We may not be able to travel this year due to the pandemic, but Louise Penny can sweep us away with any one of her Armand Gamache novels. Her latest one, All the Devils Are Here, takes readers to Paris, but it’s not always the Paris one expects.
All the Devils Are Here opens on a late-September afternoon in the garden of the Musee Rodin, the museum devoted to Rodin. It’s a scene of children at play, with young parents watching. It’s the perfect setting for this story of family. Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec in southern Quebec, Canada, has his entire family with him, his wife, retired librarian Reine-Marie, his son and daughter, his son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. They’ve all gathered for the birth of a new baby. Gamache’s godfather, Stephen Horowitz, is the man who introduced a young Armand to Paris, its gardens, and its beauty after the death of Armand’s parents. Now, he’s the one who warns Gamache that “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” And, that night, after a festive family dinner at a bistro, the family walks familiar streets, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night. A delivery van deliberately runs down Gamache’s godfather, sending him to the hospital in critical condition.
Louise Penny is known for her novels of contrast. Without any spoilers, I can say that All the Devils Are Here contrasts the beauty of the city of Paris, “The City of Light”, with the ugliness and darkness of distrust and crime, the underbelly of the city. Penny carries that theme of the duality of light and darkness, good and evil, throughout her series. Whether her books are set in the small village of Three Pines, a monastery, a school for police cadets, or Paris, the setting is essential to those contrasts.
If you start the series with Still Life, you’ll discover the village of Three Pines, a magical village, almost a Brigadoon that only appears to those who need the safety and comfort of this hidden village. Three Pines is a village south of Montreal, just north of the U.S. border of Vermont. There is a bistro and B&B, a small used bookstore, a general store. Residents include the two gay men who run the bistro, a famous poet, a psychiatrist who moved there and runs the bookstore, and a married couple who are artists. However, as charming as the town is, there’s always the threat of evil. The murders that occur here, and in the other books in the series, are a sharp contrast to the beauty and the goodness of many of the people.
Louise Penny‘s descriptions of Three Pines, of Quebec, of a monastery famous for the Gregorian chants by the monks, of a beautiful chateau, of Paris, are vivid ones that bring the settings to life. But no one who reads the books will forget the contrast between the settings that seem so peaceful and the violence and evil that co-exist with the beauty and the good.
You can read All the Devils Are Here even if you haven’t read earlier books in the series. Enjoy the armchair trip to Paris with its light and beauty. But, you won’t easily forget the darkness that also exists in Louise Penny’s works.
Award-winning blogger and avid reader.
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