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No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Québec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. 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. But before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

373 pages, Paperback

First published August 28, 2012

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About the author

LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (seven times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,918 reviews
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,112 reviews2,802 followers
June 11, 2022
The Beautiful Mystery (CI Armand Gamache #8)
by Louise Penny, Ralph Cosham (Narrator)

Twenty four monks live with only each other in the the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. They are totally self sufficient after those long before them escaped to this remote location and built this monastery to cloister themselves from the outside world. Each man has a specialty that keeps the monastery running but all the men have beautiful voices and they use them for the ancient chants. Their choir director released an album of their beautiful chants and now the choir and the director are famous for them. But nothing has changed at the monastery other than the money from the album has allowed the monastery to get some much needed repairs and upgrades.

But now the monastery has to open it's doors to strangers. One of the monks, the choir director, has been murdered and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir arrive to investigate which of the other twenty three monks is the murderer. Gamache is determined not to leave the monastery until the murderer is found. So the doors close on Gamache and his second in command and on us. Oh how I miss Three Pines and all the people there. Hanging out with monks can be a bit boring after a while.

It's only when Gamache's boss, Chief Superintendent Francoeur, shows up that things get interesting. Once best friends, now Gamache and his boss despise each other. His boss is going to bring Gamache down and he knows just the way to his heart.

Sadly Jean Guy thinks way too much and when he does that he feels sorry for himself. He's open for manipulation and Chief Superintendent Francoeur is there to take advantage of that fact. This is when the story gets interesting, as it digs deeper into the heart of the past, where Gamache made a choice that has stalled his career.

Published in 2012 by Macmillan Audio
Profile Image for Pat.
135 reviews18 followers
September 11, 2012
This is probably more a 2.5 than a 2 star rating, from someone who has given almost entirely 5 stars to Penny's previous seven novels.

"The Beautiful Mystery" gravitas and plot depend so heavily upon events in two previous novels involving the Surete and Gamache's deadly feud with his superiors, that I would only recommend it to readers of the series. Even then I found myself confused, if not baffled by the alien action of the last 10% of the novel where those events are most intrusive.

The sudden and aerially spectacular appearance by their lone and detested supervisor to this remote murder site, is baffling from the onset. The way this invasion proceeds to upstage the murder investigation and detract from the general genre of a very different book, is unfortunate.

The precipitous and murderous decline of Jean-Guy at the end is unconvincing, too abrupt, if not contrived, even given the imported impetus (pills and DVD) by Francouer designed specifically to send him over the edge.

I have held serious reservations regarding Jean-Guy as Gamache's choice of protege since the first book; they have so little in common culturally and educationally and he has an inferior deductive mind. But I found myself appalled by his embrace of this man as prospective son-in-law. If the non-addicted persona never seemed a good match for Gamache--the new recidivist addict version seems less so.

The repeated face downs between Gamache and Francouer rapidly devolved into spitting contests with Gamache always on the verge of homicide, and Francouer always taunting him further. Enough already. How many times can you say 'stop that', slap his hands, and expect that to be an effective deterent? Lock him in a cell, hand-cuff him to an appliance,...take some action. On the other side of the argument, how many times does a subservient employee have to rough house you before you have grounds to simply fire him?

All the kerfluffle at the end between a drugged and paranoiac Beauvoir and enraged Gamache/Francouer abusing each other literally over the altar, immediately proceeds the denouement where the murderer is cleverly if hastily exposed. IMO it destroys what up until then had been a carefully crafted, interesting monastery murder. It upstages and abbreviates what should have been the repercussions among the monks of outing the murderer and importantly the resolution of the schism that divided them.

And so the importance of all the descriptors for this perfect music, the quiet untamed wildness, the rainbow play of light on stone, the allegory of the entwined wolves, the extraordinary diversity of the monks, the meticulous architecture of the monastery, the philosophical examination of monastic life, bliss, peace, ecstasy, the discovery and discoverer of the monastery's treasure, and the voice of God, and the apprehension of the murderer ...all these things are swept away in the furious, fast, final pages.

This cachophonous ending is not what I would have envisioned for a book named for plainchant.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,223 reviews2,052 followers
April 28, 2019
I really enjoy this series but this was one that did not really enthral me. I like the books set in Three Pines best, largely because I have become very attached to all of Penny's wonderful characters.

The Beautiful Mystery however is set totally in a monastery and the only characters we know for most of the book are Gamache himself and his off sider Jean Guy Beauvoir. Now I really do not like Beauvoir and find it very hard to understand why Gamache has so much time for him. In this book he sinks to new depths in his determination to ruin his own life and I found myself skimming whole chunks of his nonsense.

