Through the first fifteen books in the Inspector Gamache series there is only one book I’ve rated five stars, A Trick of the Light. It’s a doozy of a book, and it dug deep into how characters cope with trauma, addiction, and stress, and any number of other forces that would separate us from our best selves. When I finished All the Devils Are Here, the 16th book in the series, I had my first impulse to rate one of these five stars since the seventh. I’m not sure I can articulate why, but I read this not slight book over the course of three evenings, eschewing all other entertainments (and people) for it. Which while I’m a bookish introvert, is still a lot.
This is a 4.5 rounded up situation. There is a little too much neatness in the denouement of the mystery – which Penny does go back and make more complicated in her final chapter, putting additional information in the reader’s hand about what her lead character did or did not know when choosing his actions. But for each of the nearly 440 pages I was interested to see what was next, what new information lay ahead, what I would learn about characters I’ve come to hold very dear.
And that, probably, is why I loved this reading experience as much as I did. I have been deeply invested in the relationship Armand Gamache has with his family (biological and otherwise) since we were introduced to each character and their relationship dynamic with Gamache. I am particularly emotionally attached and invested in Jean Guy Beauvoir and this story, while not centering him, does meditate on where his relationship with his father-in-law is, what he has developed in his own nuclear family with Annie, and how that all impact’s Daniel Gamache’s relationship with his father and Beauvoir, and how Beauvoir has grown in the time we’ve known him.
This is a Louise Penny book, the writing is going to be very good. There’s the usual delectable food descriptions (and this book being set 99% in Paris ups the food game) but there is also great and exquisite details of Paris woven in. In the Author’s Note Penny discusses returning to Paris for research and taking the time to discover the Paris that she remembered, but also the Paris that the Gamaches would frequent, would know, and that level of commitment to finding the “right” part of Paris to portray shows through. Similarly Gamache’s godfather Stephen features prominently in this story, so too does his fortune and art collection, and all of those details are also paid the attention they are due, and that a Penny reader would expect.
As usual, I’m not really telling you very much about this book in the review. Partly because I don’t want to give away any of the ways in which Penny plots the book, but also because I’m left more with a feeling, a pleasant warmth, than I am with a particular attachment to the machinations of the plot (although the return to Three Pines at the end opens up great possibilities moving forward). If you are less interested in the Gamache family than the residents of Three Pines this one may not be for you in the same way it was for me, but I was ready this go around to have a break from Three Pines and this hit the spot, perfectly.
Bingo Square: Old Series (The Chief Inspector Gamache series began with Still Life which was published in 2005 and has continued with a new book each year. There are currently 17 in the series, with every expectation of an 18th in 2022.)