Book review and synopsis for All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny, an Inspector Gamache thriller about corporate intrigue.
In All the Devils are Here, Armande Gamache and his godfather, businessman and billionaire Stephen Horowitz, are in Paris for his granddaughter's birth, along with the rest of the family. After dinner one night, Stephen is hit by a car and soon another dead man is found in Stephen's apartment.
As Armande and the Parisian police begin to investigate, it becomes clear that Stephen had a number of secrets and that there are corporate intrigues as well as possible corruption in the mix as well. Further investigation seems to implicate Armande's son, Daniel, too. Not knowing who he can trust or whether the things he thought he knew before are true, Armande must uncover the scheme that is going on or he risks the safety and well-being of his family.
Armand Gamache, a senior officer in the Québec police, and his godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz, are in Paris for the birth of Armand's granddaughter. However, Stephen is intentionally hit by a car while crossing the street and the next day the body of an unknown man is found in Stephen's apartment. Initial investigation reveals that he man is Alexander Plessner, a venture capitalist, who had clearly known Stephen well (he's found with a special business card marked JSPS permitted access to any of Stephen's accounts). They also find out that Stephen had an interest in a large engineering company called GHS, which is having a board meeting at a nearby hotel soon.
Armand and his wife Reine-Marie find it suspicious that the room had smelled like Claude, the Prefect of Police in Paris, when they'd entered to find Plessner's body. Reine-Marie learns that both Claude and Thierry Girard, Claude's former second-in-command, wear the same cologne. Armand and his family are questioned aggressively by the police, and they oddly have a lot of dirt on Stephen's family, despite him being the victim and them only having begun the investigation a few hours ago. Armand deduces that the police must've already been compiling this information on Stephen before the attacks. After going through security footage at Stephen's hotel, Armand finds a tampered video that accidentally left in a clip of Claude, Girard and Eugénie Roquebrune (the GHS president) having tea right before the attacks.
Jean-Guy is Armand's son-in-law and former second-in-command, who now works for GHS. He digs around his colleague, Séverine's, computer to find out what is going on at GHS. Jean-Guy later followed by a company guard, Louiselle. After a confrontation, Louiselle admits that he was tasked with scaring Jean-Guy off, but he's warning Jean-Guy instead about SecurFort's (security company owned by GHS) interest in him. Louiselle says someone wants something that Stephen has and hasn't found it yet.
Jean-Guy and Louiselle confront Séverine, who says that she's been looking into the same things after noticing their boss, Carole Gossette, is involved with some random projects. She thinks it has something to do with a mine in Patagonia that was found to contain a "rare earth mineral" called Neodymium. It's used for powerful magnets, but breaks down in the presence of extreme heat, cold or stress.
Meanwhile Reine-Marie and Armand look into a series a dates they found in Stephen's possessions. Stephen notices one the dates coincides with the death of a Parisian reporter in Patagonia. She worked for AFP, a news outlet owned by one of GHS's board members, Alain Pinot. At the same time, Stephen's secretary pieces together that Stephen had been liquidating his possessions, including selling off all his art and stock holdings.
Daniel, Armand's son, works for a bank and uses Armand's JSPS card to get into Stephen's accounts. However, as he does, he's captured by Claude and Girard. Claude tells Armand that they'll kill Daniel unless Armand locates whatever it is that Stephen had. Armand goes to talk to Pinot and (with the help of the Chief Librarian and the head archivist at the national archives), they figure out that the dates are associated with major plane/train/elevator accidents, likely caused by improper use of neodymium. Armand remembers that Claude had mentioned a nuclear reactor that was being launched soon, too.
Armand then looks for evidence of it, which he believes Stephen hid here (it's what Claude and GHS are looking for). Armand then gets a gun and brings a fake dossier back to Claude, which results in a shoot out. Both Claude and Armand are shot. Pinot turns out to be a bad guy (as well as Séverine). Girard and Pinot walk out, telling Louiselle to shoot Daniel.
Pinot goes to the GHS board meeting, but Daniel interrupts, alive and well. It turns out that Claude had been pretending to be in cahoots with GHS just until he could get enough evidence. Claude and Armand were both shot with fake bullets and both are fine. Louiselle also is on their side and did not shoot Daniel. Stephen had liquidated his assets in order to purchase a board seat and some of GHS's subsidiaries in order to help bring the company down. Claude tells the board about their discoveries about the company's wrong-doing and involvements in these accidents, and Pinot is arrested for murder.
The book ends with Stephen surviving the ordeal and the baby, Idola, being born.
All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny is the sixteenth (16th!) book in Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series of books. This latest one came out a couple weeks ago.