A shame really because I absolutely loved the previous book. Let's hope the next one takes us back to Three Pines and Ruth and her duck.
Profile Image for Adina ( On hiatus until next week) .
827 reviews3,233 followers
December 19, 2022
I plan to rate all the books I read this year before writing my review for 2022 on Goodreads. I will write a few words about each unrated book and hopefully I will return with more when I have more time.

a satisfying new mystery from my favorite crime series. This time the novel is set in a monastery. Very interesting characters. The unresolved traumas from Bury Your Dead return and things become complicated.
Profile Image for Beata.
729 reviews1,115 followers
April 11, 2021
Moving slowly yest steadily with the series.
I think this book was most subdued and quiet, mailny due to the location - a monastery - and a small group of monks, vowed to remain silent. At the centre of this beautiful mystery are Gregorian chants, and Ms Penny masterfully presents the idea behind them. That was a real treat although not that easy for me to follow.
Profile Image for Thomas.
729 reviews175 followers
July 27, 2022
This is the 8th book in this series and I have enjoyed each one. I rate it 4 stars and recommend it to mystery fans. They are best read in order, as there are developments in the personal lives of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his number 2 officer, Jean Guy Beauvoir.
There is only 1 murder in this book, and it would probably be ok for cozy fans, although there is some occasional profanity. The murder in this book takes place at a remote Quebec monastery. Gamache brings only 2 officers, Beauvoir and a local officer to the monastery, since they are strict about privacy.
Gamache does solve the murder with Beauvoir's help. There is also a continuing theme from previous books-- Gamache is in conflict with powerful adversaries within the Quebec Surete(police). The continuing theme is not resolved. My wife also reads this series and she tells me that it does get resolved in a later book.
Monastery chapel description: "The absence of light wasn't simply darkness. There was a gloom about the place, as though something else was gathering at the edges of the day. As cheerful as the light had been, something equally foreboding was waiting to fill the void."
Monks singing: "It felt as though the Gregorian chants entered people's bodies and rearranged their
DNA, so that they were part of everything around them. There was no anger, no competition, no winners or losers. Everything was splendid and everything was equal."
This was a library book. I read it in 2 days
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,890 reviews1,922 followers
December 13, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,726 reviews12.8k followers
October 30, 2018
Louise Penny has taken another gamble with this unique novel in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. When a monk is found at a remote priory in the Quebec woods, Gamache and Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir make the difficult trek to investigate. Using this whittled down Homicide squad of the Sûreté du Québec, Gamache soon discovers that the priory is well-known for its chanting monks, who were headed by music director Frère Mathieu, the victim of a significant blow to the head that cost him his life. What could have happened at this idyllic priory and who among these monks could hold such disdain as to have killed one of their own? As they investigate, Gamache and Beauvoir also spend time alone, contemplating their lives. The tranquility is broken when Chief Superintendent Francoeur arrives, citing that he has the forensic reports for their perusal. While some might welcome a superior, Gamache has a hard time holding his animosity in check, sure that this is the man responsible for leaking videos of that horrible terror attack to the public, thereby branding Gamache in a light he wished he could avoid. While Gamache discovers personal clashes amongst the monks, he comes to see that many have reason to want Frère Mathieu out of the way. With a killer in their midst and another wolf in sheep’s clothing poking around, Gamache cannot afford to make a mistake. All the while, his second-in-command is tested by holding back a significant secret from Gamache, one that could change the team’s dynamic forever. Penny may have kept Three Pines out of this story, but readers can still count on significant development in this mystery. Highly recommended to series fans who have a great handle on the characters and writing style. At this point, I would strongly suggest new readers begin where the series began and progress accordingly.

Louise Penny has never let the series turn into formulaic writing, always happy to offer up new twists and perspectives to her dedicated readers. Leaving the antics of Three Pines behind, Penny injects a new set of ‘villagers’ into this piece, as she isolated the Chief Inspector from the outside world. Gamache continues to wrestle with personal issues throughout the novel, partially related to the fallout of the aforementioned raid that cost many officers their lives. There is also a degree of introspection when it comes to personal faith and trust, though not of the religious type. Gamache has proven himself to be a well-grounded individual, but even his calm exterior cannot hide the fury and fear that rests below the surface. This contrasts nicely with revelations the reader discovers about Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir, who struggles not only with his attempts to understand why anyone would want to choose a life in a priory, but also with a deep secret he is keeping from Gamache. Both sentiments eat away at him, creating some interesting character development and backstory for the reader to enjoy, chasing away the statuesque past this man has exhibited throughout the series. The handful of monks fill the gap left by the Three Pines residents, though one cannot completely replace the zany characteristics of the villagers. These men may have dedicated their lives to God and music, but their personal foibles cannot be entirely removed and find their way on the written page. Penny successfully paints them with their own unique attributes and keeps the story flowing well with their inclusion in the narrative. Penny uses strong themes of dedication, loss, and cohesiveness throughout to shape a narrative that keep the story’s momentum. Some bemoan that the series has gone stale or rogue, though I highly appreciate the twists Penny has utilised to keep the stories fresh and evolving. I am pleased to have found this series and continue to feel pleased with my choice to binge through the novels until I am caught up with many who have been praising this collection for a long time.

Kudos, Madam Penny, for another unique piece. I kick myself for waiting this long to join the other fans, but cannot say enough about these pieces.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Holly.
1,430 reviews984 followers
January 9, 2019
2.5 stars

Well, I was warned by several book-friends that this was not going to be one of the better books of this series. They were not wrong. Not every book in this series is set in the imaginary small Canadian town of Three Pines, so the new setting of a monastery cannot be solely blamed for this lackluster novel. Instead it's the bland characters. Monks do all kind of look almost the same in their robes, and this was kind of the literary equivalent of that. I can't seem to recall any of their names, there's just the Abbott, the chicken loving monk, the handyman monk, the new guy monk, etc in my mind. I'm still going to keep on reading (listening) to this series, because one blandish book out of a series this long is not something to worry about. We all have our bad days ;)
Profile Image for LJ.
3,156 reviews313 followers
September 9, 2012
First Sentence: In the earth nineteenth century, the Catholic Church realized it had a problem.

