Today’s review is a longish one of a new favorite book, so I won’t preamble long! Hope you’re looking forward to a good week. I have a Zoom interview I’m excited about recording on Friday, and I’ll put up the link when it’s available. And I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m recording an audio of one of my most recent short stories right here at home. It’s a big experiment, and it’s going great. (No weird accents. I promise.) Now I just have to remember not to shout for the dog when I’m outside so I can keep my voice in good reading order.
The photo is of my latest crewel embroidery project. I have ZERO patience, as you may know, so I had to show it to you right after I finished. In fact, I meant to write up today’s book review first thing, but I put away the project last night with only a couple hours to go, and was dying to finish. The piece is called “Bird on a Bough” from The Crewel Work Company in the U.K. They have stunning kits, and a very informative YouTube channel. “Bird on a Bough” is a Jacobean era (1603-1625) pattern they found on historical bed hangings in six locations around the world. It’s done on linen with Appleton Wools. In the not-too-distant future, I will figure out how to make it a non-wrinkly wall hanging. Just so you know, this is definitely my most ambitious piece to date. Most of my projects aren’t quite as fabulous. What a treat it was to work on, even though we were locked down. It definitely gave me plenty of time to stitch.
Also lots of time to read…Have you read something good lately?
SUNDAY REVIEW: ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE
First, a confession: I have been a rabid Louise Penny fan since I read A RULE AGAINST MURDER (4th in the Chief Inspector Gamache series) when it came out in 2009. After reading it, I went back and started the series at the beginning. While all of the Chief Inspector Gamache books can be read as standalones, they will definitely raise questions in readers’ minds about historical connections between the characters. ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE is unique in the Gamache universe. Not only can it be read as a standalone, it could easily both wrap up the entire series (heaven forbid!), or launch a newcomer into the continuation of the series with nary a look back. (I doubt this would actually happen, because I haven’t met a Gamache reader yet who hasn’t joyfully delved into Penny’s backlist.)
Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, have traveled to Paris from Quebec for the birth of their daughter Annie’s baby girl. Annie’s husband, Jean-Guy Beauvoir (who long served at Gamache’s side in the Quebec Sûreté), is now an executive at a prestigious French engineering firm, and Annie is practicing law. On the Gamaches’ first night in Paris, all four are out to dinner with Daniel (Annie’s brother), his wife, and billionaire Stephen Horowitz, Gamache’s aged godfather. After leaving the restaurant, Stephen is nearly killed in a hit-and-run incident, and hospitalized with grave injuries. Gamache and the others agree it didn’t appear to have been an accident, and the mystery begins. This is Paris, of course, and Gamache has no real authority under the law, but he knows a great many influential people, and carries his own silent, dignified authority that lets him Get Things Done.
The Gamache books are equally about solving crime mysteries and exploring the mysteries of the human heart. The heart has a very long memory, and the crimes in ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE–some reaching back to the 1930s and World War II– illustrate that with brutal clarity .
Up to this 16th book in the series, several people close to Gamache have suffered intensely or even died. But this is the first time tragedy (that doesn’t involve Gamache directly) truly engulfs the entire family. It’s the first time, too, we get a really good look at the dynamics between Gamache, his son, Daniel, and Jean-Guy, Gamache’s son of the heart. It’s a very personal story in a series that is deeply character driven. Stephen has appeared in earlier books, but we learn far more about him with each discovery Gamache makes in Paris. Stephen is a complicated man–something that Gamache has always known–yet Gamache begins to wonder if Stephen is truly the principled person Gamache has always believed he was, or is a greedy criminal at heart.
Paris is a star. We get inside the legendary Hotel George V, and up into the Eiffel Tower. Penny has definitely done her on-site research. The food is to die for, and even the table wine is delectable. Penny’s faithful readers already know how important food is in the Gamache novels. Three Pines, the fictitious, beguiling Quebec village where most of the Gamache books are set, is full of delicious food.
Speaking of Three Pines…If you’re not familiar with the series, you might wonder what all the fuss is about the village. Penny readers who have a strong preference for English village-style murder stories get testy when Gamache has to solve crimes elsewhere. It’s that special. Three Pines isn’t on any official maps. It’s a kind of Canadian Shangri-la, whose inhabitants are mostly people who stumbled into it by accident, recently or decades ago. While it’s not exactly Miss Marple’s St. Mary Meade, it has far more than its share of murders in its immediate area. For the most part (no spoilers here!), Three Pines doesn’t make much of an appearance in ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE. Which, I suppose, is a good reason for anyone who reads it to circle around and start at the series’s beginning.
I did not miss Three Pines terribly as I read, because I found the Paris story all-consuming. Nearly every member of the family is somehow involved in solving the mystery. Jean-Guy also has to navigate his rather strange new job, and when suspicious connections to Stephen’s business dealings turn up, Jean-Guy is in the right place at the right time. It does seem awfully convenient that Gamache is a personal friend of the Paris Chief of Police, which makes his investigation less hassle.
I’ve listened to all of the previous Chief Inspector Gamache books on audio, as I did this one. Robert Bathurst has been the series’s narrator since Ralph Cosham, who originated the series, died. Bathurst has grown on me over the years, and he does a particularly good reading of this novel.
Second confession: I cried as it ended. Read it. Listen to it. Enjoy.
(I received a complimentary copy of ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE from NetGalley in return for an honest review.)