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
by Louise Penny
Published by: Minotaur Books (July 2, 2013)
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Buy Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
While killing time on a weekend jaunt, a thrift store caught my attention and craving a dig through a pile of books called my name. Among those longing for a home, I found Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery.
Others had talked of Penny’s books and her extraordinary gift of storytelling but I had never read one of hers. This would be my first.
The moment I opened to the Prologue and read the first two sentences Penny had my attention:
In the early nineteenth century the Catholic Church realized it had a problem. Perhaps, it must be admitted, more than one.
The hook–the idea of a church, any church, realizing and admitting it has a problem, “perhaps more than one”–is well written and holds a certain amount of curiosity. What kind of problem? How large? Who’s behind the problem? And in the “early nineteenth century?”
Meeting Chief Inspector Gamache for the first time held a certain fascination as well. Penny’s use of descriptive words and phrases in writing this character is exceptional, painting an image in the mind of this man destined to unlock mystery after mystery. Her characters, while fully developed on the page, are human in emotion and action.
Interwoven into The Beautiful Mystery is the history of ancient church music. As in most monasteries of the time, music may have been the only vocal activity among its residents. And currently, it seemed to be part of the Church’s problems.
Louise Penny writes a mystery filled with thought-provoking turns and twists while gifting the reader with a gracious and intelligent read. Although part of a series, The Beautiful Mystery, stands alone in its own right.
Recommend for those who enjoy mystery, suspense, and a bit of history thrown in.
Many of Louise Penny’s books are published under different titles by UK/Canada and US publishers.
She lives with her husband, Michael, and a golden retriever named Trudy, in a small village south of Montreal.
Her first Armand Gamache novel, “Still Life” won the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys Awards.
To learn more about Louise Penny click here:
Up next: The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jeffries