Category: Book Review

All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny

Book Summary

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. 

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” — Shakespeare

Let me say this, if Agatha Christie is considered to be the Queen of the Whodunit, then Louise Penny truly is (IMHO) the undisputed Empress of this genre. There is no doubt in my mind that Penny is the master of her art, as we can see quite clearly in ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE, her 16th book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. 

From the opening sequence of a near tragic event to the closing paragraphs at the end, we are taken on an exploration and plumb the depths of human nature and emotion. From what makes people do what they do, to who they are, and what—throughout their lives—shape them. Penny has a finger on this pulse and exposes raw nerves and brutal emotion with carefully written prose, cleverly weaving so many seemingly random threads and events together that we’re never sure who is on the side of the angels, and who—exactly—all the devils of the book’s title are.

Masterful is not a word I use lightly, but Penny has gone from strength to strength with this series, building upon her characters with every book. So that in All the Devils are Here, we reach what felt like, a culmination of all her hard work. She’s created a world so utterly believable, we’re absorbed in to it on so many levels. It feels real, these characters feel real and, because of that, we connect with the unfolding events and the people caught up in them, in a very intimate way. 

From the moment we see the truck hit Gamache’s godfather, Stephen, after the family’s celebratory dinner, we know we are in for one hell of a roller coaster ride of torn emotions, frayed nerves, revelation, and genuine terror. 

We have to trust in Penny to guide us, along with Gamache, through a politically charged minefield of lies, corruption, and trail of murders stretching from the days the Nazis captured Paris through to the present day. And here is were—for me at least—her skill shines above the rest. Her ability to set the stage, carry us along at a blistering pace, absorb us into the tangled web of deceit and conflict, to blindside us as we try to figure out what’s going on, and then, up the ante by putting Gamache’s life on the line, so that it almost breaks us into tiny little pieces, emotionally and mentally.

Heart stopping, raw, emotional, this cleverly written whodunit is an outstanding and thrilling read on so many levels. Truly, Louise Penny at her utter best!

Chief Inspector Gamache #16
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books, Sept 2020
Hardback, 448 pages
Mystery | Suspense

Dead Land by Sara Paretsky

Book Summary

Chicago PI V.I. Warshawski gets pulled into one of these clandestine deals through her impetuous goddaughter, Bernie Fouchard. Bernie tries to rescue Lydia Zamir, a famed singer-songwriter now living on the streets; Zamir’s life fell apart when her lover was murdered next to her in a mass shooting at an outdoor concert. Not only does Bernie plunge her and V.I. headlong into the path of some ruthless developers, they lead to the murder of the young man Bernie is dating. He’s a computer geek working for a community group called SLICK.

V.I. is desperate to find a mysterious man named Coop, who roams the lakefront in the middle of the night with his dog. She’s sure he holds the key to the mounting body count within SLICK. Coop may even know why an international law firm is representing the mass murderer responsible for Lydia’s lover’s death. Instead, the detective finds a terrifying conspiracy stretching from Chicago’s parks to a cover-up of the dark chapters in America’s meddling in South American politics. Before she finds answers, this electrifying novel pushes V.I. close to the breaking point: People who pay to play take no prisoners.

Once again Sara Paretsky leads us on a merry chase, digging up clues, and following a trail of breadcrumbs all the way from Chicago to Salina, Kansas, and out onto the prairies. Unraveling the clues for us at the same time as her dedicated, stubborn, and persistent PI, V.I. Warshawski.

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Dead Stop by Barbara Nickless

Book Summary

It’s been five months since Special Agent Sydney Parnell survived a violent confrontation with a gang of brutal thugs, an encounter that left her physically and emotionally scarred. Deep down, Sydney fears she isn’t ready for another investigation. But when a woman is murdered on the train tracks and a child goes missing, she knows she’s the only one who can lead the hunt for the killer. While Denver police and the FBI chase down blind alleys, Sydney focuses on a single cryptic clue left behind at the crime scene—one that will send her down a path of greed, violence, and long-ago love.

With Denver beset by a series of monsoon like thunderstorms that threaten to flood the city, Sydney and her K9 partner, Clyde, must wade through a murky trail of murder that stretches back thirty years—all to rescue a child…and catch a killer with a long memory and an insatiable appetite for destruction.

DEAD STOP by Barbara Nickless is one hell of a twisted read full of taut drama, nail-biting tension, with a compelling plot that utterly blindsided me. But what sets this book apart from other murder-mysteries I’ve read of late, is it’s MC. Sydney Rose Parnell is the kind of character you not only root for the entire time, but is someone you can identify with and feel an affinity for because of her past … because of the baggage she carries.

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Shell Game by Sara Paretsky

Book Summary

When V. I Warshawski gets word that her closest friend and mentor Lotty Herschel’s nephew has become a suspect in a murder, the legendary detective will do everything she can to save him. The cops found Felix Herschel’s name and phone number on the unknown victim’s remains, but Felix insists he doesn’t know why.

As Vic digs deeper, she discovers that the dead man was obsessed with Middle Eastern archeology—the first clue in a bewildering case that leads to a stolen artefact and a shadowy network of international criminals. But the trouble multiplies when Vic’s long lost niece, Reno, goes missing. A beautiful young woman with a heartbreaking past and a promising future, Reno is harboring a secret that may cost her, her life. V. I. can hear the clock ticking on her niece’s safety and is frantic in her efforts to find her.

Vic won’t leave any stone unturned until these very personal cases are cleared—a complex investigation that will entangle the Russian mob, ISIS backers, rogue ICE agents, a nefarious corporation preying on the poor, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen antiquities stretching from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East.

In Shell Game, no one can be trusted and nothing is what it seems, except for the indomitable detective and her thirst for justice.

What I Thought

I was once again captivated reading the latest instalment of Sara Paretsky’s now iconic detective series, Shell Game. In which we see Vic chasing down answers to not one mystery, but two. Paretsky’s MC is steadfast and resolute and will not give up on either case, while chasing down leads that, more often than not, throw up far more questions than answers.

Two seemingly distinct cases that, in fact, slowly merge in that inimitable way Paretsky has of telling her stories, bit by bit. Till it becomes obvious, through Vic’s relentless digging and uncovering of connections, that the implication of Felix in a murder, is tied to the disappearance and kidnapping of Harmony’s sister, Reno.

From stolen artefacts to war torn Syria. From the Oriental Institute to a cleaning company servicing the offices of Vic’s ex-husband, the unscrupulous and ambitious Dick and his new wife, to Homeland Security and ICE agents who think nothing of shooting first and asking questions later.

What I also love about Paretsky, is the way she weaves any number of current social and political threads into her stories. Managing to include, albeit, obliquely, the worst of the Trump presidency setting aspects of her story in and around migrants and refugees living in fear—struggling in an alien and hostile environment, not unlike those they’ve fled elsewhere.

Warshawski—steadfast in her principals—fights for injustice in a world where the odds always seem to be stacked against her. And in a political climate that has become terrifyingly dangerous for those at the bottom of the social ladder, living a precarious existence, feeling powerless to exert change. Loyal to those she loves and cares about, Warshawski continues to do battle and bravely takes on corporate America, as in Shell Game, and yes, occasionally wins.

You can always be sure that in a Sara Paretsky novel, the plots are well conceived and constructed and usually tie-in to current social and political issues. And that the characters are well developed, and the writing is, as always, top-notch.

SHELL GAME [Book #19]
Sara Paretsky
William Morrow, 2019
Paperback, 560 pages
Mystery | Detective