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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 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. The Beautiful Mystery is the winner of the 2012 Agatha Award for best novel, the 2013 Anthony Award for best novel and the 2013 Macavity Award for best novel.


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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 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. The Beautiful Mystery is the winner of the 2012 Agatha Award for best novel, the 2013 Anthony Award for best novel and the 2013 Macavity Award for best novel.

30 review for The Beautiful Mystery

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is probably more a 2.5 than a 2 star rating, from someone who has given almost entirely 5 stars to Penny's previous seven novels. "The Beautiful Mystery" gravitas and plot depend so heavily upon events in two previous novels involving the Surete and Gamache's deadly feud with his superiors, that I would only recommend it to readers of the series. Even then I found myself confused, if not baffled by the alien action of the last 10% of the novel where those events are most intrusive. The sudde This is probably more a 2.5 than a 2 star rating, from someone who has given almost entirely 5 stars to Penny's previous seven novels. "The Beautiful Mystery" gravitas and plot depend so heavily upon events in two previous novels involving the Surete and Gamache's deadly feud with his superiors, that I would only recommend it to readers of the series. Even then I found myself confused, if not baffled by the alien action of the last 10% of the novel where those events are most intrusive. The sudden and aerially spectacular appearance by their lone and detested supervisor to this remote murder site, is baffling from the onset. The way this invasion proceeds to upstage the murder investigation and detract from the general genre of a very different book, is unfortunate. The precipitous and murderous decline of Jean-Guy at the end is unconvincing, too abrupt, if not contrived, even given the imported impetus (pills and DVD) by Francouer designed specifically to send him over the edge. I have held serious reservations regarding Jean-Guy as Gamache's choice of protege since the first book; they have so little in common culturally and educationally and he has an inferior deductive mind. But I found myself appalled by his embrace of this man as prospective son-in-law. If the non-addicted persona never seemed a good match for Gamache--the new recidivist addict version seems less so. The repeated face downs between Gamache and Francouer rapidly devolved into spitting contests with Gamache always on the verge of homicide, and Francouer always taunting him further. Enough already. How many times can you say 'stop that', slap his hands, and expect that to be an effective deterent? Lock him in a cell, hand-cuff him to an appliance,...take some action. On the other side of the argument, how many times does a subservient employee have to rough house you before you have grounds to simply fire him? All the kerfluffle at the end between a drugged and paranoiac Beauvoir and enraged Gamache/Francouer abusing each other literally over the altar, immediately proceeds the denouement where the murderer is cleverly if hastily exposed. IMO it destroys what up until then had been a carefully crafted, interesting monastery murder. It upstages and abbreviates what should have been the repercussions among the monks of outing the murderer and importantly the resolution of the schism that divided them. And so the importance of all the descriptors for this perfect music, the quiet untamed wildness, the rainbow play of light on stone, the allegory of the entwined wolves, the extraordinary diversity of the monks, the meticulous architecture of the monastery, the philosophical examination of monastic life, bliss, peace, ecstasy, the discovery and discoverer of the monastery's treasure, and the voice of God, and the apprehension of the murderer ...all these things are swept away in the furious, fast, final pages. This cachophonous ending is not what I would have envisioned for a book named for plainchant.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 4.75* of five The Publisher 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 Rating: 4.75* of five The Publisher 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I really enjoy this series but this was one that did not really enthral me. I like the books set in Three Pines best, largely because I have become very attached to all of Penny's wonderful characters. The Beautiful Mystery however is set totally in a monastery and the only characters we know for most of the book are Gamache himself and his off sider Jean Paul Beauvoir. Now I really do not like Beauvoir and find it very hard to understand why Gamache has so much time for him. In this book he sink I really enjoy this series but this was one that did not really enthral me. I like the books set in Three Pines best, largely because I have become very attached to all of Penny's wonderful characters. The Beautiful Mystery however is set totally in a monastery and the only characters we know for most of the book are Gamache himself and his off sider Jean Paul Beauvoir. Now I really do not like Beauvoir and find it very hard to understand why Gamache has so much time for him. In this book he sinks to new depths in his determination to ruin his own life and I found myself skimming whole chunks of his nonsense. A shame really because I absolutely loved the previous book. Let's hope the next one takes us back to Three Pines and Ruth and her duck.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    An Armand Gamache novel not at least partly set in Three Pines? What will I do with myself? I have so much enjoyed knowing a whole town involved in a murder mystery, as well as the detective and his team. Despite the initial trepidation this set off in my head, it was quickly allayed by the story that Louise Penny laid before me. This was really damned good. Even if it had a heartbreaking ending. Penny's understanding and portrayal of human nature in all its warts and beauties shines through eve An Armand Gamache novel not at least partly set in Three Pines? What will I do with myself? I have so much enjoyed knowing a whole town involved in a murder mystery, as well as the detective and his team. Despite the initial trepidation this set off in my head, it was quickly allayed by the story that Louise Penny laid before me. This was really damned good. Even if it had a heartbreaking ending. Penny's understanding and portrayal of human nature in all its warts and beauties shines through every page. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    I’ve read some remarkable books this year – it’s like a miracle – and I thought that there was no way that I could find a book that was even better. How wrong could I possibly be? I knew as soon as I read two Goodread reviews on this book that I would love it. It has actually succeeded my wildest dreams. All the ingredients were there that have fascinated me since I was a child: monks, monasteries and Gregorian chants, with the added bonus of the setting in Québec. The only other book in this gen I’ve read some remarkable books this year – it’s like a miracle – and I thought that there was no way that I could find a book that was even better. How wrong could I possibly be? I knew as soon as I read two Goodread reviews on this book that I would love it. It has actually succeeded my wildest dreams. All the ingredients were there that have fascinated me since I was a child: monks, monasteries and Gregorian chants, with the added bonus of the setting in Québec. The only other book in this genre that perhaps could indirectly be compared is “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco that I read many years ago. This is a mystery that indeed delivers. Initially I thought that the title was rather inane: “The Beautiful Mystery” but that was soon explained. A monk is murdered in the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups (between the wolves?), far away in the wilderness of Québec, a closed order where twenty-four monks live in tranquillity and peace, with a vow of silence. They appear to be self-sufficient in that each monk has a “trade” that he can call upon, be it working in the garden or taking care of the plumbing, etc. They also make chocolate mixed with blueberries. But they had all been “recruited” from other monasteries with another requirement that of having beautiful voices to sing the ancients chants. The beauty of these chants in fact so overwhelmed whoever heard them that they became known as “the beautiful mystery”. How could anyone possibly know this, from this isolated monastery? This story’s origins are based on the Inquisition which became a brutal time for monasteries. No-one was safe, some even going to the New World to escape persecution and torture. But then the Gilbertines (the monks who oddly enough wore black