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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, 2012, * * *

This is the eighth novel in the Armande Gamache mystery series By Louise Penny, a Canadian author. The premise is fresh and fully realized when Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir venture into a world largely untouched by modernity but, regrettably, not untouched by sin. 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, tend chickens, make chocolate -- and they sing Gregorian Chants.  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."  When their renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery's massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Surete du Quebec.  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 and restoring peace, The Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in-between.  The plot, sluggish in the beginning while describing the abbey in great detail, quickens when Gamache's nemesis, Chief Inspector Francoeur turns up at the abbey's door, followed, in short order, by a young Dominican monk sent from Rome.  By its conclusion, The Beautiful Mystery transforms itself into an emotionally harrowing tale. 

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