Cover Image: Celine


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Member Reviews

I really thought I would like this book based on the synopsis.  However, I was really bored.  The book kept going back to the main character's past and childhood.  I couldn't understand why it was pertinent to the story.  It just felt like an unnecessary info dump.. DNF % 40%
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I got about 20% through this one and skipped around the rest. From the beginning, I did not feel any authenticity from the situation or the characters. In the first part of the book, Celine is approached by a client. This client sits down with her to tell half of her story, leaves and tells Celine that she's done talking for now, will be in touch. Then she sends Celine a 5 page handwritten note that gives most of the rest of the story, then says that she wants to tell the last part in person, so she'll be in touch. Finally a few days later she appears again and gives the last bit of her sad tale. I can't picture a real person acting like this, it seemed just like a device to build tension to me. The way the character talked also didn't feel like a real person's speech, it felt like written dialogue. 

Then we get several flashback chapters from Celine's youth. This is called info-dumping and I'm not impressed with it as a way to deliver information about a character- it's about the clunkiest way there is! The author didn't want to drop bits of information organically into the story; no, he brings the story to a screeching halt to just tell you what he wants to tell you. I have a hard time believing that this is an award-winning author because of these issues- did he write his other books this way?

So, characterization that feels artificial (which is too bad because I guess Celine is very closely based on his mother), poor plot movement, and obvious attempts to build tension which only annoyed me. That was that.

Also, Celine is described as uber-WASPy, rich but she can't help it, she was just born that way, born to be the epitome of class, able to bond with anybody because she's just that classy. She's also quite partial to firearms. Unfortunately this put a picture in my head of a big haired Texas new-money folksy billionaire, not quite what I think the author had in mind. 

This was a love letter that I think might better have been sent privately, but I'm in the minority here so YMMV.
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By Peter Heller
Think of all the private detectives you have read about and seen in movies over the years.  Now forget all that and meet Celine Watkins.  Born of old money and full of insight, wit and a surprising wealth of skills, Celine is like no other PI that you have ever encountered.
Heller does an excellent job spooling out the story and introducing you to Celine and all the people that make her who she is.   Complete with the insights and infirmities that her age bring her and with the wisdom gained from a past that includes tragedy and privilege, Celine is perfectly suited to investigate, with her husband and partner the cold-case disappearance of a younger woman’s father.
Peter Heller’s skill as a writer takes you on a trip through Celine’s old New England and private school upbringing to the beautiful western scenery that she travels (in a small camper with plenty of breakfasts and good coffee) in the service of her client.
Celine is an enjoyable romp through an excellent story with characters you will like and admire.
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Breaking the mold of his first two novels (being set in the west), Heller has written yet another gem. Once again he is a master of his craft and quite simply an amazing wordsmith. He continues to amaze me. I didn't think I would like the Dog Stars. I loved it. I definitely thought the Painter would not be my cup of tea. Blew me away. Same here. I love his writing, his style, and his ability to tell a story. Always a pleasure.
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It's not often you read a totally fresh novel, with some unforgettable characters. Not that Celine is a big flashy, splashy book -- it's not. It captured me with its small moments -- the descriptions of nature, the relationship between the main character Celine and her husband, the simplicity of the storytelling.

Celine starts with an interesting premise. It's a mystery but by no means conventional. The lead character is a senior female -- and beware we should make any assumptions based on that brief description. Celine clearly has a past, and all her hidden secrets are deliberately not revealed in this book. She is an artist, and also a private detective. She specializes in solving mysteries which result in restoring lost family members, in no small part because her family ruptured and mostly deprived her of her father when she was young. Celine also is not well -- she has breathing difficulties brought on by a hard-lived life.

Celine is married to Pete,  a taciturn New Englander who has enough sense and discipline to not interfere with how she chooses to do things. 

That's the set-up. Into this mix steps Gabriella, a young woman who is searching for her father, presumed dead by grizzly bear attack in Montana decades earlier. Gabriella's mother drowned when  Gabriella was just a child, and she really lost her father then. Her childhood was fragmented and atrocious, and her father was only minimally available.

But something about her father's supposed death doesn't ring true, and Gabriella turns to Celine to find out the truth. The ensuing journey is a wonderful read, never sentimental, with humor, surprise and tenderness.  Not all questions are answered and we are left wondering if perhaps we will meet Celine again and solve a few more mysteries.

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Celine is a very peculiar woman. Her personal history made her become a private eye specialised in reuniting families. She has been tracking down people whom even the FBI could not locate. When Gabriela, a woman with an interesting family history, asks for her help to find her father, Celine does not immediately think of what this case might demand of her. Gabriela’s father disappeared many years ago when he, a professional photographer, was in a national park. The police suppose he was attacked by a bear, but they could never find the body. Celine and her husband agree to start the search anew. But soon they have to acknowledge that there are mighty enemies who will do everything to hinder them from discovering something.

