Hell Is Empty:
It is not essential for a reader to have read all of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache novels, but it would help, if only to understand the strong relationships between members of the Gamache family that are at the core of her crime thrillers. Her latest novel, All The Devils Are Here (the title is from Shakespeare’s The Tempest), is not set in the gorgeous Canadian village of Three Pines, so idyllic that you’d want to pack your bags and go there — only it’s fictional. The senior Gamaches have travelled to Paris, for the impending birth of their daughter Annie’s second child.
For those who haven’t read any Gamache books, the cop Armand and archivist Reine-Marrie have a perfect marriage, and two grown kids. Annie’s husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, used to work at the Sûreté du Québec with his father-in-law and moved to Paris after the tumult of the last book, A Better Man, with wife and son Honoré, to work in a private firm. But he is more of a son to Armand that his own surly offspring Daniel, who also migrated to Paris with his wife and two daughters, to work as a venture capitalist in a large bank.
This novel begins with a meeting between Armand and his 93-year-old godfather, Stephen Horowitz in the garden of the Rodin Museum in Paris, a place that holds indelible memories for both men. Horowitz, a self-made billionaire and lifelong crusader against corporate wrongdoing, had practically raised Armand after his parents were killed in a car crash when he was a child of nine. Armand’s love for art, literature and his unwavering commitment to justice, come from Horowitz.
The Gamache clan meets later in the evening for a meal and when they exit the restaurant, Horowitz is knocked down by a van as he is crossing the street. This would ordinarily have passed for a hit-and-run, but Armand is a seasoned cop and immediately sees that it is a murder attempt. He calls his close friend, Claude Dussault, the Prefect of Police in Paris, and because of his connection with the top cop, his suspicions are taken seriously.
The next day, when Armand and Reine-Marie go to Horowitz’s apartment, they find that it has been ransacked and while they absorb that shock, they stumble upon a corpse on the floor. They just miss the killer by a few seconds, and recognize who it might be by a whiff of the distinctive scent he leaves behind. They are also astonished to learn that Horowitz was not staying in his well-appointed, art-filled home, but in a luxurious suite in the Hotel George V, where they find the belongings of another man, who turns out to be the one they found dead in the flat.
As the days go by in praying for Horowitz’s survival, looking after their own safety, and investigating the strange turn of events, everything points to a powerful business organization, GHS Engineering, where Jean-Guy works, hired, as it turns out, by some string-pulling by Horowitz.
The whole family gets drawn into the violence and intrigue that follow to prevent Armand Gamache from reaching the truth, which is so horrific as to be unbelievable. The threads that link the family’s present nightmare with the past are hopelessly tangled, and the only man who can solve the mystery is in a coma in hospital. If the Gamaches have to fight the evil unleashed on them, they have to race against time, decipher unreadable clues and decide who they can trust in the fog of deceit that surrounds them.
After the mild disappointment of A Better Man, the bestselling Canadian author returns to form with a meticulously plotted and fast-paced novel that also mines the deeply felt emotions of family, friendship and loyalty. Never mind the contrived and movie-like climax that demands suspension of disbelief, the book is a winner all the way. And it’s good to know that the Gamaches return to Three Pines—the beauty of Paris cannot compare with the warmth of the village bistro, where friends gather to eat, drink and share their love.
All The Devils Are Here
By Louise Penny