All the Devils Are Here, is the latest installment in the Inspector Gamache series, by Louise Penny. This time, Armand Gamache is off to Paris for the birth of a grandchild. However, like any detective, trouble and crime seem to follow him wherever he goes.
The Inspector Gamache series is one of three that I am following closely. I am trying very hard to stay up to date with him, along with Rebus and Bruno. Last time out I found the storylines for Gamache starting to wear thin. So, I wondered if moving the action to France might revitalize them.
In this installment, while visiting Paris for the birth of Beauvoir and Annie’s latest child, Stephen Horowitz, Gamache’s godfather, is seriously injured in a hit and run accident. Of course, this is no simple hit-and-run.
Shortly after the accident, Armand and Reine-Maire visit Stephen’s hotel room. While there they stumble across another body. This one a victim of a bullet to the head. As part of the investigation Gamache reconnects with Inspector Dussault, a French policeman he has met at conferences over the years.
As they explore deeper, it turns out that the companies that employ Gamache’s son Daniel, and his former assistant, Beauvoir are entangled in high-level crimes. Getting at the root of them will be complicated and dangerous. Especially, with Stephen in a coma, in the hospital. It should make for a gripping story.
Unfortunately, All the Devils are Here, marks another downward step in the Gamache series. There are several reasons for this, starting with the setting.
All The Devils Are Here In Paris
Reading the acknowledgements at the back of the book, it is clear Paris holds special meaning for Penny. However, in setting the story there, Gamache is disconnected from Three Pines. There are a few scattered references to the little village throughout the novel, but the residents play a very small role.
I did like that Dussault, the Parisian counterpart to Gamache, had an office in the Quai des Orfèvres. Whether Penny’s intention or not, it connected this story to the historical French crime novel. Most notably, the Maigret novels of Georges Simenon.
On the whole, the journey through Paris in All The Devils are Here seem like an unnecessary bit of self-indulgence on the part of the author.
One too Many Plots
There are two main subplots in All the Devils are Here. The first concerns Gamache and his son Daniel. There is a lingering estrangement between the two. This stems back to a childhood incident, when Gamache made Reine-Marie cry. Daniel misunderstood the event and has spent the rest of his life resenting his dad, without ever bothering to get to the root of this misunderstanding. It’s possible, but given his parent’s character, not very plausible.
Also, while investigating what has happened to Horowitz, questions about his past in World War II Paris are raised. The most notable question is was Horowitz a resister, or a collaborator? On the whole, this narrative seems quite disjointed. One of the things I really enjoy about the Gamache series is that the secondary narratives generally feature Penny’s best writing.
Not so in All the Devils are Here. While providing some red herrings, the subsidiary plots just don’t capture the imagination.
No Change Zone
One of the key factors in the Gamache novels, are the great conspiracies. Gamache is constantly rooting out corruption in high places. This is the case once again in All the Devils are Here. Gamache comes across as a much less violent Jack Reacher. Almost single-handedly destroying wrongdoers with his impressive combination of calm and compassion. The longer he goes the harder this is to believe.
Further, the effects of age aren’t really showing up on him. One of the best parts of the recent Rebus novels, by Ian Rankin, is that his youthful behaviour is now taking a toll on his older self. Here, all we see is Gamache, a little greyer, a little heavier, not really having to deal with any physical consequences of his earlier injuries.