robes and white hoods) came up with a far better solution – they vanished. Then they were heard on the radio three hundred years later as they had decided to make a recording and thanks to the internet they were heard by millions. The Gregorian chants of the Gilbertines were exquisite and so they were finally discovered in Québec. But although many came to visit them, no-one was allowed into the monastery. Then one day, the choir director, Brother Mathieu is found dead in the abbot’s private garden that can only be accessed from Dom Philippe’s own rooms. Then, whilst the victim is being examined by the monastery’s doctor, a small piece of vellum falls from his sleeve; an intricate script that appears to be part of a page from an old manuscript, in Latin. As a result of this murder, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir are called in from the Sûreté du Québec. With painstaking detective work, Armand succeeds in finding the murderer but at what price to him personally? For this is a man who has his own demons to deal with as does Beauvoir. The clues are all there but I was unable to find them. But when I arrived at the section when the “dot” was discovered I was in awe. There’s such a strong sense of place in this mystery. The plot is indeed multi-faceted, as are the sub-plots. Music and songs permeate the text, with exquisite descriptions of both within and outside the monastery. One can even feel the anguish of the monks as Armand systematically interviews them. Then Gamache’s boss, Chief Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, appears. Rather evil, in fact the Devil incarnate and then…. Elements of tragicomedy can be detected and in fact pages 358-359 are sublime. The reader may wonder why the Latin words that are sung translate to “I have a banana in my ear”. But due to this Armand manages to succeed here in flushing out the murderer. Sadly, I cannot really put into words the way I feel about this incredible work; nevertheless, what a glorious book with which to end 2015.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    Historical theme:An ancient order, the Gilbertines, is occupying the monastery with a unique selection of monks singing an ancient collection of Gregorian chants as part of their Divine Office. Their power was not so established in their disciplined, isolated religious calling, as it was divided between their dedication to their music and their silence. In this impregnable wall of divinity and humanity a few cracks appeared. A silent war was raging, pushing a divide through the old institution a Historical theme:An ancient order, the Gilbertines, is occupying the monastery with a unique selection of monks singing an ancient collection of Gregorian chants as part of their Divine Office. Their power was not so established in their disciplined, isolated religious calling, as it was divided between their dedication to their music and their silence. In this impregnable wall of divinity and humanity a few cracks appeared. A silent war was raging, pushing a divide through the old institution and causing the foundations to crumble. The monks are facing each other in two lines, across the stone floor of the chapel, like ancient battle lines. Silently. Always silently. Plot: Chief Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his assistant, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate a murder in this isolated abbey. Sub-plot: The relationship between the two colleagues are tested on a much deeper level when they are removed from their own lives and established behind the thick walls of a monastery which has never seen any other human beings other than monks in its centuries-old existence. "Armand Gamache had expected to need a few moments to adjust to the dark interior. He hadn’t expected that he’d need to adjust to the light. Far from being dim, the interior was luminous. A long wide corridor of gray stones opened up ahead of them, ending in a closed door at the far end. But what struck the Chief, what must have struck every man, every monk, who entered those doors for centuries, was the light. The corridor was filled with rainbows. Giddy prisms. Bouncing off the hard stone walls. Pooling on the slate floors. They shifted and merged and separated, as though alive. The Chief Inspector knew his mouth had dropped open, but he didn’t care. He’d never, in a life of seeing many astonishing things, seen anything quite like this. It was like walking into joy. He turned and caught the eye of the monk. And held it for a moment. There was no joy there. Just pain. The darkness Gamache had expected to find inside the monastery was not in the walls, but in the men." Comments: Louise Penny has the magical ability to pull the reader into a new world from the very first sentence in her story. A sense of excitement and contentment roll over the reader like a drug fix. She never budges from her rendition of gentle realism, while still addressing series issues. Quebec is the background to her stories and she manages, by alternating the themes in this series, to highlight the history and beauty of her world. Every second book moves away from the readers' beloved fictional village, Three Pines, which, in the first place, showcases her ability to write any murder mystery successfully. Secondly, and that's my opinion, she considers her readers, by moving away from the established theme of the series, thereby adding new possibilities on a constant, and in a very successful way. This is the first book in the series that moves completely away from Three Pines. Throughout the series she develops Armand Gamache's character, adding more aspects of his complicated personality. There is never an indulgence into super-heroism. She never portrays him as a superior persona. He has demons of his own to confront before he can capture the killer. The incredible atmospheric background of this story is almost indescribable. 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.”The origin of written music is revealed. Fascinating! An absolute brilliant read for both historical fiction and murder mystery readers!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Readers of this series know that Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrested Chief Superintendent Pierre Arnot. In doing so he became a hero with the men and women of the of Sûreté du Québec as well as the public. But he also made enemies. There were some who did not want Arnot arrested. They felt it would be an embarrassment to the Sûreté and that he should be allowed to resign. But Gamache knew it was the right thing to do. "Some malady is coming upon us" Two dozen cloistered monks live in peace a Readers of this series know that Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrested Chief Superintendent Pierre Arnot. In doing so he became a hero with the men and women of the of Sûreté du Québec as well as the public. But he also made enemies. There were some who did not want Arnot arrested. They felt it would be an embarrassment to the Sûreté and that he should be allowed to resign. But Gamache knew it was the right thing to do. "Some malady is coming upon us" Two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer in the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups deep in the wilderness of Quebec. They grow vegetables, raise chickens, make chocolate, and they sing. These cloistered monks have in fact become world famous for their Gregorian chants. The effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.” Their sudden fame has brought fortune that allowed much needed repair to the monastery. Plumbing, heating, lighting. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is much more work that is needed. The very foundation of the monastery is in need of repair. The monks of of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups are divided. Some want to release another CD and go on tour. They believe the first CD and money it brought to the monastery was a miracle. Others believe it was a curse, not in keeping with their vow of silence and cloistered life of prayer and contemplation. "Some malady is coming upon us" When the choir director is murdered Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir knock on the door of the monastery where outsiders are not admitted. Beneath the silence and apparent harmony lies disquiet and discord. Behind the walls of the monastery Gamache and Beauvoir will confront their own demons. The cracks in the foundation may be metaphorical as well physical. And it is not just the monastery. Chief Superintendent Francoeur, Gamache's boss, suddenly shows up with no real reason. Gamache knows he has some hidden agenda. Francoeur was one of Arnot's allies. And since Gamache arrested Arnot he is now the enemy as far as the corrupt and evil Francoeur is concerned. What is Francoeur up to and who will win this battle? Gamache is not a violent man and uses reason rather than a gun. But he is only human. How far can he be pushed? Even in a monastery evil and murder can make an appearance. "Some malady is coming upon us"

