An Enthralling, Elegant Crime Novel
Gregorian chant has inspired and soothed both practitioners and listeners for at least 1,000 years, most recently in New Age and World Music revivals through the recordings of various French, Spanish and Austrian monastic orders.
Though some credit an increase in alpha waves in the brain, the precise method by which the monophonic liturgical chants seem to tame the savage beast remains ineffable, long deemed "a beautiful mystery."
The sharp contrast between this heavenly musical balm and very earthly murder forms the crux of Quebec author Louise Penny's eighth literary whodunit starring Sªrete Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. And it's a fascinating, memorable tour-de-force.
With The Beautiful Mystery, there's no longer any doubt: Penny is Canada's best contemporary crime writer, among the best in the world, and one of our best writers, period.
Wisely giving her improbably murder-prone village of Three Pines a rest, Penny dispatches Gamache and his partner, Insp. Jean-Guy Beauvoir, to the remote lakeside monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups to investigate the untimely death of the reclusive order's prior and choirmaster Frre Mathieu.
They have their work cut out for them. With the bludgeoned body found in a walled, single-entrance garden within a fortress that entertains no visitors, the story borders on a locked-door mystery. And with fewer than two dozen suspects, all singing monks, the community appears serene and disturbingly non-murderous.
Unlike in her Three Pines episodes, Penny does not offer a cryptic pattern of clues, a puzzle that readers are invited to solve. Rather, Gamache and Beauvoir chip away at barely perceptible cracks in the monastery's facade of serene unity, gradually revealing the truth. Though eventually unearthing several viable culprits, it's all common-sensical rather than contrived. …