04 March 2015

Better late than never?

Once again, I have procrastinated about writing things about books I've read. The books have piled up on my desk and my dresser. Why, oh why?

I have no answer.

Diversion: The last I read of Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear's hero, she had closed her private investigator's business and headed for India. It was a good move, because the character and the story lines had become rather stale. In the last two years, Winspear wrote a novel about life during World War I, and has another Maisie Dobbs mystery coming out in July. The new novel is set in Gibraltar, which might help revive the franchise.

Long running series (common to mystery writers) based on one or two primary characters, face the risk of repetition, especially if the characters are portrayed in consistent ways. Louise Penny faced that problem with her Armand Gamache novels set in the tiny village of Three Pines, Quebec. She has dealt with it by changing the status of her main character and having him retire to the little village and do some private sleuthing for one of his new neighbors.

Louise Penny has written a series of books (10 so far) about Quebec Detective Inspector Armand Gamache. Somehow he's investigated nearly a dozen major crimes in the tiny (Lake Wobegon-sized) village of Three Pines. That tiny village not only seemed to be a magnet for crime, but also for an incredible variety of interesting people (equally unlikely events in my experience). But those characteristics are what made Penny's stories so interesting. The new book is The Long Way Home.

In the book that preceded The Long Way Home, the great detective cracked a major corruption case that involved the highest levels of the Quebec police force. Then he retired to the tiny village of Three Pines that he'd come to know so well, thus increasing the variety and number of interesting people in the village.

Painter Clara Morrow's husband Peter, also a painter, went missing. The two of them had had a sort of competition as artists, and Clara had won more fame and fortune. Had Peter ceded the stage to his successful wife, had he gone off in search of a new muse, or had he given up on living? Who better to help locate the missing man than a nearby, retired police inspector? Peter's trail is obscure and convoluted.

The retired DI has to deal with the remnants of an artistic commune from the '60s. Surrounding the ruins of the commune are rumors of murders (bring in the cadaver dogs) and plagiarism (check in with a gallery owner in Montreal). Somehow, Peter was linked to the commune in the past. Was his disappearance linked to a reconnection with its notorious former leader? Oh, yes, asbestos too. Deadly asbestos. And a sad, "O. Henry" ending for the loving couple, Clara and Peter.

Well done, Louise Penny. You found a way to extend the series of Gamache novels.

No comments: