The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The Beautiful MysteryI know, I know. I’ve mentioned this book in pretty much every post the past few days. It’s just such a good book. I finally finished it last night, and the ending wasn’t a terrible disappointment like some of the other most recent books I’ve read (or not even finished). It apparently a part of a loose series by Louise Penny, following Chief Inspector Gamache through his cases in Canada. I might have to find another piece of the series and pick it up (kind of like my love of historical fiction by Sarah Dunant).

This piece begins with small character sketches of our two main inspectors–Chief Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir. How terribly French-Canadian! From there, the two are called to a once in a lifetime case at a secluded monastery in the forests of Quebec. The abbot has reached out to the real world for the first time when his prior is found murdered in the abbot’s garden.

How deliciously scandalous!

I love books like this because you get a glimpse into a life you could never imagine. I’m slightly familiar with convent/monastery life from reading other books (again, by Sarah Dunant), but this one focuses on the different personalities that shine through for each monk–they’re not all just faceless, nameless worshipers. This is key, though, in an investigation where one of the monks has murdered one of their own.

This particular monastery is known for its heavenly voices and the wonderful recording of Gregorian chants that were released for the public a few years earlier. These chants brought this small sect of monks, who were thought to have vanished or died out after the Inquisition, fame and money–but it also caused a terrible rift straight down the middle of the men. Some wanted to keep the vow of silence and stay secluded, others want to release another recording and reach more people with God’s word, but also use the money to help rebuild their crumbling monastery–and both think they’re offering the option that’s God’s will.

Tricky, tricky.

Not only do we get the story of the monks, but we also learn a lot about the past and present of Chief Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir. They both were involved in a failed raid that killed many of their colleagues, and they have both learned to cope in different ways. Jean-Guy Beauvoir’s world is turned upside down when an unexpected visitor to the monastery comes to stir up trouble.

By the time you get to the end of the book, you still has no clue who could have committed the murder, but it’s not for lack of evidence on Louise Penny’s part. When you live in a small monastery with 23 other monks–anyone could be a suspect–especially with the growing rift between them.

The conclusion of the book is tense, and I’m sad to say, it doesn’t necessarily end the way you want it to, but you know it was the best ending the writer could have concocted. It is the most realistic one, and the most true to how each character has been throughout the piece. Finally, an ending I’m not totally disappointed with!

I highly recommend this to those who are looking for a fun, interesting read that is wonderfully detailed but never tedious!

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