All the Devils are Here a Middling Louise Penny Effort




By Louise Penny

Minotaur Nooks, 448 pages.



If you are a Louise Penny fan, a new Armand Gamache novel is a call for celebration. In all candor, All the Devils are Here is worth reading, but is not Penny’s strongest offering. The title comes from Shakespeare: “Hell is empty, all the devils are here.”


Here, in this case, is Paris. Unlike most Gamache tales, the Quebec village of Three Pines gets only passing mention in the 16th book in the series. Armand and his wife Reine-Marie are in the City of Lights to visit their son Daniel and his family; and daughter Annie, who is about to have her second child with Jean Guy, Gamache’s former second in command at the Sûreté du Quebec. Paris is also home to Stephen Horowitz, Gamache’s godfather and the man who helped raise him when his parents died in a car crash when Armand was just nine. Thus, Armand knows Paris very well and he and Reine-Marie maintain a small apartment there.


Stephen, a very rich investor, is 93 and slowing down, but his mind is still sharp. Why though, would someone deliberately run him over in a Paris crosswalk. That’s a question Gamache wants answered and he enlists the services of an old friend, Claude Dussault, who is now prefect of police for all of Paris.


Readers of Penny’s previous novel know that Jean-Guy left Quebec to stop dodging bullets and take a job with an engineering film in Paris. That company, GHS, factors into All the Devils. So do many other things: the Rodin museum, venture capitalism, security forces, the Eiffel tower, rare earth minerals, a Patagonian disappearance, corporate politics, magnetic coins, and France’s shameful past treatment of Jews. On the micro level, Gamache wrestles with the unknown cause of Daniel’s estrangement from him, and with issues such as childhood trauma and the past bleeding into the present.


There are lots of characters in All the Devils – perhaps too many – and that also goes for all the irons in the fire. As in previous books, there is suspicion of malfeasance in high places. It is to Penny’s credit that we do not know until the end which ones are real and which ones are red herrings. Gamache comes to distrust everyone – including Daniel – but he has many from whom to choose, especially after he visits Stephen’s apartment and finds the corpse of a man later identified as Alexander Plessner. Among the many dodgy characters are Irene Fontaine, Jean-Guy’s resentful underling at GHS; Eugenie Roquebrune, its CEO; security guard Xavier Loiselle; Alain Pinot, another corporate bigwig; and perhaps even the Paris police and Dussault himself. At times the novel reminded me of a scene from I Claudius in which Herod tells Claudius, “Trust no one, little marmoset.”


Gamache has much to unravel, including what the mysterious letters AFP mean. (There are numerous possibilities, including that they mean nothing important at all!) There is also the matter of why Stephen, who had a luxurious art-filled apartment, was spending a king’s ransom to stay at a hotel near where he lived.


So many threads, and there is the sense that Penny got a bit lost in them. When the beat-the-clock resolution and aftermath come, both feel forced and tacked on. Maybe it’s Paris and all of its visual and visceral distractions.  Book # 17 is due this year and I, for one, hope it’s set in Three Pines amidst familiar faces and places. Perhaps fewer devils will make for a tidier mystery.


Rob Weir


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