Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312655460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312655464

Book Description

 The brilliant new novel in the "New York Times" bestselling series by Louise Penny, one of the most acclaimed crime writers of our time No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as "the beautiful mystery." But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery's massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Surete du Quebec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

About the Author


LOUISE PENNY is the New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of seven previous novels featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Her debut, Still Life, won the John Creasey Dagger and the Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys Awards, and was named one of the five Mystery/Crime Novels of the Decade by Deadly Pleasures magazine. Penny was the first author ever to win the Agatha Award for Best Novel four times—for A Fatal Grace, The Cruelest Month, and The Brutal Telling (which also received the Anthony Award for Best Novel), and Bury Your Dead (which also won the Dilys, Arthur Ellis, Anthony, Macavity, and Nero Awards). She lives in a small village south of Montréal.

My Review

I won this fabulous book in a contest on Ms. Penny's website and couldn't be more thrilled to be able to review the ARC of The Beautiful Mystery.

In this outing we are not in the familiar setting of Three Pines but instead in an isolated monastery in the Quebec wilderness.  One of the monks in the abbey has been murdered...and he has obviously been murdered by one of the other monks.  It is a fascinating story of an order of monks who have been hidden away for centuries, the Gilbertines, who have only become known now because of a famous recording of Gregorian chants.

The novel opens with Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Armand Gamache's daughter Annie newly in love and deciding how to tell her parents.  It is wonderful to see them so happy together.  They both have not had an easy time in previous novels.  Their new love is interwoven with the mature love of Armand and his wife.  However, work intervenes and Gamache and Beauvoir are off to the abbey.

Louise Penny comments upon the role of the church in the lives of the people in Quebec.  How it is no longer the important institution it once was.  How the church was built up on the backs of the poor. These thoughts echo those of my own relatives in Quebec.  As one travels around Quebec in all of the villages and towns you are immediately struck by the gorgeous church/cathedral that dominates the town.  These glorious churches were built using money that could barely be spared by the working people of the town.  The priest was the most important person in these villages and towns and he dominated those who were members of his church.  Today, the young people have left the church and these massive structures will soon be falling into disrepair I would imagine.

Louise Penny is an amazing writer. It is so hard to put this book down and get on with the day.  The novel deals with the relationship between Gamache and Beauvoir and how they both view this relationship in light of the tragedy that occurred several books back when Beauvoir was almost fatally injured.  It is both touching and tragic how Penny writes about this relationship.  I'm looking forward to their relationship in the novels to come. 

It is novel about the battles that rage within all of us.  And our addictions whether it be to music, to religion or to drugs.  What brings us joy and bliss.  Why are some addictions acceptable and some not?

Thought provoking and well written...The Beautiful Mystery is a joy to read and destined to be one of the most prized books of the year. 

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