  8. 5 out of 5

    LJ

    First Sentence: In the earth nineteenth century, the Catholic Church realized it had a problem. The cloistered monks of Quebec’s self-contained Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups monastery focus their lives on prayer and the simplicity of Gregorian Chants. The murder of their prior and choirmaster, Frère Mathieu, has forced open their doors to Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec Penny’s writing is simply superb. Her prose is more than mere words telling a story, her phrases First Sentence: In the earth nineteenth century, the Catholic Church realized it had a problem. The cloistered monks of Quebec’s self-contained Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups monastery focus their lives on prayer and the simplicity of Gregorian Chants. The murder of their prior and choirmaster, Frère Mathieu, has forced open their doors to Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec Penny’s writing is simply superb. Her prose is more than mere words telling a story, her phrases are stories in themselves. “Gamache couldn’t yet see the blows that led up to the final, catastrophic crushing of this man’s skull. But he’d find them. This sort of thing never came out of the blue. There’d be a trail of small wounds, bruises, hurt feelings, insults and exclusions.” Penny wonderfully and accurately describes the way in which music can transport the soul. Her analogies are highly evocative. “The monk examined Gamache. “… We don’t just sing, we are the song.” Gamache could see he believed it. The Chief has a vision of the halls of the monastery filled not with monks in black robes, but with musical notes. Black notes bobbing through the halls. Waiting to come together in sacred song.” The inclusion of humor adds levity, yet there is anger and pain as well. Her words are thoughtful and thought-provoking. There are contrasts such as describing one particularly dour monk as “The Eeyore of the monastery.”, while having a doctor describe how “People die in bits and pieces.” Her writing causes you to stop and consider the concepts behind the words and can compel one to share passages with others. I’ve been known to call friends at odd hours insisting that they “Listen to this.” Penny’s descriptions bring places and people to life, placing you at the scene and causing you to see, hear and know the things and people around you. Among Penny’s many strengths is her ability to create characters about whom you want to know more. This is finally, I feel, the first time we see Gamache truly at his strength in his role. At the same time, we are made painfully aware that although he has a very close relationship, both to its credit and detriment, with his second, Jean-Guy, there are others who would do anything to discredit him. There is a wonderful segment where we learn of the same information but from two separate perspectives. Rather than being redundant, it truly exposes the differences in the personalities of Gamache and Jean-Guy. We also learn the details of the enmity between Gamache and his superior in whom she has created a distinct type of evil; a character who truly excels at manipulation and cruelty. The story is very well constructed with plots and sub-plots each as interesting as the next. Lest you think this is a cozy, it is not. It is a traditional police procedural solved by investigating and following the clues. It is also a story of relationships and strong emotions, and there is nothing cozy about them. Staying up most of the night reading is not something one would normally recommend. Staying up most of the night with a new book by Louise Penny is almost unavoidable. A reader begins every book with the hope of finding something wonderful. “The Beautiful Mystery” is the realization of that hope. It is an excellent, beautifully written book that stays with you long after closing the cover yet leaves you wanting to demand the next book immediately. It is also only the latest in excellent series I recommend reading in order from the beginning. THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY (Pol Proc-Chief Inspector Gamache-Canada-Contemporary – Ex Penny, Louise – 8th in series Minotaur Books, 2012

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I enjoy the special voice and psychological depth Penny has in this mystery series. In this one the murder of choirmaster in a remote cloistered order of monks leads Inspector Gamache and Agent Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec to travel there and live among the community until the mystery is solved. The site is of a fictional monastery established 300 years before by an order seeking a hide out from the Inquisition, Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups (“Between the Wolves”). They have recently achieve I enjoy the special voice and psychological depth Penny has in this mystery series. In this one the murder of choirmaster in a remote cloistered order of monks leads Inspector Gamache and Agent Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec to travel there and live among the community until the mystery is solved. The site is of a fictional monastery established 300 years before by an order seeking a hide out from the Inquisition, Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups (“Between the Wolves”). They have recently achieved much unwanted attention, and a lot of money, from a popular recording of Gregorian “plainchants”. Monastery in Quebec Pretty hard to imagine what could lead a monk to commit murder. Gamache’s explorations of this community slowly uncovers a schism related to ambitions about the music. The “Beautiful Mystery” of the title has to do with Christian faith and the devotion of accolytes of the Gregorian chant to achieve ecstasy in speaking and praying to God through music. In the middle ages, the efforts to codify how the music was to be sung led to the invention of written music, which took the form symbolic hand gestures called neumes. The first clue for Gamache concerns a piece of vellum on the monks body with a strange chant and neumes. Example of primitive musical notation, neumes, placed over Latin words of a Gregorian chant Some readers may be bored by the slow action and focus on ancient music. But the treat for me is in the interplay between Gamache and Beuvoir. They are both in recovery from a case covered in a previous book which involved much mayhem and serious injuries to both. They are both challenged by the arrival of their nemesis on the scene, the Superintendent of the Surete. The result adds quite a bit of psychological warfare to the story. I agree with this conclusion from a review in the Globe & Mail: ... 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. Sample of Gregorian chant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2wyaR...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I recently purchased "The Beautiful Mystery" (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8) by Louise Penny, after reading such great praise for this book on Goodreads.I have to admit that I haven't read any of her other novels,so I didn't know what to expect.This novel can be read without visiting previous novels. Little did I know that I was in for such a real treat.I was drawn into this book right from the beginning. Her characters are complex and very human, and I was right there all the way as the pl I recently purchased "The Beautiful Mystery" (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8) by Louise Penny, after reading such great praise for this book on Goodreads.I have to admit that I haven't read any of her other novels,so I didn't know what to expect.This novel can be read without visiting previous novels. Little did I know that I was in for such a real treat.I was drawn into this book right from the beginning. Her characters are complex and very human, and I was right there all the way as the plot enfolded. In this, her eighth novel, we go with Inspectors Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Surete du Quebec to a monastery hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec where there has been a murder. There are only 24 monks at this monastery and it is the job of the inspectors to find the murderer. The monks sing plainchant every day, and it is soon obvious that the chants connect to the murder, but the perpetrator and his reason for murder is hidden until the very end. There are many forces of good against evil that struggle within the minds of many of the characters.But who out of the 24 had opportunity and motive to commit this crime.Everyone was a suspect. I only have praise for Louise Penny to write such an amazing novel.It is evident the amount of research that must have been done in preparation for this novel. I feel like I have been living within the confines of a monastery over the last few days.Once you read one of Louise Penny’s novels, you will want to read them all.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Renata

