. . . . So. Big News in publishing. No, not in this case, the merger of Penguin-Random House and Simon & Schuster. Louise Penny’s writing a thriller with her new bestie, Hillary Clinton about a baby Secretary of State.
The only interesting thing really, reading the latest Penny, All The Devils Are Here (2020), was feeling with every sentence, on every page how separated we were from milieu and concerns from what brought us to Penny's Gamache novels in the first place: interesting, variegated individuals, in long-time relationships and community with each other, in a 'normal' sort of place, particularly Three Pines, and what happens when the abnormal disturbs the normal condition.
Here, we're not in Three Pines, or even Montreal or Quebec, or even Canada, but in Paris. We don't have a mad poet and duck, or a loving gay couple and their B&B, and all the others living in the beautiful, rather isolated rural, forested Three Rivers geography, but the very high-powered, very wealthy, very politically connected, multi-national, legal, enforcement and financial figures and milieu. This background, this late, on Gamache, that he's from entitled and privileged family and guardians -- had not previously penetrated into the Gamache universe composed of 15 previous novels. That's a lot of universe to leave out this foundational platform of Gamache's character.
In this 16th Gamache novel, I didn't hear Gamache, I heard Clinton's voice, as in her What Happened, published post the 2016 election, constantly referencing her many internationally wealthy friends, their palatial estates in the DR, etc. -- without sensibility toward those outside of those rarefied circles that have forgotten, if they ever knew, what it is like to fly coach, not in presidential or billionaire luxury. What Happened is exactly what happened -- no touch with what life is for people who aren't comfortably within her circles of involvement. It looks like Penny got star-struck.
I didn't like All the Devils Are Here, for all those reasons. It's off-putting, possessing nothing of what brought me back, book after book, to Gamache's world.
That Penny had gone as far with that world that was possible shows strongly in the previous two – three titles, which were flattened, over-stretched, rather implausible and lacking the sort of engagement with the characters and milieu we loved in the long string of books that preceded them. So she wanting to do something different is understandable. But her choice to shoe horn her new interests – and her new, insider access to a wider and vastly more powerful mise en scène – into the world of Gamache, was an error of sensibility the same as Clinton’s. It too is flat while simultaneously, not a bigger world, despite the scope, but claustrophobic, which Three Pines was not, despite being so defined.
Penny's was same mistake, the failure, that cost Clinton an election, has cost Penny (and Clinton) a reader.
One cannot help but speculate as whether or not the Clinton-Penny State of Terror "baby" protagonist, Secretary of State, fated to put the world to rights, will also, like President Clinton, and Obama's Secretary of State, HRC, will install a bottomless corrupt and brutal regime in Haiti to protect the international business interests, as well as the Clintons' own business interests. Interesting, hmmmmmm?