The cloistered monks of Quebec’s self-contained Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups monastery focus their lives on prayer and the simplicity of Gregorian Chants. The murder of their prior and choirmaster, Frère Mathieu, has forced open their doors to Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec

Penny’s writing is simply superb. Her prose is more than mere words telling a story, her phrases are stories in themselves.

“Gamache couldn’t yet see the blows that led up to the final, catastrophic crushing of this man’s skull. But he’d find them. This sort of thing never came out of the blue. There’d be a trail of small wounds, bruises, hurt feelings, insults and exclusions.”

Penny wonderfully and accurately describes the way in which music can transport the soul. Her analogies are highly evocative.

“The monk examined Gamache. “… We don’t just sing, we are the song.” Gamache could see he believed it. The Chief has a vision of the halls of the monastery filled not with monks in black robes, but with musical notes. Black notes bobbing through the halls. Waiting to come together in sacred song.”

The inclusion of humor adds levity, yet there is anger and pain as well. Her words are thoughtful and thought-provoking. There are contrasts such as describing one particularly dour monk as “The Eeyore of the monastery.”, while having a doctor describe how “People die in bits and pieces.” Her writing causes you to stop and consider the concepts behind the words and can compel one to share passages with others. I’ve been known to call friends at odd hours insisting that they “Listen to this.”

Penny’s descriptions bring places and people to life, placing you at the scene and causing you to see, hear and know the things and people around you. Among Penny’s many strengths is her ability to create characters about whom you want to know more.

This is finally, I feel, the first time we see Gamache truly at his strength in his role. At the same time, we are made painfully aware that although he has a very close relationship, both to its credit and detriment, with his second, Jean-Guy, there are others who would do anything to discredit him. There is a wonderful segment where we learn of the same information but from two separate perspectives. Rather than being redundant, it truly exposes the differences in the personalities of Gamache and Jean-Guy. We also learn the details of the enmity between Gamache and his superior in whom she has created a distinct type of evil; a character who truly excels at manipulation and cruelty.

The story is very well constructed with plots and sub-plots each as interesting as the next. Lest you think this is a cozy, it is not. It is a traditional police procedural solved by investigating and following the clues. It is also a story of relationships and strong emotions, and there is nothing cozy about them.

Staying up most of the night reading is not something one would normally recommend. Staying up most of the night with a new book by Louise Penny is almost unavoidable.

A reader begins every book with the hope of finding something wonderful. “The Beautiful Mystery” is the realization of that hope. It is an excellent, beautifully written book that stays with you long after closing the cover yet leaves you wanting to demand the next book immediately. It is also only the latest in excellent series I recommend reading in order from the beginning.

THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY (Pol Proc-Chief Inspector Gamache-Canada-Contemporary – Ex
Penny, Louise – 8th in series
Minotaur Books, 2012
1,900 reviews
January 18, 2013
A locked monastery mystery - somewhere in the back of beyond in the northern Quebec wilderness there sits a 400 year old monastery inhabited by 24 members of a cloistered order who devote their lives to God and chanting. The unexpected popularity of a recording of their chants has created dissension in their ranks and a monk is murdered. Gamache and Beauvoir are called in to investigate.

The problems I have with this book: the abbot's recruiting of new members, poaching them from other monasteries on the basis of their voices (like football recruiters?) - the description of monastery life as a whole is not very convincing. The Latin errors.

The Francoeur thing - to drop him into the middle of this so he can wreak havoc on all and sundry, for what? Melodrama instead of actual drama? The subplot of the enmity between Francoeur and Gamache is an annoying distraction, or would be if there were anything much going on plotwise.

And the other drop in - the mysterious Dominican from the Inquisition who just happens to have been trying to trace an ancient manuscript for years and shows up just in time to reveal the killer - timing IS everything.

And finally the decline and fall of Beauvoir - three months sober, happily in love, one dose of Oxy then psychotic withdrawal symptoms, within hours?

Has this series jumped the shark?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
May 19, 2014
An Armand Gamache novel not at least partly set in Three Pines? What will I do with myself? I have so much enjoyed knowing a whole town involved in a murder mystery, as well as the detective and his team.

Despite the initial trepidation this set off in my head, it was quickly allayed by the story that Louise Penny laid before me. This was really damned good. Even if it had a heartbreaking ending. Penny's understanding and portrayal of human nature in all its warts and beauties shines through every page.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
November 12, 2015
Historical theme:An ancient order, the Gilbertines, is occupying the monastery with a unique selection of monks singing an ancient collection of Gregorian chants as part of their Divine Office. Their power was not so established in their disciplined, isolated religious calling, as it was divided between their dedication to their music and their silence. In this impregnable wall of divinity and humanity a few cracks appeared. A silent war was raging, pushing a divide through the old institution and causing the foundations to crumble. The monks are facing each other in two lines, across the stone floor of the chapel, like ancient battle lines. Silently. Always silently.

