The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

by Louise Penny

Paperback, 2013

Call number

MYST PEN

Collection

Genres

Publication

Minotaur Books (2013), Edition: Reprint, 400 pages

Description

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.… (more)

Media reviews

The Globe & Mail
The “beautiful mystery” of Penny’s eighth Gamache mystery refers to Gregorian chant, plainsong, and its mysterious allure and spiritual appeal even to the lay listener. Playing off the international sensation surrounding the 1994 release of recordings of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, The Beautiful Mystery finds Gamache and his loyal lieutenant, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, being called to a monastery to investigate the murder of a monk. But it’s not just any monastery, and it’s not just any monk. The mysterious Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups monastery existed in isolation for hundreds of years, two dozen monks living in the remote Quebec wilderness, accessible only by plane or boat, with a plain wooden door locked to the world. They are the last vestiges of the Gilbertines, an order of monks devoted to plainsong, who vanished during the Inquisition. Their seclusion came to an end, however, with the release of a recording of their chants, a recording which became a sensation around the world, drawing pilgrims and the press, all of whom met with the locked door at the gate. The door opens to Gamache and Beauvoir, however, as they come to investigate the murder of Brother Mathieu, the choirmaster. The choir of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups became a sensation on the basis of a single recording, but that success has also created a fracture in the monastic community, “a civil war, fought with glances and small gestures,” which Gamache and Beauvoir discover early on in their investigation. That fracture makes everyone in the once close-knit community a suspect in the choirmaster’s murder. The mystery – which is in itself compelling, and reminiscent, on the surface and unavoidably, of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose – works as a catalyst for an ongoing series of inquiries into the nature of faith, loyalty and friendship, deepening familiar characters and developing relationships in a realistic, often painful fashion. It’s a stirring, thought- provoking read, less a matter of whodunit than a relentless questioning of why any of us do anything. The Beautiful Mystery satisfies as a mystery, and stands as a powerful literary novel in its own right, regardless of whether one has read the previous seven novels in the series.

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 4.75* of five

The Book Report: The book description says:
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 Sûreté du Québec. 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.

My Review: I've recently reviewed the thirteenth entry in a mystery series, which I have now abandoned; and another twelfth entry in a series, which I have not abandoned, despite its uneven track record in my affections.

This is the eighth Gamache mystery. Louise Penny has ripped my emotions to shreds more than once before now. She's not a writer who has any fear of allowing her creations to grow and change, like real people do, in ways that might not always suit us, the audience.

And that is the reason that her books don't simply keep selling. They rocket up the bestseller lists. They deserve to rocket up the bestseller lists because Louise Penny invests her characters with believable inner lives. I know the characters well, and like so many people I know well, they throw me curve balls and they change into people I don't like, and they screw up and they cannot help themselves because, like every breathing one of us, they are wounded and hurting and scared and doing their dead-level best to get through each day with a minimum of carnage.

And when challenges arise, well...they rise to them or they fall before them, just like real people do. Like real people, their responses bring up feelings, strong ones, in us their friends...their readers...Louise Penny's readers. Strong, strong feelings. Quite strong. Oh my yes.

A few minor points: I've heard it said that Penny's is a writing style that is choppy, or clipped; I agree with this assessment; and I for one find that a plus, because the stories themselves are so lush and so intense and would so lend themselves to a more baroque treatment that I find the clipped-ness of the prose to be refreshing and invigorating. I've also heard a few dissenting voices say somewhat dismissive things about the plots of the books, the puzzles themselves. With this critique I find myself out of sympathy. I unravel the mysteries quickly because I've read so very many over the years. I suspect some reviewers have the same experience level that I do. I would suggest to those readers that they consider the number of truly surprising resolutions they've read in the past few years that didn't involve authorial sleight-of-hand.
… (more)
LibraryThing member brenzi
The latest book in the formerly known as Three Pines series has Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir in a monastery deep in rural Quebec. Twenty four monks in residence at this facility observe a vow of silence and are known for their remarkable ability to perform Gregorian chants. Gamache and Beauvoir are there to investigate the murder of the monastery’s prior, or music director. And once they are admitted they make it clear that they will be staying until the murderer is found. And since the monastery is locked down and generally admits no outsiders, the possible suspects are limited to those monks in residence. To make things interesting, Gamache’s nemesis, Chief Inspector Francoeur shows up and moves in to, in order to “help” with the investigation.

