All the Devils Are Here: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (16))
“the story is a deep dive into human psychology and the eternal battle between good and evil. You might need scuba tanks and an armor-plated wet suit for the plunge into such dangerous, emotional depths!”
Louise Penny excels at character exploration. She delves below the skin, then deeper into the heart, mind, and soul, through the layers from loftiest to basest humanity. Ultimately we know the main characters’ pains and dreams and needs so intimately that some of us feel the need to take a shower afterward.
This is especially true for her series main character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Quebec’s provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec. This man has been through the meat grinder in 15 previous stories, and he always manages to come out a stronger, finer—albeit sadder—person.
His authenticity as a hero would be hard to believe without the author’s agonizing journeys into the man’s character. Likewise for all the secondaries who have gone through 15 previous nightmares with him.
In this new volume of the series, All the Devils Are Here, the same process continues: Gamache must make horrible choices, weighing the needs of the many against the needs of the one, risking the ultimate sacrifice for the purpose of stopping evil, while the clock is ticking down on catastrophe.
This time there’s a new factor complicating the situation: He’s in a foreign land with no official powers. And the trouble centers on his family. Gamache and his wife, Rene-Marie, travel to Paris to visit their children and be present for the birth of a grandchild. At the same time, they reconnect with Gamache’s godfather, a secretive billionaire, who was instrumental in raising him.
But on their first evening together, his godfather is intentionally struck down by a hit-and-run driver, then a murdered man is found in his apartment. Gamache witnesses the first and finds the second—which suck him into a monstrous power struggle with shadowy puppetmasters who want to control global industries and markets. Worse, it appears that his son, with whom he’s had a lifelong stormy relationship, is implicated in the scheme.
On top of that, Gamache’s former second in command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beavoir, had previously left the force to take a civilian job in Paris. It turns out his company is involved in the corruption game, too. The partners are thrust into working together again, maneuvering to outwit the foreign officials and business leaders who should be on their side.
Everyone who at first seems an ally can be interpreted as an enemy. Or vice versa. Then back again as Gamache and Jean-Guy unearth another clue and the whole equation shifts. They have a wildcard advantage in Rene-Marie, who is a top-level archivist with connections to her Parisian counterparts. This gives her access to records crucial to the case. It also puts everyone Gamache cares about into jeopardy.
The story changes viewpoints at chapter and section breaks to allow information to be gathered, relationships to be developed (or destroyed), and red herrings to be introduced. Each break ends on a suspenseful note that escalates steadily, impelling the characters toward a disaster with no evident way out.
The author’s evocation of character makes us care about them in spite of ourselves. What creates the “in spite of . . .” feeling is a variation in prose style that becomes annoying when it interrupts.
The plot progresses in clean, expressive, even masterful writing that draws you along eagerly. But then . . .
. . . as the screws tighten . . .
. . . in moments of important drama . . .
. . . the sentences get shorter. And shorter. And start repeating points. To hammer them in. Make sure you get it. Reinforce effect. Emphasize agony. Or suspense.
Then the style reverts back and the story sails on. It includes side trips into culinary and artistic magnificence, French history, Parisian ambiance. These, combined with the character delving, give the thriller plot a literary quality. The writing is rich to the point of succulence sometimes. But if you’re more interested in action than cuisine, then some sections get laborious enough to inspire skimming to the next advancement.
Nevertheless, the combined mystery—tension—stakes—people—place are drawn so well that it’s nigh impossible to put the book down.
As is true in most series, it helps to have read the preceding volumes to understand backstory references. All the Devils Are Here might be the easiest volume to read on its own, given its departure from the Three Pines village foundation most of the others are built on. That home base only appears in this book in the denouement, to keep the series grounded.
The rest of the story is a deep dive into human psychology and the eternal battle between good and evil. You might need scuba tanks and an armor-plated wet suit for the plunge into such dangerous, emotional depths!