Chief Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his assistant, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate a murder in this isolated abbey.

Sub-plot: The relationship between the two colleagues are tested on a much deeper level when they are removed from their own lives and established behind the thick walls of a monastery which has never seen any other human beings other than monks in its centuries-old existence.
"Armand Gamache had expected to need a few moments to adjust to the dark interior. He hadn’t expected that he’d need to adjust to the light.

Far from being dim, the interior was luminous.

A long wide corridor of gray stones opened up ahead of them, ending in a closed door at the far end. But what struck the Chief, what must have struck every man, every monk, who entered those doors for centuries, was the light.

The corridor was filled with rainbows. Giddy prisms. Bouncing off the hard stone walls. Pooling on the slate floors. They shifted and merged and separated, as though alive.

The Chief Inspector knew his mouth had dropped open, but he didn’t care. He’d never, in a life of seeing many astonishing things, seen anything quite like this. It was like walking into joy.

He turned and caught the eye of the monk. And held it for a moment.

There was no joy there. Just pain. The darkness Gamache had expected to find inside the monastery was not in the walls, but in the men."
Louise Penny has the magical ability to pull the reader into a new world from the very first sentence in her story. A sense of excitement and contentment roll over the reader like a drug fix. She never budges from her rendition of gentle realism, while still addressing series issues.

Quebec is the background to her stories and she manages, by alternating the themes in this series, to highlight the history and beauty of her world. Every second book moves away from the readers' beloved fictional village, Three Pines, which, in the first place, showcases her ability to write any murder mystery successfully. Secondly, and that's my opinion, she considers her readers, by moving away from the established theme of the series, thereby adding new possibilities on a constant, and in a very successful way. This is the first book in the series that moves completely away from Three Pines.

Throughout the series she develops Armand Gamache's character, adding more aspects of his complicated personality. There is never an indulgence into super-heroism. She never portrays him as a superior persona. He has demons of his own to confront before he can capture the killer.

The incredible atmospheric background of this story is almost indescribable.
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.”
The origin of written music is revealed. Fascinating!

An absolute brilliant read for both historical fiction and murder mystery readers!
Profile Image for Jim.
562 reviews85 followers
September 25, 2017
Readers of this series know that Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrested Chief Superintendent Pierre Arnot. In doing so he became a hero with the men and women of the of Sûreté du Québec as well as the public. But he also made enemies. There were some who did not want Arnot arrested. They felt it would be an embarrassment to the Sûreté and that he should be allowed to resign. But Gamache knew it was the right thing to do.

"Some malady is coming upon us"

Two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer in the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups deep in the wilderness of Quebec. They grow vegetables, raise chickens, make chocolate, and they sing. These cloistered monks have in fact become world famous for their Gregorian chants. The effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.” Their sudden fame has brought fortune that allowed much needed repair to the monastery. Plumbing, heating, lighting. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is much more work that is needed. The very foundation of the monastery is in need of repair. The monks of of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups are divided. Some want to release another CD and go on tour. They believe the first CD and money it brought to the monastery was a miracle. Others believe it was a curse, not in keeping with their vow of silence and cloistered life of prayer and contemplation.

"Some malady is coming upon us"

When the choir director is murdered Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir knock on the door of the monastery where outsiders are not admitted. Beneath the silence and apparent harmony lies disquiet and discord. Behind the walls of the monastery Gamache and Beauvoir will confront their own demons. The cracks in the foundation may be metaphorical as well physical. And it is not just the monastery. Chief Superintendent Francoeur, Gamache's boss, suddenly shows up with no real reason. Gamache knows he has some hidden agenda. Francoeur was one of Arnot's allies. And since Gamache arrested Arnot he is now the enemy as far as the corrupt and evil Francoeur is concerned. What is Francoeur up to and who will win this battle? Gamache is not a violent man and uses reason rather than a gun. But he is only human. How far can he be pushed? Even in a monastery evil and murder can make an appearance.

"Some malady is coming upon us"
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,433 reviews813 followers
November 28, 2019
“For Frère Mathieu there were no more mysteries. He knew who took his life. And he now knew if there was a God. And a Heaven. And angels. And even a celestial choir. It didn't bear thinking about what happened to the celestial choir when yet another director showed up.”

A small joke about Heaven. Hidden away in the backwoods of Quebec is a monastery of a lost order of monks, the Gilbertines. They fled the Inquisition centuries earlier bringing almost nothing with them except their music – Gregorian chant. There are 24 monks, each with a particular voice quality to complement or blend with the other 23.

Armand Gamache, Chief Detective Inspector of the Homicide squad of the Sûreté du Québec, is a music-lover and admirer of the Gilbertine chants. The monks have a vow of silence, with an exception for singing, and Gamache is listening to the one recording they made to raise money for the monastery as he flies in to investigate a reported murder. With him is Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who thinks it’s all nonsense.