But something isn’t quite right. Yes, Penny’s impressive prose is there throughout. And the plot is fairly plausible, as usual. The Chief Inspector is on his toes and using all his considerable skills and Beauvoir demonstrates his overbearing investigative techniques. But, dare I say it, the plot is sluggish. I think Penny went overboard trying to create the atmosphere of the ancient monastery. And poring over architectural drawings that were hundreds of years old does not add a dynamic thrust to the book’s story line. It’s well, boring. And it went on for way, way too long. The book is almost 400 pages long and the plot didn’t thicken until the last 75 pages so that made for a lot of reading that just plain bogged down.

I don’t want to say I missed Three Pines, because I’ve enjoyed the other mysteries that weren’t set in Three Pines but what I didn’t warm up to was the fact that there was only Gamache and Beauvoir. Where was Agent LaCoste? And where oh where was Reine Marie? They usually add something to the story. A bunch of stodgy monks cannot make up for the absence of all the complex characters that Penny has become known for. Yes, I admit missed Ruth.

And one last thing…I hated the ending. First of all, since when has Penny needed a cliffhanger? People love her books and will get her next book without using such a cheap ploy. It was unnecessary and implausible.

All that said, it’s still Louise Penny and she still writes a much better than average mystery. I will continue to read her books and hope that this one was just a fluke. The next one will return to what brought her to the dance. At least, that is my hope.
… (more)
LibraryThing member tututhefirst
She's done it again!  In my opinion, it is difficult to find a better writer of mysteries in the current market than Louise Penny.  I was so fortunate to be the winner of an early giveaway from a contest sponsored on her monthly newsletter earlier this spring.   Those of us who have been following her Chief Inspector Gamache series are not going to be disappointed by this one.  It is different.  It is not set in Three Pines.  The normal cast of characters is missing.  Instead we are presented with Armand Gamache, his deputy and beloved friend Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his arch enemy Superintendent Sylvain Françoeur, and  a group of contemplative monks who have chosen to sequester themselves in the wilderness far north of Quebec.  The monks, who  have taken a vow of silence, use their voices only in the singing of plainchant, the earliest form of Gregorian chant.  They have become world famous for the beauty and glory of their singing.

Suddenly however, the prior (who is also the choirmaster) is found murdered, and the monks must admit outsiders to their world, shattering their silence, their peace and their isolation.  As Gamache and Beauvoir slowly, calmly, and quietly begin the difficult process of determining which of the brothers is in fact a murderer, they must also confront their own demons, particularly the residual effects of the disastrous raid and hostage situation from previous books in the series. The soothing cadences of the chant don't always work enough magic to keep the pain of the past from surfacing.

Penny's strength is in her characters.  By now, if you've read all the book in the series, you feel that you know Armand Gamache almost as well as he knows himself.  But she can still add more to this deeply introspective and compassionate officer.  His protégé Jean-Guy's character is still evolving and not always in the direction we might want.  Penny shines in her ability to portray the depth of emotions and feelings of her characters, allowing them to expand as the story does.  She is not afraid to allow them to be flawed.

While the strength is in the characters, the beauty is in the setting, with its quiet, its secrets, its history, and its mysteries.  The murder mystery itself, of the classic closed room genre, is brilliant.  Everyone is a suspect.  There are only a few pieces of physical evidence, the setting is self-contained and virtually impregnable, and Gamache must help the brothers to accept the fact that one among them is a killer.  Finally, there's the music! It is the story itself, and the characters, the setting, the plot  provide the backdrop for the story of the music,  truly a "Beautiful Mystery."  Even if you haven't read any of the previous books in the series, this one is written with just enough back fill to make it almost a stand alone.
… (more)
LibraryThing member lit_chick
“That was what Gamache and his team did. They sieved for that often tiny event. A word. A look. A slight. That final wound that released the monster. Something had made a man into a murderer. Had made a monk into a murderer, surely a longer journey than most.” (Ch 10)

In a remote Québec monastery, Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, Prior Frère Mathieu is found murdered in the abbot's private garden – in his hand a scrap of sheepskin vellum, scribbled on which are a handful of musical notes. In recent years, the Gilbertine monks released a recording of Gregorian chants which captured the attention of millions worldwide. The resultant windfall allowed for much needed improvements to the ancient buildings, but it came at a cost: the order lost its former peace and privacy to the madness of celebrity. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, arrive at the monastery, it is clear that it is a community divided. “… what had started the rift? Where did the crack begin? What blow, minor or otherwise, had started it all?” (Ch 11) – Gamache knows that when he has the answer to these questions, he’ll have the murderer.

The Beautiful Mystery is well-written and well-paced, much more about its characters than its crime – just as I’ve come to expect from Louise Penny. But I missed Three Pines! – which I’ve also come to expect from her. The ending was a little melodramatic, too: now I’m worried about Beauvoir and will need to read How the Light Gets In immediately. Still and all, thoroughly enjoying this series. One more to go, and it better be set in the Pines!
… (more)
LibraryThing member porch_reader
Louise Penny is one of my favorite authors. Not one of my favorite mystery authors, but one of my favorite authors, period. I think that she could write a government manual, and I would enjoy it. I am drawn in by the thoughtfulness of her words, the pace of her writing, the wisdom that is channeled through her characters. The Beautiful Mystery is exactly that - a beautiful mystery.

