Review of Louise Penny's The Beautiful Mystery | How Mysterious! » How Mysterious!
Dec 132012

I’ll admit it, the prologue to Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery turned me off: I put it down and didn’t pick it up again until it was almost due back to the library and I had to read it or lose it. Not surprisingly, I read it. And not surprisingly, it was really good.

So, the prologue: a monk is writing down information about Gregorian chants, preserving them for history. I immediately leaped to the conclusion that, like a previous book in which Inspector Gamache solves the mystery surrounding Samuel de Champlain (founder of Quebec), somehow Gamache and his team would rush to Europe to solve the mystery of Gregorian chant. What a stupid plot — which is why I am not the mystery author in this review.

No, the plot is far more intriguing than that. Instead, the mystery involves the murder of a monk, the music director at a monastary in a remote location where only another monk could be the killer. The reclusive monks had been hidden to the world until they emerged just long enough to market a recording of themselves performing the most beautiful Gregorian chants ever heard. The recording raised enough money for the men to pay for repairs to the monastary, but it also divided the group to the point that someone thought murder was the only answer.

As always, a great portion of the book concerns Gamache’s team, almost as much as the mystery. In this case, the team consists of just Gamache and his longtime sidekick Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who still hasn’t confessed that he’s in love with Gamache’s daughter, and a surprise appearance by another officer in the  Sûreté du Québec — even the cloistered monks can tell something is badly wrong with that.

As for the ending, well, let’s just say the wait will be too long for the next Three Pines mystery.

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