Gregorian chant is unusual and not for everyone. All voices sing the same note, but of course a bass, a baritone, and a tenor singing the same note will sound very different, creating a different kind of harmony. An orchestra would create a similar effect if a flute, a bassoon, and a French horn all played the same note. Frère Mathieu was the choir master who was responsible for their sound and the recording. Now that he’s been killed, who will take the lead? Will there be another recording, as fans hope?

A personal side-note.

The abbot lifts the vow of silence so the monks can speak to the detectives and each other. Most are not chatty, and most have their own reasons for withdrawing from society. Each of the men we meet seems to be very much an individual with the normal quirks and idiosyncrasies you’d find among your friends. They are also of mixed ages.

While the detectives try to sort out who did it and why, there is another story running under and alongside this one. Jean-Guy Beauvoir is still fighting his own demons from the previous story, and Gamache is still fighting his against his superior officer.

I enjoyed the music discussions, the detective work, and the gradual revealing of the monks’ personalities, but I really did not enjoy the personal conflicts between the detectives and the rehash of Beauvoir’s issues.

I still enjoy the writing, and as a music-lover, I actually did appreciate Penny’s descriptions of the music and how it affects listeners.

“The chants were simple, but there was power in that very simplicity. The first chants were soothing, contemplative, magnetic. They had such a profound effect on those who sang and heard them that the ancient chants became known as "the beautiful mystery." The monks believed they were singing the word of God, in the calm, reassuring, hypnotic voice of God.
. . .
It felt as though the Gregorian chants entered people's bodies and rearranged their DNA, so that they were part of everything around them.”

I hope Penny returns to Three Pines soon. I like reading about the characters we’ve already come to know as well as whatever the current mystery happens to be.

An interview with the author about this novel is here.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,345 reviews4,864 followers
October 19, 2022

3.5 stars

In this 8th book in the 'Chief Inspector Armand Gamache' series, the homicide detective investigates a murder in a monastery. The book can be read as a standalone but familiarity with the characters is a plus.


'The Beautiful Mystery' opens with both Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté de Québec....

.....and his second-in-command, Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir, largely recovered from injuries incurred in a police action in a previous book.

Nevertheless, the police incident - in which several Sûreté agents were killed - still haunts the two men and continues to have psychological repercussions.

The setting of the novel is a Quebec monastery called Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loupes. The monastery was founded several hundred years ago, by a group of monks fleeing the Inquisition.

The friars at Saint-Gilbert raise vegetables and make delicious chocolate covered blueberries that they trade to other monasteries for cheese, cider, and other goodies.

In fact the meals at the monastery sound quite delicious, usually consisting of thick hot soup, cheeses, and baguettes.

Saint-Gilbert maintains a vow of silence, except for the beautiful Gregorian chants the brothers sing at each mass.

In fact, the Abbot, Dom Philippe, makes the rounds of other monasteries as needed, to recruit monks who have excellent singing voices as well as needed talents - such as doctor, farmer, cook, carpenter, plumber, music director, etc. St. Gilbert has 24 monks in total, and does not allow outsiders to come in.

The one exception to St. Gilbert's isolation is the release of a CD of Gregorian chants, sung by the monks. Against all expectations the CD is a smash hit, and brings in money for much-needed repairs to the decaying monastery.

As it turns out, the success of the CD creates dissension among the friars. The choirmaster, Frère Mathieu, wants to release a second CD and wants the vow of silence lifted, so the brothers can go on tour and do interviews.

However the Abbot, Dom Philippe is absolutely against the idea, believing the chants' one purpose is to show a love of God. Each side has its advocates, and there's tension in the air.

One morning the choirmaster, Frère Mathieu, is found dead in the Abbot's garden, murdered by a blow to the head. Mathieu's body is curled around a piece of paper containing ancient musical notations and Latin phrases, and it's clear the friar used his last breath to protect the composition.

The Abbot calls the police, and Gamache and Beauvoir arrive to investigate Frère Mathieu's death. Since the monastery is on an isolated island in the boondocks, the detectives settle in to make their inquiries. While cloistered with the monks, Gamache and Beauvoir attend masses, eat with the brothers, and sleep in their own cells. The policemen also proceed to interview the monks again and again, the vow of silence having been lifted for the investigation.

While Gamache and Beauvoir try to identify the perpetrator, the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté, Sylvain Françoeur, unexpectedly swoops into the monastery by private plane.

Françoeur is Gamache's long-time nemesis - ever since Armand made it his business to root out corruption in the Sûreté - and it's clear Françoeur has some underhanded agenda.

As the story unfolds we learn a good bit about Jean Guy Beauvoir's backstory, current romantic entanglement, hair-trigger temper, and struggles with an addiction to painkillers.

The surprise arrival of another monk leads to the story's denouement, which is satisfying and sets the stage for future books in the series.

I liked the novel, my major quibble being that the story is too slow and drawn out. Still, I'd recommend to book to mystery lovers, especially fans of Inspector Gamache.

(This is a link to monks singing Gregorian chants, in case you're interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YejnW...)

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Krista.
424 reviews1,023 followers
May 4, 2021
Oh man, that ending!

This one does not take place in 3 Pines, but in a secluded, really hidden, monastery. I love music so the history of Gregorian Chant and plainsong was so interesting to me. I love how in each book the murder or mystery is standalone, but it's encased in a larger story that continues through the whole series. I'm completely hooked!

