Book Review: A Beautiful Mystery

A BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY | Louise Penny
(Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #8)
08.28.2012 | Minotaur Books
Rating: 4/5 stars

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The monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups is about as hidden as a building can be. This home to two dozen cloistered monks is located on a island surrounded by high walls, wilderness, and a front door that never lets anyone in. The monks living here are self-sufficient. They can grow vegetables, raise farm animals, repair anything in need. They have taken a vow of silence and have also become world-famous for a recording of them singing ancient religious chants. These monks seem to be able to do practically everything, but one day their world comes shattering down around them as their choir director is found murdered in a hidden garden.

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Have no expectations. Enter every room, meet every man, woman, and child, look at every body with an open mind. Not so open that their brains fell out, but open enough to see and hear the unexpected.

Have no preconceptions. Murder was unexpected. And often so was the murderer.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir are called in to action to investigate the murder at the monastery. Once the duo arrives they quickly discover there is discord among the group, with battle lines drawn between the group of monks who want to drop their vow of silence and record more chants to sell to the world and those that want to continue living their reclusive lives. The murder has done nothing except escalate the tension between these men, as they realize that only one of their fellow monks could have committed the murder. Who amongst these religious men is a killer?

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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.

Louise Penny creates a masterful locked room style mystery in A BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s work. The plot is simple, yet vastly intricate as the reader is introduced to several of the monks through Gamache and Beauvoir’s investigation. I bought in to quite a few red herrings as I got to know more about these characters. Underlying the central mystery is also a continued storyline of tension between Gamache and Beauvoir left in the wake of a tragic incident that happened two books earlier. Without spoiling anything, I will say that Penny certainly is a master of toying with emotions and by the time I made it through the final pages of this book I had gone through a whirlwind of feelings. I was simultaneously angry, sad, and just a bit optimistic that book nine will head in a more positive direction.

If you’re looking to chat with other Louise Penny fans about the Inspector Gamache series, head over to the Penny Pushers Goodreads group and join in!

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