In this book, we are not in the familiar setting of Three Pines with the residents of that small village that I've come to love. (But, honestly, Three Pines needs a break from all of the murder.) But Gamache and Beauvoir are back, and this time they are solving a murder at a monastery. The monks of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups live in the wilderness of Quebec, maintain a vow of silence, and sing Gregorian chants that are more beautiful than those sung in any other place. When a recording of the chants is released to the public, a rift grows between the monks and the result is murder. Penny includes some rich detail about Gregorian chants, which adds another layer to the book. Additionally, the tragedies that have befallen Gamache and Beauvoir in the past continue to haunt them. In fact, it is this continuing storyline that dominates the end of the book and that provides the link to the next in the series. Write fast, Ms. Penny!
… (more)
LibraryThing member dianaleez
Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache is an eminently likeable man. He is pleasant and honest, fair and intelligent, witty and charming. He is also the Chief Inspector of the Surete du Quebec and a force to be reckoned with.

Gamache was introduced to readers in Penny’s ’Three Pines’ mystery series, but he has stolen the series from the small Canadian village and become the focus of Penny‘s mythology.

(If anyone within reading distance hasn’t read the earlier books, stop. Read no further. Go forth and ’glom’ the Penny oeuvres. Each book builds on earlier characterizations and events, and, while you can read and enjoy an individual offering, it lacks of the nuanced depth of reading the series in toto.)

Gamache resonates with modern readers because, in part, he is that stable trustworthy figure who understands right and wrong, good and evil, but who also values justice and mercy.

However, it is not a well-balanced and fair world, and Gamache and his team have encountered an evil that is slowly tearing them apart.

In Penny’s current offering, Gamache and his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, have been sent to the mysterious monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups to ferret out the evil that has resulted in the murder of one of the two dozen musical monks.

Evil lies within the cloistered community; but unfortunately, Gamache and Jean-Guy bring evil and dissention of their own into the Canadian backwoods. They are still mourning the line-of-duty deaths of members of their team and dealing with the consequences.

Penny’s award winning novels have a depth missing in most contemporary mysteries and are, in my opinion, more ‘novel’ than ‘mystery.’ But they are becoming increasingly dark.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Jcambridge
I've been on a Louise Penny marathon the past few weeks, but found this to be the least engaging of the three books I read in the Gamache series. Interesting concept but it did not really hold my interest. The monastery setting was described way too many times, the interactions between Gamache and Franceour were not very believable and still left the reader hanging, and the suggestion that the resident monks had been exiled because of sexual misconduct seemed contrived. The part of the story relating to the relationship between Jean-Guy and Anna was also weak. I read it to ensure I didn't miss any links from previous and later books in the series, but overall was disappointed.… (more)
LibraryThing member Nodosaurus
A murder has happened in a monastery. A very private monastery that never accepts visitors. The suspects are all monks, the only clue is a small piece of a Gregorian Chant, except it might be modern.

To complicate the investigation, Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur arrived bringing his own baggage from a prior book. His conflict with Gamache comes to a head, and now involves Beauvoir. Although this conflict beats up, it isn't resolved and promises to continue in the next book.

The mystery is slow for much of the book, and isn't one the reader can solve. Clues flow in throughout the book, and is solved suddenly. The book is more about the characters and the chants. The chants are a spiritual influence on the characters. The monastic life of the monks is forefront in the novel. The monks have a natural ability to read people and understand unstated feelings, which provides a challenge to Gamache's investigation as their skill seems to surpass his own.

Best quote from the book:
Following the arrival of an envoy from the Vatican.
"Jeez," said Beauvoir. "The Inquisition. I didn't expect that."
"No one does," said Gamache.


ALthough slow in the middle, I found the book very enjoyable. A must read for Gamache or Louise Penny fans, but read them in order!
… (more)
LibraryThing member dketelsen
This is the first book I've read by Louise Penny and this puts me at a disadvantage. I don't know if the elegant prose and lyrical themes owe more to her skill or the subject matter of cloistered monks that specialize in Gregorian chanting.

Regardless of how it was inspired, this is one amazing book. Penny's inspired descriptions of the chanting caused me to buy two recordings of Gregorian Chants from Amazon today. Her descriptions of the monastery and the life of the monks was equally evocative but I can't afford to buy a monastery so that's out. But that's the sort of reaction you can expect when you read a book with prose this persuasive. You want to be there, in the monastery, with the characters and experience what they do. It's that good a book.