Profile Image for Lynne King.
490 reviews657 followers
December 16, 2015

I’ve read some remarkable books this year – it’s like a miracle – and I thought that there was no way that I could find a book that was even better. How wrong could I possibly be?

I knew as soon as I read two Goodread reviews on this book that I would love it. It has actually succeeded my wildest dreams. All the ingredients were there that have fascinated me since I was a child: monks, monasteries and Gregorian chants, with the added bonus of the setting in Québec. The only other book in this genre that perhaps could indirectly be compared is “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco that I read many years ago.

This is a mystery that indeed delivers. Initially I thought that the title was rather inane: “The Beautiful Mystery” but that was soon explained.

A monk is murdered in the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups (between the wolves?), far away in the wilderness of Québec, a closed order where twenty-four monks live in tranquillity and peace, with a vow of silence. They appear to be self-sufficient in that each monk has a “trade” that he can call upon, be it working in the garden or taking care of the plumbing, etc. They also make chocolate mixed with blueberries. But they had all been “recruited” from other monasteries with another requirement that of having beautiful voices to sing the ancients chants. The beauty of these chants in fact so overwhelmed whoever heard them that they became known as “the beautiful mystery”.

How could anyone possibly know this, from this isolated monastery? This story’s origins are based on the Inquisition which became a brutal time for monasteries. No-one was safe, some even going to the New World to escape persecution and torture. But then the Gilbertines (the monks who oddly enough wore black robes and white hoods) came up with a far better solution – they vanished. Then they were heard on the radio three hundred years later as they had decided to make a recording and thanks to the internet they were heard by millions. The Gregorian chants of the Gilbertines were exquisite and so they were finally discovered in Québec. But although many came to visit them, no-one was allowed into the monastery.

Then one day, the choir director, Brother Mathieu is found dead in the abbot’s private garden that can only be accessed from Dom Philippe’s own rooms. Then, whilst the victim is being examined by the monastery’s doctor, a small piece of vellum falls from his sleeve; an intricate script that appears to be part of a page from an old manuscript, in Latin.

As a result of this murder, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir are called in from the Sûreté du Québec. With painstaking detective work, Armand succeeds in finding the murderer but at what price to him personally? For this is a man who has his own demons to deal with as does Beauvoir.

The clues are all there but I was unable to find them. But when I arrived at the section when the “dot” was discovered I was in awe.

There’s such a strong sense of place in this mystery. The plot is indeed multi-faceted, as are the sub-plots.

Music and songs permeate the text, with exquisite descriptions of both within and outside the monastery. One can even feel the anguish of the monks as Armand systematically interviews them.

Then Gamache’s boss, Chief Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, appears. Rather evil, in fact the Devil incarnate and then….

Elements of tragicomedy can be detected and in fact pages 358-359 are sublime. The reader may wonder why the Latin words that are sung translate to “I have a banana in my ear”. But due to this Armand manages to succeed here in flushing out the murderer.

Sadly, I cannot really put into words the way I feel about this incredible work; nevertheless, what a glorious book with which to end 2015.
February 13, 2022
Louise Penny rocks! This is excellent, stirring the joie de vivre in whatever we cherish! Springing from unique mysteries are portraits of despair, illustrating that how stress and beliefs are handled can lead to crimes. Armand Gamache is formidable in justice and loyal to friends & family. We intimately know the strengths of ladies like Reine-Marie & Annie and the impatience of Jean-Guy and Superintendent Francoeur. He escaped a crackdown and stalled Armand’s career. His bitterness simmers in the background. In the foreground, “The Beautiful Mystery” of 2012 is a masterpiece of originality!

Can music become divine if it is composed for God, powerful enough to enchant listeners? Could a monastic order chased by the inquisition a thousand years ago, make it to Canada? Could they provide for themselves in the modern world, secretly? In the wild Québec forest they could. Oh, the blueberry patches, pristine lake bays, and strong ancient trees had me picturing myself among them! I could feel them! Louise does the summertime Canadian wilderness proud, making me want blueberries, chocolate, and cheese acutely.

The root story intrigued me, elevating the suspense and mysteriousness. The conundrum was relatable: some Brothers wanting to maintain the vow of silence by subsisting on selling blueberries to the nearest monastery. Others recommended a more solid income from music recordings. I relished the legend of a hymnal.... composed in marks that precede music notes! The welfare of one character will have me devouring the sequel soon.

Louise is a national treasure who brings out my French heritage, as a trilingual graduate. I picture the whole French flavour in the names, sounds, and places. We do not settle for a plain crime mystery from this auteure maîtresse. We travel on a complete cultural experience. I am pleased to have the first edition hardcover.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,509 followers
December 10, 2012
I enjoy the special voice and psychological depth Penny has in this mystery series. In this one the murder of choirmaster in a remote cloistered order of monks leads Inspector Gamache and Agent Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec to travel there and live among the community until the mystery is solved. The site is of a fictional monastery established 300 years before by an order seeking a hide out from the Inquisition, Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups (“Between the Wolves”). They have recently achieved much unwanted attention, and a lot of money, from a popular recording of Gregorian “plainchants”.