    I'm really just an occasional mystery reader and by that I mean I will read quite a few mysteries over the course of two years and then be entirely immune to their siren call for the next year or so. After reading a few Louise Penney mysteries my friend Juliann recommended this one and I absolutely adored it. I loved everything about it - the setting in the monastery, the descriptions of the life and various monks living within, the tensions between Armand and his odious superior, and most of al I'm really just an occasional mystery reader and by that I mean I will read quite a few mysteries over the course of two years and then be entirely immune to their siren call for the next year or so. After reading a few Louise Penney mysteries my friend Juliann recommended this one and I absolutely adored it. I loved everything about it - the setting in the monastery, the descriptions of the life and various monks living within, the tensions between Armand and his odious superior, and most of all the descriptions of the music. I listened again and again to my CD's of Gregoria's chants, then went on to recommend the book for our December book group just so I'd have the pleasure of reading it again. It's been several years...maybe I'm ready for another outing with Louise Penny.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This book is a departure from the others in the Gamache series. Set at a monastery rather than the perfect village, Gamache and Beauvoir must find the killer amongst the chanting monks. There is much to like about the novel, particularly the descriptions of the plainchants and the ancient neumes from which they are derived, yet I found the book unsettling rather than enjoyable. The antagonist in this story is not the murderer, but Gamache's boss who has joined them at the abbey, there to do his This book is a departure from the others in the Gamache series. Set at a monastery rather than the perfect village, Gamache and Beauvoir must find the killer amongst the chanting monks. There is much to like about the novel, particularly the descriptions of the plainchants and the ancient neumes from which they are derived, yet I found the book unsettling rather than enjoyable. The antagonist in this story is not the murderer, but Gamache's boss who has joined them at the abbey, there to do his best to destroy our hero. Francoeur is a very bad man and the contrast between him and the monks is very stark and strangely horrifying. The fact that the writing is understated makes it even more so.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Radley

    This series just keep getting better and better. I'm so glad I'm new to this series if I had to wait a year for the next one it would drive me mad. In this one Gamache and Beauvoir are not in Three Pines and are called to a monastery in the middle of nowhere to investigate the murder of one of the monks. I found this one quite creepy you could almost imagine you were in the monastery, behind the thick stone walls, dark corridors, door leading everywhere, no one around, deathly quiet until you he This series just keep getting better and better. I'm so glad I'm new to this series if I had to wait a year for the next one it would drive me mad. In this one Gamache and Beauvoir are not in Three Pines and are called to a monastery in the middle of nowhere to investigate the murder of one of the monks. I found this one quite creepy you could almost imagine you were in the monastery, behind the thick stone walls, dark corridors, door leading everywhere, no one around, deathly quiet until you hear the distant sounds of the chanting monks. I cannot believe how it finished, have to start number 9.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Gregorian chants are at the heart of Penny's latest Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery. A monk, the choirmaster, has been murdered on a quiet, isolated island off Quebec where the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups has been home to the Gilbertine monks since the middle of the 17th century. Only recently discovered after centuries of obscurity, these monks have the mission of singing and preserving the purity of the Gregorian chant. Gamache and his right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, m Gregorian chants are at the heart of Penny's latest Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery. A monk, the choirmaster, has been murdered on a quiet, isolated island off Quebec where the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups has been home to the Gilbertine monks since the middle of the 17th century. Only recently discovered after centuries of obscurity, these monks have the mission of singing and preserving the purity of the Gregorian chant. Gamache and his right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, must break through vows of silence and mistrust of outsiders to discover who amongst the holy monks could have murdered one of their own. The task is complicated by the arrival of Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, a corrupt force in the police who would like nothing better than to be rid of Gamache. Francoeur works his own evil, while Gamache and Beauvoir search for a killer. Every year, Louise Penny gifts readers with a superbly written mystery, and this year was no exception. I did miss the village of Three Pines and its endearing characters of her past novels, but I suppose even Three Pines needed a break from murder. I do hope Penny hasn't left the setting permanently. The Gregorian chant focus and the reclusive monks were an interesting departure. Gamache remains one of my favorite characters in fiction today, and the story moves at just the right pace. The character of Jean-Guy Beauvoir takes an unexpected twist, which I'm anticipating a resolution to in the next novel of the series. The ending will not particularly please fans of the series, but it is in keeping with the developing storyline of the entire fictional world of the stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    A locked monastery mystery - somewhere in the back of beyond in the northern Quebec wilderness there sits a 400 year old monastery inhabited by 24 members of a cloistered order who devote their lives to God and chanting. The unexpected popularity of a recording of their chants has created dissension in their ranks and a monk is murdered. Gamache and Beauvoir are called in to investigate. The problems I have with this book: the abbot's recruiting of new members, poaching them from other monasterie A locked monastery mystery - somewhere in the back of beyond in the northern Quebec wilderness there sits a 400 year old monastery inhabited by 24 members of a cloistered order who devote their lives to God and chanting. The unexpected popularity of a recording of their chants has created dissension in their ranks and a monk is murdered. Gamache and Beauvoir are called in to investigate. The problems I have with this book: the abbot's recruiting of new members, poaching them from other monasteries on the basis of their voices (like football recruiters?) - the description of monastery life as a whole is not very convincing. The Latin errors. The Francoeur thing - to drop him into the middle of this so he can wreak havoc on all and sundry, for what? Melodrama instead of actual drama? The subplot of the enmity between Francoeur and Gamache is an annoying distraction, or would be if there were anything much going on plotwise. And the other drop in - the mysterious Dominican from the Inquisition who just happens to have been trying to trace an ancient manuscript for years and shows up just in time to reveal the killer - timing IS everything. And finally the decline and fall of Beauvoir - three months sober, happily in love, one dose of Oxy then psychotic withdrawal symptoms, within hours? Has this series jumped the shark?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    A monk has been murdered inside the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups and the only possible suspect is one of the other monks. This order maintains a vow of silence except when singing Gregorian chants. They let no one from the outside in, but of course they must make an exception for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who have arrived by boat to investigate the murder. This order of monks, The Gilbertines, escaped the Inquisition by fleeing to t A monk has been murdered inside the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups and the only possible suspect is one of the other monks. This order maintains a vow of silence except when singing Gregorian chants. They let no one from the outside in, but of course they must make an exception for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who have arrived by boat to investigate the murder. This order of monks, The Gilbertines, escaped the Inquisition by fleeing to the wilderness of the new world. Up until lately, even The Vatican didn't know that they were still in existence. But not that long ago they recorded their voices singing the Gregorian chants, and suddenly the outside world became very much aware of their existence due to the popularity of the recording. The recording created a divide in what had once been a united monastery, given over to worshipping God in everything they did. It is up to the two officers from the Surete du Quebec, to uncover which of the "holy" men of God is guilty of murder most foul. Louise Penny never ceases to amaze me with her ability to keep this series fresh. The only thing I would add is that if this were a(view spoiler)[Star Wars movie, Jean-Guy turns to the dark side<\spoiler>. (hide spoiler)]