Admittedly, I found the parts of Gabriela’s life as a girl, the strange family situation after her mother died in the ocean and her father married again, the most fascinating in the novel. They way her father’s new wife treats her, how they manage to hide from the outside world what is going wrong inside was most compelling and repellent at the same time. Yet, the search for her presumably dead father also had some interesting aspects, especially when they were looking more closely at the scene of crime and the traces.

Concerning the characters, the protagonist has some noteworthy spots, she is not the mediocre standard investigator whose private life is a mess and who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Her family life before coming to the States and the things she hides from her own son make her outstanding in the ocean of crime novels. Peter Heller clearly has created a unique character here, but quite often she seemed a bit too peculiar to me to be authentic. In this regard I preferred her husband who is much more down to earth. Nevertheless, this is for me the strongest aspect of the novel: the characters are complex, shaped by their experiences and sensitive to others. 

All in all, even though there is some kind of mystery about Gabriela’s father’s disappearance and also some suspense and even a kind of showdown, it is not this aspect that made the novel noteworthy, but Heller’s passion for detail in creating his characters.
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I really liked Peter Heller's first two books, so I was excited to receive a copy of "Celine". While the book was good, I didn't think it was on the same level as The Dog Stars or The Painter.  Celine was a little hokey and the book's premise was just OK.  Not really for me.
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CELINE by Peter Heller involves another private investigator and she is someone I would really love to meet. I think you would agree: after all, the author says, "her favorite snack was a chunk of Lindt chocolate bedded on a tablespoon of peanut butter. She could have lived on it." Celine is sixty-eight, comes from a privileged background, and specializes in cold cases, often involving adoption and birth families. Her companion, Pete, and son, Hank, provide a balance and steadying support, plus the occasional firearm such as a high-powered rifle or even a .44 Magnum (also, I learned, called a Bear Minimum).

The newest case comes from Gabriella whose father, Paul Jean-Claude Lamont, was a nature photographer; he disappeared years ago and was presumed killed by a grizzly bear. But rumors and hints of his involvement with the CIA persist. Celine and Pete head for Yellowstone National Park in order to investigate, and soon realize they are now being tracked. CELINE is filled with suspense and clever, descriptive writing.  With starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, it seems destined to join both of Heller's previous novels, The Dog Stars and The Painter, as a best seller.
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Here's what I loved about "Celine": The two main characters, Celine and her husband Pete, kick ass. They are senior citizens, Celine has emphysema, Pete is a step away from non-verbal, being from Maine; she's tiny and very stylish, he's big and wears coveralls. And because of their ages, no one really pays much attention to them, which is bad news for those who write them off.  Celine has a better record of finding people than the FBI due to her mysterious contacts; Pete has the sort of internet search skills rarely attributed to someone over 30.  Celine is really good with guns, although why remains a mystery since she grew up in a society family.  They don't think about their ages, they adapt to what's not working so well and what works better than ever. I would love to read about them again.

So why four stars? I was surprised at how quickly I skimmed over the sections set in Celine's youth, eager to get back to her and Pete bumping across Montana in an RV full of guns, followed by an FBI agent with a goatee.  

How great to shake up the PI genre!  "Celine" is smart and entertaining. Enjoy it.
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This smart page-turner is the story of one missing father in particular, and absentee fathers in general.  Celine is an octogenarian private investigator who agrees to take on the search for the father of an alumna of her alma mater, a man who went missing and was presumed dead more than 20 years earlier.  Celine and her husband set off in a camper to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, realize they are being followed, and discover that they are involved in a bigger mystery than it first seemed.  The author jumps around to different points of view, revealing that Celine's own background has many secrets that affect her son and husband and influence her approach to this investigation.  I found it disconcerting when the narrative flow was interrupted by changes in time and place, and even though the past history was important to the present it was sometimes confusing to shift gears somewhat abruptly.  On the other hand, I was motivated to hurry my reading to find out what was going to happen next.  It's unclear whether a sequel will be forthcoming, but if so I'll be sure to read it.   The characters and their relationships were most endearing.
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This is unique twist on the standard mystery novel. We still have a quirky older woman as investigator and a silent but insightful side kick. They are searching for a woman's father, missing for decades. Heller takes this seemingly standard genre and gives us insights into life and ourselves. I would be easy to simply look at this a cozy mystery, but it looks at love, family, and loss. I continue to think about this book, and that is always a sign i've read something that struck a nerve..
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