The Beautiful Mystery – Louise Penny Review

The Beautiful Mystery
Louise Penny

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 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.

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.

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