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I used to listen to the That Stack of Books podcast with Nancy Pearl, a noted librarian and literary critic in the US. I liked her honest opinions of books and it seemed that she and I shared similar tastes. When I was very early on in Louise Penny’s Gamache novels, maybe 2 or 3 books in, I was struck by what Ms. Pearl had said about them. While she agreed that what she had read she somewhat enjoyed, the fact that each of these were set in the tiny village of Three Pines and following the same se I used to listen to the That Stack of Books podcast with Nancy Pearl, a noted librarian and literary critic in the US. I liked her honest opinions of books and it seemed that she and I shared similar tastes. When I was very early on in Louise Penny’s Gamache novels, maybe 2 or 3 books in, I was struck by what Ms. Pearl had said about them. While she agreed that what she had read she somewhat enjoyed, the fact that each of these were set in the tiny village of Three Pines and following the same set of characters would wear thin on readers. In fact, she went as far as to describe the series as “cloying”. Since then, with every book I have read so far, it’s that remark that I think about all the time, and how I so disagree with it. For one thing, Penny’s character developments in the village continue to make things interesting, and for another thing, this one (and the second one so far, Missy, FYI) is not set in Three Pines. The Beautiful Mystery is set in a secluded monastery in the remote Quebec wilderness, and surrounds the investigation of the murder of one of the monks. What made this one so fascinating is that this monastery is populated only with the finest voices that can be found. You see, this reclusive monastery is home to those responsible to the highest selling and highest regarded recording of Gregorian Chants. Not only does Louise Penny make Gregorian Chants interesting, but her description of the spiritual effect of the chants is quite enlightening. And not only that, but as reclusive as the setting is, the story also serves to expand the scope of this series. This is why it is important to read this series in order, in case you didn't already know. So it’s eight books in, and I’m still totally into the series. That’s pretty huge for me. Even better, I wasn’t even planning on reading it when I did but I couldn’t decide what book to pick off the to-read shelf and finally, exasperated, I sighed and loaded up this one “Well, I guess I’ll read another Penny as a fallback”. I was less than thrilled going in, but like all of her novels she had me fully invested (although this one took a while). I was very close to giving this one 5 stars, but I found parts of the ending to be a bit over the top so I docked half a star. However, she also made a sly (view spoiler)[ Monty Python reference (hide spoiler)] which I was pleasantly surprised with. I was waiting for it, waiting for it, no, I guess not...and BAM! There it was :) So we bump up a bit. 4.7, and rounding up.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Roberts

    I have followed Chief Inspector Armand Gamache from the beginning. He is an old friend so when he hurts, I hurt. This time he must find out who murdered a monk in the isolated monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden on an island in the middle of a lake deep in the wilderness of Quebec. The suspects are 23 cloistered monks living in peace, prayer, and song. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised I have followed Chief Inspector Armand Gamache from the beginning. He is an old friend so when he hurts, I hurt. This time he must find out who murdered a monk in the isolated monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden on an island in the middle of a lake deep in the wilderness of Quebec. The suspects are 23 cloistered monks living in peace, prayer, and song. 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.” The chants enchant Gamache, of course, and bore his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. This is a compelling look at faith, at the intriguing Gregorian chants, at addiction, at ego and fame, and at the fragility of friendship. Louise Penny conducts this choir of words effortlessly and expertly. Her writing is a joy. The conclusion is shocking, and when Gamache's heart breaks, so does mine.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    my first and wont be my last novel by Louise Penny. I was actually with the Chief Inspector during the whole novel. Ms.Penny had me from the very first word, I just couldnt put this book down. At the very end I felt that I wanted more and was disappointed that there wasnt.However after sleeping on it, realized Ms Penny had ended this novel just as it should have been. Can hardly wait to read more of her novels. Thanks so very much Goodreads, for the advanced copy, have been going on about The Be my first and wont be my last novel by Louise Penny. I was actually with the Chief Inspector during the whole novel. Ms.Penny had me from the very first word, I just couldnt put this book down. At the very end I felt that I wanted more and was disappointed that there wasnt.However after sleeping on it, realized Ms Penny had ended this novel just as it should have been. Can hardly wait to read more of her novels. Thanks so very much Goodreads, for the advanced copy, have been going on about The Beautiful Mystery to everyone!

  20. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    She is such a great author who always impresses me with how much research she does on the locations and history of her subjects. And as usual, I am eager to read the next one to see how things pan out.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Named for Agatha Christie, The Agatha Awards are literary awards given out each year to mystery and crime writers who write in the "cozy mystery" subgenre (I love that term). Cozy mysteries are traditional mysteries that contain little or no sex or violence and are often set in a closed setting with an amateur detective (think Christie's Miss Marple books or TV's "Murder, She Wrote"). Over the last 8 years, Penny has been nominated each year for best novel and has won 5 times. Pretty impressive. Named for Agatha Christie, The Agatha Awards are literary awards given out each year to mystery and crime writers who write in the "cozy mystery" subgenre (I love that term). Cozy mysteries are traditional mysteries that contain little or no sex or violence and are often set in a closed setting with an amateur detective (think Christie's Miss Marple books or TV's "Murder, She Wrote"). Over the last 8 years, Penny has been nominated each year for best novel and has won 5 times. Pretty impressive. I've only read 2 of her books, but "cozy mystery" definitely describes her style. In both books, a murder has been committed and Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté arrives to solve it. There's a group of suspects and, as Gamache questions them, secrets are slowly revealed and possible motives and suspects come to light. I read the 2nd book in the series, A Fatal Grace, and skipped over all the rest to read this, the 8th book in the series. One of the dangers of reading books out of sequence in a particular series is that the author sometimes references early books and the reader comes across spoilers to those esrlier books. This did happen a couple of times in this book. A few earlier cases were referenced and the denouement of each were described (one in great detail). Another danger of reading a series out of sequence is that there are often secondary plots that continue over the course of several books. This is largely a standalone story, but there is a secondary plot that has an important part in the story. There is serious conflict between Gamache and his boss and what that conflict is and how it came about is crucial. If you haven't read any of the earlier books, Penny does use exposition to bring you up to speed, so if this is your starting point in the series, you'll not really be at a disadvantage Penny is a good writer, with well thought out plots and deft characterizations. There is plenty of amusing banter between Gamache and his assistant, Beauvoir, to keep things lively and the secondary plot brings an element of tension to the story. Taking place in a remote Catholic monastery in Quebec, the setting of this novel is interesting and refreshingly different. The mystery itself follows the cozy mystery style very closely. Prior to the start of the novel, one of the monks is murdered and, gradually, secrets and potential motives are revealed until the final denoument and the killer is unmasked. Who the killer is and why he killed makes sense once the reveal is done and I wasn't able to guess early All in all, this is one I would highly recommend for lovers of myteries. While the murder is wrapped up with a nice, neat bow, the secondary plot isn't and now I have to read the next book to find out what happens.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Obsidian