There are flaws, of course. The setup of the novel is that a group of Gilbertine monks fled the Inquisition 400 years ago and established a monastery in northern Quebec. They remained undiscovered until just recently when the release of a recording of their Gregorian Chants made them well known. It's never explained how celibate monks could maintain their population across nearly 400 years and still be undiscovered. In the recent past the order began recruiting new members after they outed themselves with their chant recording but that doesn't explain how it worked in the past. The sales of their recording also provided income that allowed the monastery to modernize which becomes a factor in the plot. There's other issues like this to quibble with but they really don't matter. The book transcends petty points like that.

It's striking how Penny conveys the stillness and centered nature of the monastery despite the murder that causes the Abbot to call in Chief Inspector Gamache. Many times during the reading of this book I marveled at how adroit she is at describing current actions of the murder investigation while also conveying the emotional issues that are roiling under the surface.

I loved this book and am going to order the Kindle of Penny's first Chief Inspector Gamache novel, Still Life, which is currently priced at a bargain $2.99. It was voted runner up for the CWA's Debut Dagger Award in 2004 so I assume it's quite good also.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Twink
The Beautiful Mystery is the eighth entry in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. This series has become one of my favourites, but I have to say that this latest book is exceptional.

The series is set in Canada. Gamache is with the Sûreté du Québec, as is his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. In The Beautiful Mystery, Gamache and Beauvoir are called out on an unusual case and location. A monk at a monastery hidden away in the wilds of Québec has been murdered. The monastery has rebuffed visitors for the last four hundred years. There are only twenty four residents, all who live with a vow of silence - except when they are singing ancient Gregorian chants. Twenty three suspects.

Penny has yet again devised an ingenious 'closed room' mystery that had me guessing until the last pages. The exploration of the monastic lifestyle and the chants were especially interesting. In her acknowledgments Penny says "I wanted to explore this beautiful mystery. How just a few notes can take us to a different time and place. Can conjure a person, an event, a feeling. Can inspire great courage, and reduce us to tears. And in the case of this book, I wanted to explore the power of ancient chants, Gregorian chants. On those who sing them, and those who hear them." The explanation of the effect of the music on the listener was compelling. I listened to the audio version of this book and the inclusion of chants at the beginning and end of the book prompted me to put holds on some Gregorian chant CDs at the library.

But the real draw of Penny's books are the characters - especially Gamache. He is such a wise, intuitive, caring person. But he has faced his share of heartache - most notably with Beauvoir. A previous case has left both men physically and emotionally damaged. The healing has started, but has miles to go. A surprise appearance by Gamache's superior at the monastery complicates things further.
And take Gamache to a very dark place. I become so invested and immersed in the characters that populate Penny's novels that they almost feel quite real. Gamache and Beavoir's complicated relationship and their attempts to continue moving forward despite the past make them all the more believable.

Penny's storytelling is rich and varied, full of nuance and inflection. The pared down setting for this book was perfect, echoing the raw truths that are exposed. The ending has only left me hoping that Penny gives us more Gamache before too much time elapses.

I chose to listen to this latest book and may well do so with all the Gamache books. There's always a worry that a narrator will not be the right fit for the mental image you've created for a character. Ralph Cosham was the reader for The Beautiful Mystery...and he was perfect. He has a rich, full bodied voice that is deep and sonorous, conveying the quiet strength of Gamache. The cadence, rhythm, pauses and more sound like actual conversation, not simply a reading of pages. The accent passes muster and is easily understood.

Just an absolutely fantastic read/listen/series - highly recommended.
… (more)
LibraryThing member caitemaire
I have enjoyed several of Penny's previous books. They have an interesting settings and good characters, major and minor, not least of which is Chief Inspector Gamache and usually, good plots. So, when I saw the last in the series sitting on the new book shelf at the library, I was excited.

And shortly after I started it, I was disappointed. Very disappointed.
The problems are many, the positives, few, I am sad to say.
Where to even start?

The entire story take place in an isolated monastery..which we are to believe no one in the Church knew about until the CD, even though they trade with other monasteries in Canada, but is another issue. The fact that the entire story take place in a monastery, and that except for the police, the monks are the only characters, makes it important that the author gets the basic matters of monastic life right. Which she does not.

