All the Devils Are Here

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This book was on Tom Nolan's WSJ list of the best mysteries of 2020. It was a number one NYT bestseller. You can read a lot more huzzahs at the Amazon page.

And I … didn't care for it all that much. Go figure. Don't take this as a disrecommendation: your mileage might definitely vary. Mrs. Salad, for example, read it last year and she liked it a lot.

But I did manage to claim one last book for my read-in-2021 list. So there's that.

Montreal homicide detective Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are off to Paris to visit the kids, Annie and Daniel. And also to connect with billionaire Stephen Horowitz, Armand's beloved godfather. Unfortunately, soon after a nice dinner, Steven is run over by a van. Armand strongly suspects it was intentional. Worse, when Armand and the Mrs. check out Stephen's apartment, they discover a freshly-dead corpse, shot (we are assured) commando-style.

Armand doesn't have any jurisdiction in France, of course. But—this time it's personal—he's all over the case anyway. And, over the course of (it says on Amazon) 458 pages, things are eventually figured out. There's a lot of conspiracy, family dysfunction, betrayal, seeming enemies that turn out to be allies, seeming good guys that turn out bad. Double crosses and maybe even triple crosses (I lost track).

My irritants, major and minor, in no particular order:

French words and phrases are dropped into the dialog every few pages. Why? They're in France, they're from Quebec, I assume everybody's speaking French exclusively. So the book translates everything except for those few words and phrases?

This is book 16 in a series. There's a lot of reference to events and characters in previous books. Probably considerably more interesting to fans who've read books 1-15.

It's also heavy in coincidence and cheap clues. A reference to "AFP" on a calendar! What could it mean? Ah, it turns out there are folks with those initials. And also a company! And a mysterious scent left at a crime scene. Coins stuck together!

Small spoiler: the conspiracy mentioned above is massive. Also unbelievable, involving years-long nastiness of corruption, greed, and murder. (I'm not surprised that Louise Penny's latest co-author, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is famous for belief in another vast right-wing conspiracy.)

Somewhat larger spoiler: the thrilling climax, confused as it is, depends on a Rube Goldberg sequence of events that had to work exactly right. C'mon.