Synopses & Reviews
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 monasterys 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.
"With enormous empathy for the troubled human soul — and an ending that makes your blood race and your heart break — Penny continues to raise the bar of her splendid series." People Magazine (4 out 4 stars)
“Louise Penny has crafted an almost perfect crime — haunting, puzzling, brilliant and indeed a most beautiful mystery. Chief Inspector Gamache is one of my favorite characters in fiction. Here he must penetrate a cloistered monastery deep in the northern woods of Quebec, where a murdered monk is his ticket to get in. This is a tour-de-force for Penny, and a thrilling, intelligent read.” Linda Fairstein
"A. Ma. Zing! A remarkably courageous — and very beautiful — book that leaps the abyss between faith and despair." Diana Gabaldon
“Elliptical and often oracular…also remarkably penetrating and humane. The most illuminating analogies are not to other contemporary detective fiction but to The Name of the Rose and Murder in the Cathedral.” Kirkus Reviews
“An entire mystery novel centering on Gregorian chants (whose curiously hypnotic allure is called the 'beautiful mystery')? Yes, indeed, and in the hands of the masterful Penny, the topic proves every bit as able to transfix readers as the chants do their listeners.” Booklist (starred review)
“Elegant….This heart-rending tale is a marvelous addition to Penny's acclaimed series. Fans wont be disappointed.” Library Journal (starred review)
“Traditional mystery fans can look forward to a captivating whodunit plot, a clever fair-play clue concealed in plain view, and the deft use of humor to lighten the story's dark patches. On a deeper level, the crime provides a means for Penny's unusually empathic, all-too-fallible lead to unearth truths about human passions and weaknesses while avoiding simple answers.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Louise Penny is the New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of eight Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has been awarded the John Creasey Dagger, Nero, Macavity and Barry Awards, as well as two each of the Arthur Ellis and Dilys Awards. Additionally, Louise has won four Agatha Awards and four Anthony Awards. Her most recent novel, The Beautiful Mystery debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.
Reading Group Guide
1. What does "the beautiful mystery" of the title refer to? What are the powers and/or limitations of music throughout the novel?
2. As we get to know the inner workings of the monastery, how do you come to regard the community of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups and the individuals who choose to devote their lives to it?
3. To solve the crime Gamache needs "to think about the Divine, the human, and the cracks in between." How do all of these qualities manifest themselves in the story?
4. What do you see as Gamache's greatest strengths as a detective and as a man? Does he also have weaknesses?
5. How do you view Jean-Guy Beauvoir throughout the book? What do you think will become of him?
6. Because the monastery is so cut off from most methods of communication, text messages take on unusual importance for Gamache and Beauvoir. How does Louise Penny use them to convey the tone of real-world relationships?
7. What do you make of Francoeur's fierce hatred for Gamache? What does the novel tell us about good and evil, and is the distinction between them always clear? For example, see page 318, where Gamache sits through the service in the Blessed Chapel amid "peace and rage, silence and singing. The Gilbertines and the Inquisition. The good men and the not-so-good."
8. The abbot tells Gamache, "That's the difference between us, Chief Inspector. You need proof in your line of work. I don't." What role does faith play for various characters in the novel?
9. At one point Gamache finds himself wondering if the abbot's private garden "existed on different planes. It was both a place of grass and earth and flowers. But also an allegory. For that most private place inside each one of them. For some it was a dark, locked room. For others, a garden." How might that allegory apply to particular characters in The Beautiful Mystery?
10. When Gamache quotes the line from Murder in the Cathedral, "Some malady is coming upon us," Frère Sébastien replies, "Modern times. Thats what came upon the Gilbertines." Do you feel that the monks could or should have remained in isolation from the outside world forever?
11. How is THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY similar to/different from the books set in Three Pines?