    This Gamache doesn't hang together very well. When Gamache and two of his team are called to a monastery to investigate a murder, things once again come to a head with Jean- Guy and Gamache's supervisor who is intent on making him pay for not being corruptible. I also didn't get much of the discussion about the chants/singing that was discussed throughout the book. I think it's been about three months since the events in the last book. Jean-Guy is now dating Annie (Gamache's only daughter) and j This Gamache doesn't hang together very well. When Gamache and two of his team are called to a monastery to investigate a murder, things once again come to a head with Jean- Guy and Gamache's supervisor who is intent on making him pay for not being corruptible. I also didn't get much of the discussion about the chants/singing that was discussed throughout the book. I think it's been about three months since the events in the last book. Jean-Guy is now dating Annie (Gamache's only daughter) and just oozes love now. The way they are together now gave me whiplash. Especially since I didn't read a hint of this in the prior book. It honestly doesn't feel earned. Jean-Guy acts like a fool worrying how Gamache will take it when he finds it. But also daydreams about being related to him. Gamache is focused on the case and finds himself in awe of visiting the monastery that has come into public focus now that the monks singing Georgian chants has become the new thing. He realizes quickly after Francoeur shows up, that the man is planning something. Again. It's just repetitive at this point. We hear about the video tape again. Jean-Guy watches it again and gets bitter again about Gamache leaving him to die. Honestly I ended up skimming most of the book after a while. I just didn't care anymore. Either tell readers who released the tape, of the raid or don't. Either have Jean-Guy get over it or not. I hope Annie dumps his butt but that's probably doubtful. The writing was so-so. I just found it boring to read about the chants and what they meant. Everyone has a look of bliss/Joy when discussing singing. I found it pretty repetitive after a while. Penny shows Gamache and Jean-Guy at several points writing to their respective wife and girlfriend. I assume I'm supposed to imagine how perfect Jean-Guy is since he is acting similar to Gamache? I just went meh. The setting of the monastery should have been intriguing, but falls flat when Francoeur shows up and throws his weight around. The ending leaves Gamache alone. I'm still going to read the next book, hope it bounces back from this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeanie

    Penny is such a superb writer that even at her worst she's a four star winner in my opinion....With that being said, here's the thing...I'm growing weary of Jean Guy's (supposedly a bright guy though that fact is seldom apparent) idiocy, and the continued torture of our beloved Gamache by those circling vultures from the Arnaud case. Please, Ms. Penny...it's time to move on. Either let the vultures have Beauvoir permanently and let Armand retire in peace to Three Pines and spend his time dealing Penny is such a superb writer that even at her worst she's a four star winner in my opinion....With that being said, here's the thing...I'm growing weary of Jean Guy's (supposedly a bright guy though that fact is seldom apparent) idiocy, and the continued torture of our beloved Gamache by those circling vultures from the Arnaud case. Please, Ms. Penny...it's time to move on. Either let the vultures have Beauvoir permanently and let Armand retire in peace to Three Pines and spend his time dealing with the mysteries of that constantly entertaining cast of characters, or, in the next book clean the Arnaud crap up once and for all. If this mess isn't mopped up in the next book, I won't be purchasing another one until it is! So, here's hoping the evil superintendant's statement of "It will never be over" is not one of fact, because I'm done. Please fix this and get back to concentrating on writing a good mystery and without all the angst...a little angst goes a long way in this genre. Truly bury the dead next time, Louise, and lets make sure they stay that way. If Jean Guy is one of the dead, that's fine with me, although soft hearted as Gamache is, he'd blame himself and never recover...but at least that would be fresh angst! (laughing)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan Meissner

    Louise Penny is a genius. I listened to this book on audio as I have the other books of hers I've "read" and was again swept away by the story and her simple yet insightful prose. Her narrator, by the way, has a velvet voice, and deftly speaks the female roles without ever sounding like he's trying too hard. I'm prickly when it comes to narrators who over-extend to mimic the opposite sex; it never works. This narrator however is perfect. I've been reading the Inspector Gamache books out of order Louise Penny is a genius. I listened to this book on audio as I have the other books of hers I've "read" and was again swept away by the story and her simple yet insightful prose. Her narrator, by the way, has a velvet voice, and deftly speaks the female roles without ever sounding like he's trying too hard. I'm prickly when it comes to narrators who over-extend to mimic the opposite sex; it never works. This narrator however is perfect. I've been reading the Inspector Gamache books out of order but this one makes me want to find #9 pronto...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Martha Francescato

