All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny

December 1, 2020 at 3:57 pm (Book review, books, France, Mystery fiction)

  I must dash this review off, lest I start forgetting what I’ve just read. Oops! – it’s already started!

Okay, so:

Armand Gamache, former head of the Sûreté du Québec, and his wife Reine-Marie have recently arrived in Paris from their home in the village of Three Pines, in Quebec. They’ve come to await the birth of their fourth grandchild. Also present is Stephen Horowitz, Armand’s godfather. Horowitz is a very wealthy man who presents a mysterious face to the world, but not to the Gamache family, who know and love him.

Having established the mise en scene in the City of Light and peopled it with her familiar characters, Penny proceeds to launch the story almost immediately with a dastardly transgression committed right in their midst, a crime whose evil intent very nearly succeeds. From this point on, events unfold rapidly, with Armand forced to pit his wits against an extremely ruthless and cunning foe.

This plunge directly into the icy water of criminal intent has  become a familiar trope in contemporary crime fiction – in other words, don’t waste time on description, get things moving at once! (You can just hear the editor/first reader exhorting the author.) It didn’t trouble me this time, mainly because Penny kept the pace lively right up until the home stretch when, at least for me, the plot became labored and overly complex. I find that when that happens  in a crime novel, I start to zone out, not really caring whay happens next – or worse, not being able to believe in the increasingly arcane developments.

As for the characters, all the members of the famille Gamache are front and center. Everyone does not love everyone equally, which refreshing. Armand is ferociously devoted to everyone, which can be grating at times. Also grating is his Superman schtick – he is always there to save the day (Oh wait – should  that be Mighty Mouse?), always on the side of Right, always stronger and more resourceful than the next guy (or woman). As if to affirm her wokeness, Penny has grown men crying and declaring “I love you!” to one another – again, this is usually Armand.

I loved the Paris setting. I don’t always read Penny because I don’t always like her novels, but when I realized that this one was not set in the overly cute little Québécois village of Three Pines, I thought I’d give it a go. (I was especially pleased not to have to spend time in the company of one of my least favorite denizens of Three Pines, the truculent poet Ruth Zardo and her pet duck Rosa.)

Finally, a point concerning grammar. Penny makes frequent use of ‘this’s’ as a contraction of ‘this is.’ I did a bit of research on this, and as is frequent with question of usage, I got widely differing results. My conclusion is that while ‘this’s’ is not flat out wrong, it could still be termed nonstandard. Now this may seem like a small point, but I’m something of a grammarian – blame long years as an English major and then an English teacher – so things like this matter to me.

Looking over this write-up, it would appear that this is a negative review. If so, I’ve conveyed a not quite accurate impression. I actually enjoyed the book and pretty well raced through it – at least, up until the closing chapters, where too much was happening that was confusing and strained credulity. Nevertheless, a thumbs, up, although with reservations.

My favorite Gamache novel is still Bury Your Dead.

 

6 Comments

  1. angieboyter said,

    My favorite was certainly The Beautiful Mystery. And I am SO GLAD someone besides me can’t stand Ruth.
    Louise Penny is one of the best, if not THE best, writers, in the mystery genre, as a writer. Her prose, settings, and the relationships among her characters are all wonderful. I just wish her plots were better. This one is especially incredible, FULL of implausibility that I absolutely cannot swallow. Just one example that will not be a spoiler: A woman has a photo of her relative with a young man taken during WW II. She has never met the man but recognizes him when he is 93 from her window as he stands in a graveyard nearby. I also did not like a surprise that happens within the family at the end of the story and expect it will give me more heartburn in future books, assuming I do not give up on the series. (

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Hi, Angie, I appreciate your observations about Louise Penny & this particular entry in the Gamache series. And I agree with you completely about the surprise within the family toward the end. It left me feeling blindsided and dismayed.

    • Pauline Joy Cohen said,

      I may be too late to reply to Angie’s comment, but I want you to know, Angie, that I stopped reading the series because of my antipathy to Ruth. I resolved not to read another Penny mystery until Ruth is bumped off–an excellent idea for a new Gamache book– or retired to a desert island with her duck. Is the duck still going strong BTW? I’m glad this recent book does not feature Ruth.

      • angieboyter said,

        Pauline, What a fantastic idea for a plot! Why don’t you write to Penny and suggest it? BTW if you want a lovely newish series in an interesting small town that does not feature bizarre characters, I just finished A Murder in Chianti and loved it.

      • Pauline Joy Cohen said,

        Thanks for the suggestion, Angie. I’ll look out for the book you recommend.

  2. Jean Parr said,

    Thanks Roberta, I had fun reading your review. I generally love her books but sometimes I get tired of the banter of the Three Pines folks. I’ve read a handful of the books in the series but not all in order. I wanted to offer to lead the discussion of the Splendid and the Vile unless someone else wants it. I’ve never led a book club meeting and haven’t even read the book yet, but Ive been on a bit of a WWII kick lately so Id be wiling to give it a try. Thanks, Jeannie

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