Monks and priests are not the same thing..in fact, very few monks in a monastery would be priests, and I have never heard of an abbot of a monastery 'scouting' monks from other orders. Does he offer a signing bonus? Just silly. She calls the chapel of the monastery the Blessed Chapel, which makes no sense. Does she mean the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which does make sense? Every time she used the phrase...which is many, many times since you have to go through the chapel to go anywhere else in the monastery, which is also wrong, it just grated on my nerves.
I am no expert..I took a course on monastic history in college that require spending a weekend at a Benedictine monastery...but I found so many mistakes I assume Penny just made this stuff up. If I could have corrected so many mistakes, it does not speak well for her research.

Oh, and then there is the Latin. Now again, I am no expert, but I did take 3 years of Latin in high school, enough to know that the several Latin phrases, phrases that are key to the plot, are badly mistranslated.
Then we have the idea that a devout monk would pull some sort of silly prank at the most sacred moment of the Mass, the consecration, to try and lure out the killer, is totally offense. Well, honestly by then I was so bored with the overly long book and so mad at all the errors and all the repetitions that I really lost interest in who the killer was. His unveiling was just another disappointment. The reason..made little sense..."So he did it huh...OK."

And then the are Gamache and Beauvior.
If you are familiar with the series, you know that awhile ago they were both injured, emotionally and physically, in a police action that went bad. Well, that story will come back to haunt us again, causing Beauvior to act in a way that, without giving away a spoiler, is, just let us say, beyond believable. Not to mention that the ending leaves us hanging in a particularly unfair way, I think.
Sadly, I could go on.
And on.
Yes, I was not a happy reader.

As I said, I have enjoyed others books in the series and hope maybe in the future, it can get back on track. This one seems totally phoned in. I really can't recommend it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member pnorman4345
Carefully plotted slowly revealing the characters and ideas. Too often there are "meaningful looks".
LibraryThing member Ronrose1
This is an exceptional novel by an exceptional author. A monk is murdered in a remote monastery hidden deep in the woods of Quebec, Canada. How does one uncover a murderer from among two dozen cloistered monks who are under a vow of silence? Their only communication with the outside world is through the singing of centuries old Gregorian chants. These chants are often referred to as the words of God in the voice of God. It is up to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his assistant, Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir to peel back the layers of secrecy that surround this order of monks. They have remained hidden not only from the prying eyes of the public, but also from the eyes of the Church of Rome. Gamache must unmask secrets he has bottled up inside for years as well as the secrets of the murderer and the monastery. The plain chants of the monastery will indeed reveal The Beautiful Mystery. Louise Penny never fails to amaze us with the depth of her understanding of the human condition and her ability to convey these feelings to the reader. This book is like a good song that brings beautiful images to your mind and peace to your soul. Book provided for review by Amazon Vine and the well read folks at Minotaur Books.… (more)
LibraryThing member VivienneR
This is the ultimate closed-room mystery - in this case, a closed monastery mystery. Penny can spin an enthralling story around the most interesting topic combined with Quebec history, and this time, Gregorian chant. Naturally Penny did not set the mystery in a real monastery, but featured Gilbertine monks, an order that existed at one time but became extinct. The Elysian setting of an isolated monastery in the Quebec wilderness, accessible only by boat or plane is what makes this book so special. It is an ideal location for the two dozen monks cloistered there, who have perfected plainchant, known as the Beautiful Mystery. Most of the characters at some point will question their faith, or have it tested. I can't wait to get to the next book in the series where I hope Penny and Inspector Gamache deals with the supremely evil Superintendent Francoeur.

This book, the 8th in the series, could be read as a standalone.
… (more)
LibraryThing member PhilipJHunt
You don't need to be a fan of Inspector Gamache to get the drift of this story. Louise Penny does a good job of filling in necessary back story. She wanted to write this one after discovering Gregorian chants, so the story is set in a secretive monastery in which, naturally, there's been a murder. The book is, for me, more interesting for its exploration of monastic and musical life than for the detective work. Penny keeps us guessing about the murderer's identity until the end, as she should, but the resolution is a bit weak and hardly a surprise. I found myself speed-reading the last half of the book as my interest in the Monks and the detectives waned… (more)
LibraryThing member Suew456
I hate to give any Louise Penny book such a low rating, but I found this book nearly too disburbing to finish (although I did, merely to see how it ended). I find the character of Francoeur almost impossibly evil. His looming, wolf-like presence distracts from the complexity of the story. Take me back to Three Pines!
LibraryThing member MaineColonial
One beautiful Saturday morning in September, Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Sûreté and his closest colleague, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, are called from Montréal to a hidden island to investigate a murder. The island is home to a massive, stone monastery, built long ago by a small order, the Gilbertines, who fled to Canada to escape the Inquisition. (Much to my surprise, Beauvoir never makes a Monty Python joke about this. Do you suppose French Canadians don't watch Monty Python?)