    This review is from: The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel - A Very Beautiful Mystery marred by an unexpected and unwanted intrusion (originally published in amazon.com) This is the second novel in the series that strays from Three Pines and the endearing characters who live there (the first one is Bury Your Dead). But it is natural -- Three Pines is very small, and there are so only many murders that can happen there. So, here we are taken to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre This review is from: The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel - A Very Beautiful Mystery marred by an unexpected and unwanted intrusion (originally published in amazon.com) This is the second novel in the series that strays from Three Pines and the endearing characters who live there (the first one is Bury Your Dead). But it is natural -- Three Pines is very small, and there are so only many murders that can happen there. So, here we are taken to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec. It is a monastery that does not accept any outside intrusion and where there is a vow of silence. To this monastery Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec arrive, having been called because of the murder of Frère Mathieu, the Prior and choirmaster, with a brutal blow to the head. Once there, they discover disquiet beneath the silence. I will not dwell on the plot, as this is a review, not a summary. What follow are some observations, and they contain what some call "spoilers" -- necessary to make my points. I had read, followed, and recommended Penny's mysteries from the beginning. I wrote a five star review of A Trick of the Light, which I loved. What happened here that makes me unable to give this work five stars? The novel is centered on the Gregorian chants and the 24 monks who sing them several times daily (now 23.) Their hypnotic allure is called the "beautiful mystery," and Gamache is immediately drawn to them as are we, the readers. I have to confess I read part of the novel with a CD of Gregorian chants in the background, as I was carried away and needed to hear them too. Beauvoir finds them irritating and boring. We need to make this point, maybe to try to understand what happens later on. But we know a lot about Beauvoir already. Everything about the novel, from the mystery to the daily life of a Gilbertine monk, is written in great detail and is truly moving and entrancing. We are mostly indoors, trapped in the monastery as the monks are. Only now and then do they venture out to work the soil, gather blueberries, look after the chickens. There are also secret doors and passages, as well as the potential hidden treasure. And there happens to be a treasure, as we find out later, but one that is in plain view, unknown to anyone there. It falls upon another "intruder" a Dominican monk, to find it. All the time, Gamache is trying to gather clues to solve the mystery, but the solution eludes him. But -- it is when Chief Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur arrives that the novel takes an unexpected turn. We are still dealing with the mystery, and eventually Gamache solves it, but Francoeur has brought two things that will disrupt the calm and take the plot in another direction, a subplot that acts like an invader: a CD of the raid that happened in the past and which is still somewhat unresolved, and a bottle of OxyContin. With these two items he manages to challenge and change the lives of the two outsiders -- Gamache and Beauvoir. Francoeur instills more than doubt in Beauvior's mind; it is poison, which succeeds in making him doubt and finally desert not only Gamache but Annie, whom he dearly loved all along and is now having an affair with. We saw part of it at the beginning, only to be taken away almost immediately, as an anticipation of what was about to happen. It is almost absurd to think that Francoeur went all the way to the monastery on a plane that announced his arrival loudly, and took the CD and the bottle of OxyContin for revenge. How could he tell what was going to happen? And why put himself in such a plight, when he has everything to lose? It is equally absurd that, when Beauvoir has to choose, he goes with the devil -- as he had always labeled Fancoeur, all because he is under the influence of the opiates. This sudden, unexpected, and unresolved turn ruined the novel for me. Even more, it made me angry, upset, annoyed. Angry at Beauvoir; angry at Penny for bringing something that does not fit with the rest of the novel. Why, I ask? Why here? And why something so ridiculous as a CD and the OxyContin??? We know that Sylvain Francoeur hates Gamache. But we also know he is Chief Superintendent. Why is it that I cannot accept this turn of events? And I am not alone. There are many others who feel the same, so there must be something wrong we all see in this. After Beauvoir makes his choice, which many of us do not understand, even if he is drugged and in pain, Gamache has a look of such sadness in his face it almost breaks the abbot's heart. And then, at the very end, as Gamache looks into the sky and feels the North wind on his upturned face, the words "Some malady is coming upon us" are printed in italics. Is it a hint of future events? After this, even the sound of the plane disappears carrying Francoeur and Beauvois, and Gamache is left with a great silence - the silence of the monastery when there were no chants, as opposed to its glory as soon as the monks sang. It is Saint Gilbert between the wolves, not among them - a place of perpetual choice. And Beauvoir has made a final (maybe) choice. We are left with that doubt, and it is something we don't need at this point and in this novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    "That word? I do not think it means what you think it means" (Inigo Montoya, quoting from memory.) Warning: Spoilers ahead! Like the others in Louise Penny's series, this was a quick and (for the most part) easy read. Briefly, it told two stories: that of a murder in a monastery in northern Quebec, and that of Jean-Guy Beauvior, still struggling to overcome his many wounds (physical and emotional)and to protect his boss, Gamache, from his boss's boss. That second story was convincing and absolute "That word? I do not think it means what you think it means" (Inigo Montoya, quoting from memory.) Warning: Spoilers ahead! Like the others in Louise Penny's series, this was a quick and (for the most part) easy read. Briefly, it told two stories: that of a murder in a monastery in northern Quebec, and that of Jean-Guy Beauvior, still struggling to overcome his many wounds (physical and emotional)and to protect his boss, Gamache, from his boss's boss. That second story was convincing and absolutely gripping. Francouer, the "big boss", is as convincing a portrait of human evil as I've come across in a book. He's as believable as Dickens's Steerforth and Tolkien's Saruman, and far less sympathetic than either. I really felt for the insecure (if brave and loyal) young man caught in his wiles. The primary mystery, however, felt contrived, and simply fell apart at the end. It wasn't the setting, which was actually well-realized. It wasn't that tensions between the monks got ugly, with one of them becoming a murderer. It was that, IMHO, Penny relied on cliches in devising her clues, and that one of these - a major one - simply made no sense at all. And now I'm getting into spoiler territory. Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers The choirmaster is found dead with a nasty head wound in the Abbot's private garden. He is curled up around a piece of parchment with neumes (an early form of musical notation) on it. Obviously, a fellow monk must have killed him, but why? And what is this piece of music the dead man is clutching? As the story goes on, and the monks begin to talk to the investigators, it transpires that Frere Mathieu's last words were "Ecce homo". It's described as "homo", preceded by a sound like clearing the throat. Sorry, no dice. There is no way on earth that "ecce" sounds like someone's throat being cleared. This clue is contrived so that everyone can get exercised over a possible homosexual love affair. Now, that's all right. In his rule, St. Benedict has clear directives to help monks avoid special friendships, the abuse of children, and so on. This clearly indicates that the founder of monasticism was well aware of these abuses, and that they existed - however rarely. I didn't have much problem with the way the monks were shown, either. There were some charming characterizations. But it was just silly that the murderer would have repeated Pontius Pilate's words while bashing his mentor over the head, and it was even sillier that the poor dying man would repeat them, rather than trying to name his murderer. Really contrived! Finally, Pilate's words do not mean what Penny says they mean. And her information about the Cathars is incomplete and somewhat misleading. So, in future, if I want to read a mystery with a fallen-away Catholic and his relationship with the Church, I'll stick to Elly Griffiths and the Ruth Galloway stories. She does it better. On the other hand, I am dying to know what will happen to poor, deluded Jean-Guy. That part of the story really caught me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    Although this is the eighth novel in the series, it's my first Louise Penny novel. I enjoyed it enough, despite not liking the narrator that much. The premise and the setting were original and I thought that Inspector Gamache and his sidekick, Beauvoir, were well drawn. I can't remember reading about a crime in a monastery before, so that was different. Also, the descriptions and the monks' characterizations were quite detailed. I did think that there was some repetition and the pace could have pic Although this is the eighth novel in the series, it's my first Louise Penny novel. I enjoyed it enough, despite not liking the narrator that much. The premise and the setting were original and I thought that Inspector Gamache and his sidekick, Beauvoir, were well drawn. I can't remember reading about a crime in a monastery before, so that was different. Also, the descriptions and the monks' characterizations were quite detailed. I did think that there was some repetition and the pace could have picked up a bit, but in some ways, it suited the monastic setting. As I write this review, I'm listening to some Gregorian chants, which feature greatly in this book. I quite like them, good thing I don't understand what they're singing. So anyway, another author ticked off my (non-existent) list. I shall endeavour to read more books in the series.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    4.5 Louise Penny stretches as an author in each book, and is often trying something new. In the eighth book in the series Penny gives us our first true locked room mystery. A monk is murdered in a cloistered monastery, and one of the brothers is guilty. It is up to Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir to travel to the remote Quebec wilderness to be some of the first outsiders ever admitted to St. Gilbert entre les loups to solve the case. The mystery of the murder is relatively straightforward, the bigg 4.5 Louise Penny stretches as an author in each book, and is often trying something new. In the eighth book in the series Penny gives us our first true locked room mystery. A monk is murdered in a cloistered monastery, and one of the brothers is guilty. It is up to Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir to travel to the remote Quebec wilderness to be some of the first outsiders ever admitted to St. Gilbert entre les loups to solve the case. The mystery of the murder is relatively straightforward, the biggest obstacle being to decipher what the murder weapon was and who had opportunity. Up until the final denouement, I was vacillating between two possibilities. One would think I have learned my lesson with Gamache books: be careful what you ask for in the world of Three Pines. After A Rule Against Murder I was impatient to return to Three Pines, and The Brutal Telling put me through the ringer as the small town and all the characters I care about were raked over the coals. At the end of book seven, A Trick of the Light, I said that I was “exceptionally excited to spend more time with these two characters based on where we left them emotionally”. Well, I got my wish as Beauvoir and Gamache work this case solo, away from everyone else, making the book almost exclusively focused on their interactions and relationship. Woo boy, did it nearly break me. full review https://faintingviolet.wordpress.com/...

