The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny is the 8th in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. Set in Quebec, these novels usually deal with a crime committed in the small village of Three Pines, so we are very familiar with the residents. This novel takes us out of our comfort zone.
Gamache and his sidekick Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir travel to an island deep in the wilderness of Quebec, to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. Here they find the Gilbertines, an almost extinct group of monks who do not accept any outside intrusion, and who have taken a vow of silence. Their vow of silence does not include music. The monks are scholars of Gregorian Chants. At one point they anonymously produced a CD of the chants, and it became an overnight sensation, providing much needed money to the monastery.
When Dom Philippe (the abbot) finds Frere Mathieu, their Prior and Choir Master with his head bashed in, he has no choice but to call the Police. So Gamache and Beauvoir are involved in a locked-door mystery. The murderer must be one of the two dozen monks.
While the vow of silence is lifted so that Gamache and Beauvoir can find the killer, the monks do not readily give up their secrets. The discovery of a sheet of vellum in the victims hand shows he may have been protecting a new Gregorian Chant, although it is quickly dismissed as an unorthodox and meaningless piece. We learn that there is a real divide among the monks, and that although the Abbot and the Prior were supposedly close friends, they had a difference of opinion when it came to the Chants. Although both were dedicated to the Chants, the Abbot wanted to keep the monastery away from prying eyes and continue as they have been, praying for something to help them with needed repairs to the building. Perhaps that rumored treasure will show up. The Prior, on the other hand, wanted to produce another CD of the Chants, thereby quickly making the money they need. The rest of the monks found themselves divided between the two. Loyalties have been questioned and tested. Apparently someone took the Prior out of the equation.
The monks sing the Gregorian chants several times a day, and although Gamache is under their spell, poor Beauvoir finds them lacking.
Two unexpected visitors arrive. These visitors will change everything, and not all for the better.
I really enjoyed this book, as I have all the books in the series. The characters are always deep, always human, faults and all. I guess the only thing that seemed strange was the addition of the visitors (one in particular). It seemed out of place, and a bit of a stretch. I guess I didn’t like the rather unsettling ending either.
Re-Read: May 2017
Favorite Quotes from The Beautiful Mystery:
“They had such a profound effect on those who sang and heard them that the ancient chants became known as “the beautiful mystery.” “
“And a man’s foes,” she read out loud, “shall be they of his own household.” “
“Just as Tibetan monks spend years and years creating their intricate works of art in sand, and then destroy them the moment they’re finished. The point is not to grow attached to things. The gift is the music, not the workbook.”
“I would have thought a man caught in his pajamas on a church altar would have a high tolerance for embarrassment.”
About the Author: Louise Penny is the award-winning Canadian author of the Inspector Armand Gamache series. She lives in a small village south of Montreal (which would be…what? Three Pines????)