the beautiful mystery
armand gamache #8
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. 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.
I sometimes feel that the books that do not take place in Three Pines are not as good. I like the familiar characters and setting, one of the benefits of reading a series and for the most part, those that have taken place outside of Three Pines have not been my favorites. The Beautiful Mystery has broken that streak.
More tense than its predecessors, The Beautiful Mystery sometimes felt like a horror/thriller. Trapped inside a centuries old monastery in the middle of the wilderness with a murderer sounds bad enough, but then you introduce an old villain and everything gets even more electrifying. There are moments that you can see coming a mile ahead and you wish you could reach into the book and stop the wreck from happening.
But you can't. And the wreck happens as intended, with pieces strewn everywhere. Leaving the reader to wonder where to go from here.
Again, the murder mystery is almost secondary to the storyline that has plagued the Chief since events even before Still Life. Here is the culmination of everything that has been working against him since the beginning. There is no happy ending here.