Richard Derus's Reviews > The Beautiful Mystery

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
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Aug 13, 2012

really liked it
Read in August, 2012

Rating: 4.75* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 Sûreté du Québec. 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.

My Review: I've recently reviewed the thirteenth entry in a mystery series, which I have now abandoned; and another twelfth entry in a series, which I have not abandoned, despite its uneven track record in my affections.

This is the eighth Gamache mystery. Louise Penny has ripped my emotions to shreds more than once before now. She's not a writer who has any fear of allowing her creations to grow and change, like real people do, in ways that might not always suit us, the audience.

And that is the reason that her books don't simply keep selling. They rocket up the bestseller lists. They deserve to rocket up the bestseller lists because Louise Penny invests her characters with believable inner lives. I know the characters well, and like so many people I know well, they throw me curve balls and they change into people I don't like, and they screw up and they cannot help themselves because, like every breathing one of us, they are wounded and hurting and scared and doing their dead-level best to get through each day with a minimum of carnage.

And when challenges arise, well...they rise to them or they fall before them, just like real people do. Like real people, their responses bring up feelings, strong ones, in us their friends...their readers...Louise Penny's readers. Strong, strong feelings. Quite strong. Oh my yes.

A few minor points: I've heard it said that Penny's is a writing style that is choppy, or clipped; I agree with this assessment; and I for one find that a plus, because the stories themselves are so lush and so intense and would so lend themselves to a more baroque treatment that I find the clipped-ness of the prose to be refreshing and invigorating. I've also heard a few dissenting voices say somewhat dismissive things about the plots of the books, the puzzles themselves. With this critique I find myself out of sympathy. I unravel the mysteries quickly because I've read so very many over the years. I suspect some reviewers have the same experience level that I do. I would suggest to those readers that they consider the number of truly surprising resolutions they've read in the past few years that didn't involve authorial sleight-of-hand.
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01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Tanja Berg I can hardly wait to read this one! Which is a direct conflict with the fact that I would like to own it in "hard copy" rather than just as kindle, which would mean a 10 day wait after it has been released because I'd have to order it. Unless I drove 150 km one way to Oslo to get it, I presume the capital of Norway would have a bookstores with more than five English books in them. Aren't any around the parts I live anyway, which thanks to kindle doesn't matter much anymore.


Kris I've been waiting for this one.... Great review, Richard.


message 3: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Murder in a monastery. Vegetables! That's the motivation. What else ?


Jacque I can relate to your whole review except that I have not learned the art of deciphering the who-dun-it before the end.


Richard Derus Jacque wrote: "I can relate to your whole review except that I have not learned the art of deciphering the who-dun-it before the end."

It's less learned than it is absorbed. Read many, many kinds of mysteries, see which ones makes sense and which ones don't, see if you can catch more and more clues the more books you read...it just *happens* after that!


message 6: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King This really is an excellent review Richard.

I purchased this book on a whim because it was about the murder of a monk. It is a super, super book!


Richard Derus Too kind, too kind...I appreciate the appreciation!


Richard Derus Sabah wrote: "Great review Richard!"

Thank you, Sabah!


message 9: by Zoeytron (new) - added it

Zoeytron '...like every breathing one of us, they are wounded and hurting and scared and doing their dead-level best to get through each day with a minimum of carnage.' Fabulous, Richard.


Richard Derus La, madame, I bat you with my fan! Your praises bring the blush to my cheek.


message 11: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King I've just finished this book Richard. I think that it's wonderful! The best book this year!


message 12: by Zoeytron (new) - added it

Zoeytron Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "La, madame, I bat you with my fan! Your praises bring the blush to my cheek."

Just tellin' it as I see it, Richard. I don't believe I have ever been batted with a fan. :-)


Richard Derus Lynne wrote: "I've just finished this book Richard. I think that it's wonderful! The best book this year!"

I ***LOVE*** that feeling! It always feels like the blind date that goes beautifully every time it happens.


Tracy I love your reviews of these books, Richard. I just finished this and I feel gutted.


Richard Derus Tracy wrote: "I love your reviews of these books, Richard. I just finished this and I feel gutted."

Thank you for saying so, Tracy!


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