Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

The tension between sacred chant and vows of silence is just one of many factors in Louise Penny's unusual mystery The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel. Other struggles are between isolation from and access to the world and between loving tradition and needing to be modern. Some struggles are personality based. How can the monks of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups restore tranquil balance?

In The Beautiful Mystery, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his detective Jean Guy Beauvoir of Sûreté du Québec find themselves away from the village of Three Pines. Instead they are surrounded by monks in a monastery in the deep woods because one of the usually silent men has murdered another. With the police in their midst, however, they have to speak, and some of them can hardly hold back once their vows of silence are suspended. Gamache and Beauvoir hear many strange stories. What should the detectives believe? Could monks lie?

Penny researched her topic well before writing, but like any novelist, she used artistic license for dramatic effect. Lead by our choir director, we learned a slightly different history of chant at our St. Luke book group discussion of The Beautiful Mystery in May. I discovered also that Penny's description of the Gilbertine monks' robes was accurate but the monks were never hounded by the Spanish Inquisition. The continuing story of Inspector Gamache, not history is, of course, Penny's main concern.

We had a great discussion with most but not all of our members liking the book. Several have already begun reading other books in the series to see what came before and after. If your group is interested in discussing any of the novels of Louise Penny, look over the questions she prepared from the bottom of the FAQ page of her website.

Penny, Louise. The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel. Minotaur, 2012. 373p. ISBN 9780312655464.

Audiobook: Macmillan Audio, 2012. 11 compact discs. ISBN 9781427226099.

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