Just two dozen monks live at the monastery, where they grow vegetables, tend chickens, cook, maintain the buildings and grounds and--most important--worship God. Their days are spent in near-silence, except for the hours they spend in prayer and singing Gregorian chants. All of the Gilbertines have a gift for singing and most were recruited from other religious communities for their singing talent.

Singing brought the monks together, but it also tore them apart. The murdered monk was Frère Mathieu, the prior and choirmaster. His recording of the Gilbertines' chants became a surprise sensation, bringing in much-needed money to the monastery but, with it, attention and demands from the secular world. Mathieu thought the attention was, literally, a Godsend; they could use the public spotlight to benefit the monastery and spread the word of God. But this would require the abolition of their tradition of silence and the loss of their solitary contemplative life on the hidden island.

Dom Philippe, the abbot, and Mathieu's closest friend in the monastery, decided that these losses would destroy the Gilbertine order, and he ruled that there would be no further recordings of the chants and no public appearances by the monks. But what started as a difference of opinion between two friends grew to an enmity that split the community. Did one of the monks on the abbot's side of the schism decide that Frère Mathieu had to be eliminated to save the order?

What Gamache doesn't at first recognize is that there is a parallel to the monastery's schism much closer to home. For several years, there has been a venomous animosity between Gamache and Sylvain Françoeur, the man who is now the Superintendent of the Sûreté. The poison of their relationship has spread within the police force, causing rancor and distrust among colleagues.

Gamache and Beauvoir must stay at the monastery to investigate Frère Mathieu's murder. They fall into the rhythm of life at the monastery. More important than the monks' work is each day's prayer sessions. This is when the mesmerizing sound of the chants fills the chapel and seems to work a physical and emotional change in the listener. The book's descriptions of the chants and their history compelled me to listen to some as I read. (You can do it, too, by going to the Pandora website and searching for the Gregorian Chant music channel.)

In their quiet, deliberate way, Gamache and Beauvoir investigate on their own, without the rest of their team, with no internet access or forensics lab, without their families or any intrusion from the outside world. It's as if they are themselves cloistered monks, which makes it almost a peaceful time--until the investigation takes a turn and the plot's pace accelerates, building to a stormy climax. This intense closing promises much more drama to come in the next book for Gamache, Beauvoir, their colleagues and loved ones. For now, though, my advice is to clear your calendar, go find the Gregorian Chant channel on Pandora, and settle down to yet another compelling entry in the Armand Gamache series.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free publisher's review copy of this book.
… (more)
LibraryThing member cherybear
Two police officers from Quebec are dispatched to a remote monastery to investigate a murder. The reader gets caught up in the murder mystery, the story of the monks' amazing plainsong chants, and the troubled pasts of the police officers. You might anticipate who the murderer is, but I don't think you'll anticipate the choices made by the officers.
There are apparently other books by Penny about Inspector Gamache, but this was my first. There were enough background details that I didn't need to have read them.
… (more)
LibraryThing member cathyskye
First Line: In the early nineteenth century the Catholic Church realized it had a problem.

The problem, according to church officials, was that the Gregorian chants used in services throughout each day had strayed so far from the originals that they were considered corrupt. As often happens, one problem led to another. Gregorian chants are ancient; they predate written music. The only thing church officials could think to do was to search for the oldest known surviving written record of the chants. But that was a problem for another century.

In this century, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, have been called to the remote monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, where one of the monks has been murdered. Hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, two dozen monks who have taken a vow of silence grow vegetables, raise chickens, make chocolate... and sing. Ironically their voices--recorded singing those ancient Gregorian chants-- have brought them fame throughout the world. Until the prior of Saint Gilbert was found murdered, no one has been allowed into the monastery-- no one until Gamache and Beauvoir, and they will not leave until the killer is unmasked. It is a perfect locked room mystery that will have profound effects upon them all.

It is almost meaningless to add my own superlatives to all the rest which have been bestowed upon such a deserving series. Although momentarily unhappy that Gamache would not be returning to the village of Three Pines (since I have several friends amongst those characters), as soon as Gamache and Beauvoir began walking through the monastery, I forgot every single scrap of my disappointment. The two policemen's differing reactions to the religious services throughout the day, the way they search the rooms of the ancient building, the way they interview each monk, and the way they each react to two other visitors from the outside, blend into the inexorable-- and heartbreaking-- end.

Reading a book by Louise Penny is a time of transcendence for me. The lyricism of her writing makes me look at the world differently whenever I raise my eyes from the page. Although the plots in her books are never anything less than first-rate, these novels are about so much more than finding a killer. They're about how we perceive the world; they're about how we perceive ourselves and those around us. They are about our humanity.