  29. 4 out of 5

    ✨Susan✨

    When Gamache, and Beauvoir are assigned a murder case in a remote monastery they step into a different world. These monks have recently released a single of ancient chants that has been at the top of the charts and quickly becomes popular around the world. Their once uncomplicated life suddenly becomes very complicated and it is up to Chief Gamache to determine who among these men of God is capable of murder. When the corrupt Superintendent Francoeur, Gamache's boss, mysteriously shows up with n When Gamache, and Beauvoir are assigned a murder case in a remote monastery they step into a different world. These monks have recently released a single of ancient chants that has been at the top of the charts and quickly becomes popular around the world. Their once uncomplicated life suddenly becomes very complicated and it is up to Chief Gamache to determine who among these men of God is capable of murder. When the corrupt Superintendent Francoeur, Gamache's boss, mysteriously shows up with no real reason for being there, Gamache's instincts go into overdrive. This snake like man has a secret agenda and has not an ounce of conscience or honor, he will do anything to disgrace Gamache or anyone on his team. This was a good mystery, however, I am anxious to get back to my favorite characters in Three Pines. There are loose ends in this addition and lingering, unresolved issues that will have to be settled in the next book. A great series that is best read in order.

  30. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    Canadian novelist Louise Penny charmed me immediately with her rural Québec setting and atmosphere in her latest Inspector Gamache police procedural, which centers on the religious music of plainchant, and the history of its written notes. Although it is #8, it is my first—but not my last! Fortunately, each novel stands alone, although it is evident within the pages that there is strong character development that was started and has evolved from the previous seven books. The “beautiful mystery” Canadian novelist Louise Penny charmed me immediately with her rural Québec setting and atmosphere in her latest Inspector Gamache police procedural, which centers on the religious music of plainchant, and the history of its written notes. Although it is #8, it is my first—but not my last! Fortunately, each novel stands alone, although it is evident within the pages that there is strong character development that was started and has evolved from the previous seven books. The “beautiful mystery” is both a coiled and divine unraveling, and readers will be delighted by riddles and twists up to the very end. There are demons to unlock, both in the monastery and with the investigating officers. Penny brilliantly executes a keen thematic parallel to both. The returning characters are Chief Inspector and his deputy and friend, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, of the Sûreté du Québec, (police department) and Gamache’s daughter Annie (small role here) as well as Gamache’s wife, who is only referred to in this book. Lastly, there is the man that Gamache despises, his superior in rank, Superintendent Sylvain Françoeur. In this closed room murder mystery, Gamache and Beauvoir are investigating the murder of the prior and choirmaster of an obscurely located monastery in Northern Quebec, Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, where the abbot, Dom Phillipe, handpicks the monks for their composite talents. The crucial and coveted skill is their gift for Gregorian chanting, or plainchant. Now, Frère Mathieu, who is the spire of this talent, was found in the abbot’s garden, curled in a fetal position, his head smashed in. The murder is likely an inside job, but the clues are minimal and the motivations are unclear. The abbot allows the brothers to break from their vow of silence (which is less a vow in this case than an agreement) in order to speak to the police. Gamache and Beauvoir have no choice but to stay at the monastery while they are investigating, a place that no outsider has ever been invited or allowed into before. As the investigation progresses, a discord is revealed, which has created a divide in the harmony of the brothers. That is all you need to know, as one of the delights of reading this mystery is for it to remain one, until you crack the case with the police. For a while, this was a 4-star read. My own detective skills allowed me to figure out the answer to some key clues before they were revealed. Also, Penny took a large gamble by including a separate storyline, which annexes from an earlier book. At first, this bothered me, because I wanted to get on with this case. There are twenty-four monks, including the dead choirmaster. Twenty-three potential suspects kept me sufficiently engaged. And each brother had his own separate and enigmatic personality. But, gradually, an eloquent symmetry is exposed as the unresolved troubles of Beauvoir and Gamache gain poignancy. And the raw succession of Buavoir's torment is refreshingly authentic, rather than tied up with a bow. The book gets more exceptional as it advances. Penny’s prose is rich with metaphor and filled with light, shadows, and darkness. Her aesthetic eye for detail contours the story with an elegant texture, and her knack for plunging the reader into the wilderness setting of the monastery is both dazzling and dignified. “The corridor was filled with rainbows. Giddy prisms. Bouncing off the hard stone walls. Pooling on the slate floors. They shifted and merged and separated as though alive.” I look forward to reading more from this author, and going back to her earlier books. I read on her site that the themes in her book were inspired by two lines in an Auden poem, in his elegy to Melville. “Goodness existed, that was the new knowledge/his terror had to blow itself quite out to let him see it.” Quite inspired. 4.5

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