Louise Penny sends Armand Gamache on The Long Way Home

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Throughout nearly 10 years of adventures, mystery author Louise Penny's immensely intelligent and talented creation Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has solved many murders and sought justice for those in need of it. But he's also seen first hand some of the darkest, worst aspects of humanity. By the end of her last novel How the Light Gets In, Gamache decided he'd had enough.

"Too many wounds, too much sorrow, too much had happened to him. He had to retire," Penny said during a recent interview on All in a Weekend.

The beginning of Penny's 10th novel, The Long Way Home, finds Gamache living a quiet life away from case files and crime scenes in the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines. He spends mornings reading outside. He reflects on the beauty of the Townships. Finally, he's happy, or at least he thinks he is. But his peace is short-lived. His neighbour Clara needs his help - her artist husband has gone missing. Reluctantly, Gamache agrees to leave Three Pines and search for him. Thus, Gamache begins a new journey, one that takes him deeper into Quebec and into the troubled life of Clara's husband, a desperate man trying to reclaim his fame as an artist. But there's a deeper journey for Gamache as well, one that sees him trying to heal those wounds and find his way back to Three Pines.

"It's something he knows he has to do," Penny said. "It's the sort of thing where there is no real peace without courage. And he has to have the courage to go out and do what's necessary because, otherwise, the village stops being a haven and it becomes a prison."

Courage, whether in making art (which has frequently been explored in the Gamache series), confronting your personal demons or determining your identity, is a necessary quality, one Penny reflects on when discussing her damaged investigator's new quest.

"I have so much respect for artists, or anyone who creates, anyone who starts to write, never mind finishes. I know how much courage it takes to step forward and say, 'I'm a writer,' 'I'm an artist,' 'I'm a dancer,' 'I'm a poet.' Whether you're ever published or not is meaningless. It's being able to self-define like that and then take whatever criticism the world might have."

As draining and dangerous it's been for Gamache to solve these crimes over the years, perhaps this is his art, and part of his self-definition. We're sure fans of the series hope that Penny's wounded warrior will continue to find the courage to keep going.