I've seen some readers complain, saying they don't like Louise Penny's books because Armand Gamache is "too good to be true." Throughout the series, characters find Gamache striking because of his sense of calm, and many of them realize that this calm is due to having been at war. That's the feeling that I've always gotten from Gamache. That his calm is very hard won-- and we see that calm shatter in this book.

Most of us have also been at war in one way or another in our lives. What some of us like to see is someone who's made it through to the other side, either in a sense of feeling like kindred spirits, or in a sense of knowing that "if he did it, I can do it, too." The Beautiful Mystery shows us that even Gamache must continue to strive for that inner calm; that he is every bit as human as the man whom he loves like a son-- Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

Each book stands on its own merits. A person doesn't have to read all the books in the series to have them make sense. But, oh what a person misses when he doesn't read each book! This series is a garden. Seeds are sown in one book that may not come to fruition until two or three books later, and this Candide-like tending of her literary garden is one of the things that makes Louise Penny's books so special.

This wonderful eighth addition to Penny's garden ends on a strong note of foreboding and makes me both eager and hesitant for book nine. On the last page, the abbot of Saint Gilbert tells Gamache of how the monastery got its name. The last line of the story, "The one I feed," will resonate with me for a long, long time.
… (more)
LibraryThing member SamSattler
The Beautiful Mystery, Louise Penny’s eighth “Chief Inspector Gamache” novel, is a throwback of sorts. A monk has been murdered in a purposely isolated monastery located in the remote forests surrounding Quebec. No outsiders have ever been allowed inside the monastery, but now authorities have to be called in so that the murderer can be identified and charged with his crime. While Penny does use the classic mystery set-up of a closed environment and a clearly defined set of suspects – one of whom has to have committed the murder – here, she includes enough side-plots, flashbacks, and deeply developed characters to make it all seem fresh.

Because of Gilbert’s support for Thomas Beckett, the Gilbertines were forced to flee England for Canada shortly after Beckett’s politically inspired murder in the cathedral at Canterbury. The two dozen Gilbertine monks now living in Quebec’s Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups monastery have so successfully hidden themselves, that, until very recently, the world believed they had ceased to exist centuries earlier. There they live a self-sustaining life of near silence while spending much of each day striving to sing the most perfect versions of the ancient Gregorian chants around which they anchor their lives.

However, it is not all peace and tranquility within the walls of the monastery. The solitude of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups has been shattered by the discovery of the choir director’s body. The dead man has had his head bashed in, and now it is up to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir to identify his murderer.

As fascinating as all of this is, fans of the series will expect to learn more about how Gamache and Beauvoir are coping with the aftermath of the botched police mission that left Beauvoir near death and both men emotionally scarred by what they witnessed. Penny obliges by giving the failed hostage rescue attempt a central role in The Beautiful Mystery. As the book opens, Gamache still believes he failed his men by allowing them to walk into an ambush, and Beauvoir struggles to cope with an addiction to painkillers that could cost him his job. That Beauvoir is also secretly dating Annie, Gamache’s daughter, adds an interesting plot twist that turns the relationship of the men in a new direction.

Also making an appearance in this one is Gamache’s old nemesis, Superintendent Inspector Fancouer, a man whom Gamache has every good reason to both despise and to fear. When Fancouer joins the two detectives at the monastery, and Gamache learns why he is really there, he comes perilously close to committing a murder of his own.

A combination of well developed characters, intriguing atmosphere, revealing side plots, and many of the elements of a classic whodunit, The Beautiful Mystery is certain to please existing Louise Penny fans. At the same time, it will introduce her to a multitude of new readers who will want to go back and read the earlier Inspector Gamache books.

Rated at: 5.0
… (more)
LibraryThing member shayrp76
Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir arrive at Quebec’s Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups monastery to investigate the murder of the choir director. In this secluded monastery made famous by their Gregorian chant they find a division among the monks along with the threat of division among themselves. Though the vow of silence has been lifted for the purpose of the investigation some of the monks are reluctant to share what they know making progress frustratingly slow but the arrival of unwelcome guests may be the tools Chief Inspector Gamache needs to get to the bottom of two very different mysteries.
I have not read the prior Inspector Gamache novels but now I know they will be added to my must read list. From the start I was hooked to this mystery. It slowed down a little for me in the middle but picked back up soon after. The slowdown is my only complaint but since it didn’t last long it’s not much of a setback. This one kept me guessing and kept me anxious to turn the next page. I fell in love with the characters (even some of the minor characters) and the plot. I thought that their being so many characters it would get stuffy and confusing but to my relief it all flowed well. I absolutely recommend this one, especially to mystery lovers who like to be kept on their toes.
… (more)
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Here was a community of men who communicated all day, every day. Just not with words. The smallest gesture took on a meaning and significance that would be lost in the hurly-burly of the outside world.