Monastery in Quebec
Monastery in Quebec

Pretty hard to imagine what could lead a monk to commit murder. Gamache’s explorations of this community slowly uncovers a schism related to ambitions about the music. The “Beautiful Mystery” of the title has to do with Christian faith and the devotion of accolytes of the Gregorian chant to achieve ecstasy in speaking and praying to God through music. In the middle ages, the efforts to codify how the music was to be sung led to the invention of written music, which took the form symbolic hand gestures called neumes. The first clue for Gamache concerns a piece of vellum on the monks body with a strange chant and neumes.

Example of primitive musical notation, neumes, placed over Latin words of a Gregorian chant

Some readers may be bored by the slow action and focus on ancient music. But the treat for me is in the interplay between Gamache and Beuvoir. They are both in recovery from a case covered in a previous book which involved much mayhem and serious injuries to both. They are both challenged by the arrival of their nemesis on the scene, the Superintendent of the Surete. The result adds quite a bit of psychological warfare to the story.

I agree with this conclusion from a review in the Globe & Mail:
... works as a catalyst for an ongoing series of inquiries into the nature of faith, loyalty and friendship, deepening familiar characters and developing relationships in a realistic, often painful fashion. It’s a stirring, thought- provoking read, less a matter of whodunit than a relentless questioning of why any of us do anything. The Beautiful Mystery satisfies as a mystery, and stands as a powerful literary novel in its own right, regardless of whether one has read the previous seven novels in the series.

Sample of Gregorian chant:
Profile Image for Sue.
1,331 reviews5 followers
November 21, 2012
I recently purchased "The Beautiful Mystery" (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8) by Louise Penny, after reading such great praise for this book on Goodreads.I have to admit that I haven't read any of her other novels,so I didn't know what to expect.This novel can be read without visiting previous novels. Little did I know that I was in for such a real treat.I was drawn into this book right from the beginning. Her characters are complex and very human, and I was right there all the way as the plot enfolded.

In this, her eighth novel, we go with Inspectors Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Surete du Quebec to a monastery hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec where there has been a murder. There are only 24 monks at this monastery and it is the job of the inspectors to find the murderer. The monks sing plainchant every day, and it is soon obvious that the chants connect to the murder, but the perpetrator and his reason for murder is hidden until the very end.

There are many forces of good against evil that struggle within the minds of many of the characters.But who out of the 24 had opportunity and motive to commit this crime.Everyone was a suspect.

I only have praise for Louise Penny to write such an amazing novel.It is evident the amount of research that must have been done in preparation for this novel. I feel like I have been living within the confines of a monastery over the last few days.Once you read one of Louise Penny’s novels, you will want to read them all.
Profile Image for Barbara.
273 reviews215 followers
January 17, 2021
Gregorian chants in a remote monastery in northern Quebec set a mood that certainly is the antithesis of a typical murder mystery. These cloistered monks vowed to silence are heard through their music. Can music express some magical essence that words cannot? Hand picked to sing with this select group in a monastery built to acoustically enhance each note, these brothers are passionate about their music and dedicated to their chosen lifestyle, but they are human. They feel every emotion. Their passion can result in murder.

Armand Gamache and his assistant Jean-Guy Beauvoir are once again assigned to find a murderer. While I love everything about Three Pines, the quaint village where the action of most of Penny's books occur, I loved this unique setting. Music has always been important in my life, and I have an appreciation of Gregorian chants. The peacefulness of the music, the quiet of the monastery juxtaposed beautifully with a murder; a murder by one held higher, one who is thought to be above base human actions.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all eight of the books in this series, but this may be my favorite - so far.
Profile Image for Renata.
132 reviews131 followers
November 27, 2016
I'm really just an occasional mystery reader and by that I mean I will read quite a few mysteries over the course of two years and then be entirely immune to their siren call for the next year or so. After reading a few Louise Penney mysteries my friend Juliann recommended this one and I absolutely adored it. I loved everything about it - the setting in the monastery, the descriptions of the life and various monks living within, the tensions between Armand and his odious superior, and most of all the descriptions of the music. I listened again and again to my CD's of Gregoria's chants, then went on to recommend the book for our December book group just so I'd have the pleasure of reading it again. It's been several years...maybe I'm ready for another outing with Louise Penny.
Profile Image for Max.
288 reviews50 followers
February 24, 2021
This might've been the fastest I've finished a Louise Penny, but luckily I thought the eighth entry in the Gamache series just kept on getting better and better! I'll keep these reviews short because there's nothing that I say that probably hasn't been said a bunch of times before, but they all are so perfectly campy in a way that also doesn't feel like a cozy mystery. Both complicated and dark yet light-hearted. Compared to the rest of the series this is in my top three or four.
Profile Image for Melissa (Catch Up Mode).
4,568 reviews1,875 followers
July 22, 2020
Even though Three Pines does not appear in this book, it's deliberate and the setting is perfect for the way the story is told. Bravo.
Profile Image for Damo.
203 reviews24 followers
January 20, 2023
The 8th book in the outstanding Armand Gamache mystery gives the Three Pines ensemble a break, instead this is a case in which only Armand and his second in command Jean-Guy Beauvoir are involved. While I was a little disappointed at first to realise the weird and wonderful folk of Three Pines wouldn’t be amusing me, I quickly came to understand that, along with the murder to be solved, this episode would prove to be a watershed for the relationship between these two central characters.