I’ve never read anything by Louise Penny, so I’ve been wanting to read at least one of her books. This one is the most recent installment, so I figured I would just jump in. I was under the impression that this was a mystery series, but honestly this book read much more like a thriller to me than a mystery. The short version of this review is that I think perhaps this series is just not for me.
Some Good Stuff
I found it surprisingly easy to jump into All the Devils are Here without having read any of the 15 prior books in the series. I think it does fine as a standalone book. Penny hints a few things that I was pretty sure sounded like references to past plots, but it wasn’t stuff that you needed to know in order to understand this book. For other parts, she provides just the information you need to know to continue with this story.
The book offers a lot of nice and meaningful moments between the various characters. I suspect that fans of the series will appreciate these. Obviously, as a newcomer to the series, it probably had much less of an impact for me, but if you already love and care for these characters, I suspect you’ll really enjoy this book.
As far as mystery-thrillers go, this book is fairly heavy on the “thriller” component and a bit dissatisfying when it came to the “mystery” component. Yes, there’s a mystery, but instead of dropping clues and stuff, it’s basically one where you just have to wait and see how things will unfold, which is less interesting to me. I would say it’s more of a suspense-novel-slash-thriller as opposed to a mystery.
The plot itself is fairly convoluted and deals with stuff like corporate corruption and business schemes. I thought it got a bit ridiculous as it went along — just kind of a mish-mosh of stuff like billion-dollar wire transfers, art forgeries, some sort of secret business card that offers an all-access pass to elite places and things and of course plenty of blackmail and guys with guns. Generic corporate thriller-type stuff.
Sadly, huge chucks of the plot make zero sense in terms of the logic behind the decision-making (see the spoiler at the very end of the post). To be fair, there are a couple fun twists in there, but again they are more of the thriller variety than the mystery variety.
I also found some of the family dynamics interesting. The book mostly focuses on Armand’s relationship with his son Daniel. I would say those parts sort of worked, but it made Armand too “perfect” (and Daniel entirely in the wrong) to really be interesting. In general, I wasn’t huge into the character of Inspector Gamache, who I found a bit overly saintly and too perfect. He always has the moral high ground, has great instincts for everything, never has bad intentions and never does anything wrong.
Read it or Skip it?
I wanted to give the Inspector Gamache series a shot since it’s a well-known mystery series and I like mysteries. Sadly, this book wasn’t for me.
All the Devils are Here is probably more suitable for people who already know and love these characters, since a lot of the value in it lies in the nice moments between the characters. Also, in terms of enjoying this book, it might be better for people who don’t mind heavier doses of thriller-type stuff in their books.
I didn’t really find it to be that strong of a mystery. I mean there’s definitely stuff that you don’t know, but you’re mostly waiting for the characters to run around and uncover information (which is more typical of thriller novels), as opposed to trying to figure out what’s happened based on clues that the book has offered.
For me, this book was way too thriller-heavy and littered with generic corporate thriller elements. Even apart from that though, I don’t think I’d be that interested in reading another Inspector Gamache book. As a character, I found Inspector Gamache too “perfect” in way that made him a bit bland. The writing was fine, and I’m glad I satisfied my curiosity about this series, but I don’t see myself revisiting it, unfortunately.
There’s a couple of leaps of logics that don’t make a ton of sense to me in this book, but by far the biggest one was the whole business with the GHS board seat and the investments in their subsidiaries. If Stephen had found all this evidence of wrong-doing and gave the company the opportunity to address it by telling the CEO, the next step is to give it to the authorities and news media. Why does he need to buy a board seat at all? What’s the point of trying to get a controlling interest in their subsidiaries?
The author seems to indicate that the point is to bring down GHS, but one board seat is not going to bring down a company and losing two minor subsidiaries is unlikely to sink a company either. Reporting them seems like a much faster and effective way to deal with corporate wrong-doing than trying to gather up the funds to eventually buy an international conglomerate.
Also, perhaps I am missing something here, but the second thing that made no sense was the whole business with the nickels and the screw. Other than proving that neodymium exists (and it sounds like it’s a naturally occurring substance so that’s not something that needs to be established), how does that implicate the company at all? Also, why would they even bother trying to cover up a “flaw” in a substance that other people/scientists have access to? It seems like if other scientists hadn’t already discovered it then they would eventually be found out no matter what, so it’s a bad plan from the start.
Also, if Stephen knows he’s not going to have any money after this and he’s known for being frugal, why does he book a hotel room that costs 3,500 euro a night? And why does everything have the same “AFP” initials, it seems like a pretty bizarre coincidence?
Not Recommended Published September 1. 2020
Page Count 448 pages
Goodreads4.44 (out of 5)
From the Publisher
On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.
When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour d’Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art. It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.
A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.