This is the tenth novel by Louise Penny, and the newest in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. It takes place eight months after the events in the prior novel, the equally wonderful “How the Light Gets In,” and finds Gamache, now in his late fifties, newly retired from his position as head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec, having had enough of murder and killers and anxious to “at long last, rest in peace in the little village in the valley.” That, of course, being the village of Three Pines, “so small and obscure it doesn’t appear on any map,” where he has found a peaceful and worry-/anxiety-free existence.
All the other beloved villagers are also present: Myrna, a “large black woman” who had been a practicing psychologist and runs the local bookstore; “demented, drunken, delusional” Ruth Zardo, an eccentric, award-winning poet, and Rosa, her beloved pet duck; Gabri and Olivier, the lovers who run the bistro and the B&B; Jean-Guy Beauvoir, formerly Gamache’s second-in-command and now his son-in-law. But this time out, the plot centers around Clara Morrow, one of the closest friends that Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, had in the small village.
Clara is a brilliant artist and portraitist, married to Peter Morrow, a celebrated artist in his own right but now overshadowed by his wife’s growing fame and respect. One gains insight into the world of art in these pages, and sees that beauty truly lies in the eyes of the beholder, whether in art or one’s surroundings, and presents art in its many nuances, to a far greater degree than I remember in the earlier series entries.
One morning Clara tells Gamache that her husband, from whom she had separated one year prior, has gone missing. The strain in their marriage had caused them to agree to have no contact for a year, and then to reunite on the anniversary of that date. Gamache, aided by Jean-Guy, Myrna, Ruth, and Clara herself, embark on a quest to find Peter, taking them to the far reaches of Canada, to places where “time had its own rules.” The writing is poetic prose at its best, and, as well as the ubiquitous “lump in the throat” that one finds throughout the book, is completely captivating.