A murder has been committed within the walls of a remote monastery that consists of a mere 24 Gilbertine monks. This is an order that is notable for two reasons: first, they were thought to have completely disappeared before they were rediscovered in recent times at their present remote location and, second, they are responsible for the most amazing Gregorian chants, so much so a recording they had made had sold massively. In short, they are an exceptional holy order.

The dead man is one of the monks, the Prior of the monastery Frere Mathieu, the monk responsible for conducting their chanting and creating new ones. He died from a massive blow to the head with a blunt object.

Due to the nature of the investigation, Armand and Jean-Guy are allowed entry to the monastery, a rare thing, where they stay for a number of days, eating, sleeping and observing all religious ceremonies with the monks.

Progress is slow on this one, but there is an inevitable revelation of a number of suspects. But it’s the unexpected arrival of Gamache's boss, Chief Superintendent Francoeur that really gets things jumping. There has been ongoing acrimony between Gamache and his boss, carried over from previous books and his arrival here, in this location, can only be to Armand’s detriment.

Francoeur is a master manipulator and his plan appears to be to drive a wedge in between Gamache and Beauvoir, a plan that could just work. Beauvoir has been hiding some important secrets from his boss and will do just about anything to keep them from being revealed. As a reader who has followed the development of these two men from the early days, I feel this particular entry is an important waypoint in both of their lives.

Yes, this is a murder mystery and, yes, it is made all the more interesting because it is set within the confines of a closed order of monks. And, yes, the potential that a man who has devoted his life to God in such a devout way has committed such a heinous crime provides a further fascination.

But it’s the rich tone in which Louise Penny writes, the full and detailed explanations that brings every scene to life and the ongoing development in the relationship between Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and the implications for future books, that held the real interest for me.
Profile Image for Kathy .
698 reviews232 followers
April 23, 2013
Gregorian chants are at the heart of Penny's latest Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery. A monk, the choirmaster, has been murdered on a quiet, isolated island off Quebec where the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups has been home to the Gilbertine monks since the middle of the 17th century. Only recently discovered after centuries of obscurity, these monks have the mission of singing and preserving the purity of the Gregorian chant. Gamache and his right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, must break through vows of silence and mistrust of outsiders to discover who amongst the holy monks could have murdered one of their own. The task is complicated by the arrival of Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, a corrupt force in the police who would like nothing better than to be rid of Gamache. Francoeur works his own evil, while Gamache and Beauvoir search for a killer.

Every year, Louise Penny gifts readers with a superbly written mystery, and this year was no exception. I did miss the village of Three Pines and its endearing characters of her past novels, but I suppose even Three Pines needed a break from murder. I do hope Penny hasn't left the setting permanently. The Gregorian chant focus and the reclusive monks were an interesting departure. Gamache remains one of my favorite characters in fiction today, and the story moves at just the right pace. The character of Jean-Guy Beauvoir takes an unexpected twist, which I'm anticipating a resolution to in the next novel of the series. The ending will not particularly please fans of the series, but it is in keeping with the developing storyline of the entire fictional world of the stories.
Profile Image for Julie.
91 reviews
September 12, 2012
This book is a departure from the others in the Gamache series. Set at a monastery rather than the perfect village, Gamache and Beauvoir must find the killer amongst the chanting monks. There is much to like about the novel, particularly the descriptions of the plainchants and the ancient neumes from which they are derived, yet I found the book unsettling rather than enjoyable. The antagonist in this story is not the murderer, but Gamache's boss who has joined them at the abbey, there to do his best to destroy our hero. Francoeur is a very bad man and the contrast between him and the monks is very stark and strangely horrifying. The fact that the writing is understated makes it even more so.
Profile Image for Cherie.
193 reviews76 followers
March 16, 2020
DNF. The setting is a monastery. Monks are not exciting enough to hold my interest. Three Pines and it's usual characters are not involved. Those characters are what keep me coming back. I hate to DNF, and I kept reading hoping it would improve. I feel like a quitter, but I am giving up and moving on.
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,317 reviews
March 23, 2022
3.75 Gregorian Chant stars

This installment, #8 in the series, takes a break from the Three Pines setting. This time Gamache and his right-hand man Beauvoir head to an isolated monastery in the wilds of Quebec to investigate a murder.

The beautiful monastery has some deep secrets and the 24 men who live there have become fractured into opposing groups. As Gamache and Beauvoir try to determine who committed the crime, we learn a lot about the beautiful chanting that the monks do at this monastery. In fact, there's even a popular and successful recording of their chants.

Who killed the choir director and how did they do it? As the men work the case, Chief Superintendent Francoeur makes a surprise appearance. He and Gamache are mortal enemies so I knew things would get tense! I did not expect how this one ended and now I'm anxious to read the next one and return to Three Pines!

Thanks to my buddy reader Marilyn, she and I have great fun discussing these. And thanks to my local library. I'm always amazed that this series is still so popular as there is almost always a wait to get the next one in the series.
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