The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

beautifulLouise Penny’s series of Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries have been must-reads for me as soon as each book is published. If you enjoy this series and its usual setting in Three Pines, a village south of Montreal, do not be dismayed by the change of setting in The Beautiful Mystery. A monastery secluded in the deep forests of Quebec is home for 24 monks who are extolled around the world for their exquisite performance of Gregorian chants. The first recording of their music has brought into their lives fame and fortune, as well as contention, discord and, ultimately, murder.

The monks belong to an order, the Gilbertines, that has been hidden from the world since the Inquisition. The beautiful music that binds these men together is also now tearing them apart. The monks have been chosen to this order specifically for their musical abilities and for what they can bring to the perfection of the music of God. However, any imperfection is dissonance. The monks are viciously torn between preserving their way of life and bringing God’s voice to the world.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his aide Jean-Guy Beauvoir arrive at the monastery, bringing their ongoing personal stories with them. Even in the ultimate seclusion of the monastery, their dilemmas and sorrows cannot be laid aside to concentrate on the “locked-room mystery,” the murder of the choirmaster of the abbey.

This mystery novel can be read on its own. Penny weaves sufficient details and atmosphere into the story for the reader to appreciate the heavy burdens laid upon Gamache and Beauvoir by the twisted motives not only of the murderer but also of one of their own superiors. Reading the series from the first book, Still Life, will, however, captivate the reader. Be prepared to be transported beyond the clamor of one’s own life and to rest in the refrains of The Beautiful Mystery.

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