Would be lost on him, Gamache knew, if he wasn't careful. How much had he already missed?


Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvior are called to investigate the murder of a monk in a remote Quebec monastery. The monastic order had been thought extinct until very recently, when the monks became an international sensation following the release of a recording of their chants. Things haven't been the same at the monastery since, and the monks seem to be divided into two factions. Did disagreement among the monks escalate to murder, or was there another, hidden motive that led to the prior's death?

The residents of Three Pines are missing from this installment, as is Agent Lacoste. This is very much Jean-Guy Beauvoir's book, just as Bury Your Dead was Gamache's. Beauvior has never been one of my favorite characters – he's often brash, and he lacks the charisma to get away with it. I've developed a sympathy for him over the course of the last three books in the series, though, and I'd like to see things work out well for him.

I think it would be possible to read this as a stand-alone, but I don't recommend it. While a murder case is solved within each book, there are other plot threads that develop over the course of the series. There's a storm brewing within the Sûreté, and it grew much bigger in the course of this novel. Somehow I'll have to find a way to live with the suspense until the publication of the next book in the series next year.… (more)
LibraryThing member jadestar31
There were both good and bad parts to this novel. The beginning immediately drew me into this book. It was just so full of promise. Even the beginning of the investigation and getting to know all the monks was relatively interesting and I found myself getting really invested in who the murderer was. However, the middle is rife with politics. Not just the politics within the abbey, which at least moved the plot forward, but the politics between Gamache, Beauvoir and Francoeur. I haven’t read any of the previous books in the series and while slight mentions of the other novels was fine, I found myself bored by the large digressions. I’m sure that people who have read the other books would probably love this one as well. However, the book was so centered around plot points of the previous books, the resolution of the murder was strangely abrupt.

One of the best parts of this book was the rich language and dialogue. Penny has a way of phrasing things in such a unique way. The following passage especially moved me:

"What did falling in love do for you? Can you ever really explain it? It filled empty spaces I never knew were empty. It cured a loneliness I never knew I had. It gave me joy. And freedom. I think that was the most amazing part. I suddenly felt both embraced and freed at the same time."

Overall, it’s really hard for me to rate this book. I loved Penny’s writing style and some of her phrasing and wording was extremely evocative and haunting. However, I was so distracted by all the things in the series I didn’t know.

I recommend this book to people who already know Gamache and I’m sure it’s (probably) a great addition to the series, but I wouldn’t recommend starting the series with it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member bookappeal
Murder brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to a setting completely different from the quaint village of Three Pines. Inside the stone walls of the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups ("among the wolves"), buried deep in the wilderness of Quebec, hours of silence are disturbed only by transcendent Gregorian chant. Gamache discovers that much can be communicated in a silent community. Loyalty. Devotion. Temptation. Betrayal. In the presence of the monks, Gamache is, for once, perhaps not the most observant man in the room. And his most valued inspector, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, can't fathom why anyone would choose monastic life, much less imagine what could possibly incite murder among these men who seemed concerned only with singing. The most meaningful clue may be a perplexing scrap of paper with Latin words and neumes, ancient symbols for writing music, concealed by the dead monk.

The vow of silence is lifted but Gamache and Beauvoir suspect much is hidden beneath what the monks actually say and, when an unexpected visitor arrives, every man in the monastery is forced to look deep into his own heart for the truth.

Louise Penny strikes the perfect balance between description and dialogue, bringing the reader right inside the monastery and expressing depths of emotion in just a few words. This series just keeps getting better.
… (more)
LibraryThing member BookAngel_a
A Beautiful Mystery is the eighth book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. I have read and enjoyed them all.

This novel takes the reader away from Three Pines and into a Quebec monastery. And not just any monastery - these monks have become famous from a recording of their remarkable singing. Their choir director is found murdered and Gamache and Beauvoir become the first outsiders admitted to the monastery in years.

Even though these monks live lives of peace and piety, there is a lot of barely hidden turmoil. The monks are divided over their songs - should they sing new chants for the public or not? Gamache and Beauvoir have to determine if this division led to murder...and by whom?

About halfway through the book, I became overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness, and it was difficult for me to continue reading. It became obvious that things were not likely to end well for the characters we have come to know and love. To make matters worse, Francoeur, Gamache's superior who despises him, joins the investigation.

I am glad I did continue reading until the end, because this is a very beautiful story, but as I suspected the ending was not a happy one. Perhaps Ms. Penny's next novel in the series will bring some resolution and hope to the events of this novel.

(I received this book through Amazon's Vine Program.)
… (more)

Pages

400

ISBN

1250031125 / 9781250031129
Page: 0.3778 seconds