journey towards the remote village. Along the way, Gamache initiates further investigations that suggest Norman might have been contaminating canvases with asbestos and then sending art painted on the canvases to galleries and individuals. Over time, people exposed to asbestos will likely get sick and die, allowing Norman to commit incredibly subtle murders. Gamache believes that Norman intended to poison Professor Massey, who also taught at the college when Clara and Peter studied there. Suspecting that Norman is a killer makes their quest to find both Peter and Norman increasingly urgent.

When they reach Tabaquen, Gamache and Jean-Guy go to Norman’s remote cabin, leaving Myrna, Marcel, and Clara behind. When they arrive at the cabin, they find Norman dead with Peter standing nearby in shock. Peter explains that he had longed to do something to honor Clara and had the idea of tracking down Norman and confronting him about the way he had mistreated Clara years before. Peter found Norman old, sick, and dying alone, and he ended up staying to care for him. A few days prior, a third man had come and joined them at the cabin: Professor Massey. The night before, Peter left Massey and Norman alone and came back to find Norman dead.

Gamache realizes that he has misunderstood the case: Massey has been the one poisoning Norman. Massey is jealous of Norman, who was a more talented and ground-breaking artist. He has been sending Norman canvases in a seeming show of kindness but has actually been slowly killing him.

With Gamache and his friends on the case, Massey realized that he was in danger of being exposed and hurried to Tabaquen. He killed Norman and intended to frame another man who had been his unwitting accomplice for years. As Gamache puts the pieces together, Clara and Massey arrive at the cabin. Clara had been unable to wait to see what happened, and when Massey saw her rush to the cabin, he went after her. Massey seizes Clara and holds a knife to her throat. Gamache and Peter both try to save Clara and, in the struggle, Massey stabs Peter. Peter dies in his wife’s arms, revealing that he always intended to come back to her and even wrote a letter explaining his delay. However, the letter never arrived.

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