“What is it?” Henry asks, for all of them.

Does there need to be a comma after "asks"?

The fuller text is:

The fact that Candice has been murdered—it means that there is definitely a killer here, in the hotel [...] “We should search the hotel,” David suggests [...] David says again, “I suggest we search the entire hotel, including our own rooms—unless there is anyone here who objects?” [...]

Henry doesn’t know which is worse—the possibility that one of the people in their little group might be a murderer, or the possibility that there is someone they’re not aware of, moving about the hotel, who has already killed two people. As they search Gwen and Riley’s room, Henry wonders what it is they’re even looking for. He’s not sure why David suggested they search the guests’ rooms, too, not just the empty ones, or why they all agreed to it. He doesn’t know what David expects to find. It feels like they’re playing at something, some sort of parlor game, or murder mystery evening, with the lights out. Only no one’s having fun.

Beverly finds some medication in Riley’s bag and holds it up to the light. “What is it?” Henry asks, for all of them. David looks at it. “For anxiety,” he says, and Beverly puts it back in Riley’s overnight bag.

An Unwanted Guest by shari Lapena

  • apparently, just for the rhythm and emphasis, grammatically it may be dropped, imo Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 6:48
  • I can't ascribe an actual meaning to the phrase. For all of what? (Is he asking on behalf of other people present?) It seems grammatical but somewhat nonsensical. It would likely make sense with more context. Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 15:15
  • @ Jason Bassford I added some more text.
    – Peace
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 17:53

1 Answer 1


In literary works the author can use a comma to indicate a pause to isolate a phrase in a way that draws the reader's attention to it, attention that it might not have received otherwise.


... Henry asks for all of them


... Henry asks, for all of them

the pause of the comma adds some nuance. Without a comma it is as if Henry has taken it upon himself to pose the question that is on everyone's mind. With the comma, it is as if to say that Henry asked the question, but it was on everyone's mind.

That's possibly reading too much into a comma, but there is a difference in the rhythm, and the author (or the editor) should be credited with some purpose there, whatever it may be.

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