Customer Reviews: The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"The Beautiful Mystery" by Louise Penny is Penny's first book I've read, but it surely won't be the last. It is one of the best written, almost lyrical stories I've read in a long time. Yes, "The Beautiful Mystery" is part of a series of seven previous books starring Armand Gamache, but the book is an excellent novel that transcends its "police procedural" designation and becomes simply a beautifully written novel.

Set in Montreal, Surete Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is sent, along with his aide, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, to a monastery hidden away in the hills and forests well outside the city. A monk has been found murdered in the garden and the head of the monastery - Dom Philippe - has reluctantly sent for the Surete to investigate the murder. But this is no ordinary monastery; the 24 monks living within have taken vows of silence and express their religion through their beautiful Gregorian chants. They had recorded their chants on a CD from which they hoped to earn a modest amount of money to fix up their dilapidated building. The order - the Gilbertines - was actually a renegade religious order who had fled England for Canada 400 years before. (The reader can learn an awful lot of history by reading this book.) But the CD of chants had struck a chord outside the monastery walls and had become a world-wide best-seller. Suddenly a previously obscure bunch of monks were famous for their singing and money, a by-product of their success, had become an issue in the congregation. There was division as the leaders couldn't decide whether or not to seize their success and record another CD of beautiful, spectral music.

But if the Gilbertine monks were caught up in power struggles, so were the members of the Surete sent to work the case. Louise Penny updates the feuds and battles within the upper ranks of the police organisation she had previously written about in her series. For someone like me, who hadn't read the previous novels, Penny was able to strike the right note of filling in the back story without boring those who already knew what had come before.

Penny's novel becomes almost like the beautiful and heavenly Gregorian chants as she combines different plot points and characters to tell a nuanced story that rivals the chants in their intricacy. There's not a false move in her writing and the novel is compelling reading. As I wrote at the beginning, this is my first Louise Penny novel, but it sure won't be my last!
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on August 29, 2012
Although I am a huge Louise Penny fan and have eagerly awaited each new arrival, I must confess I was a bit disappointed with this one. I found the ending melodramatic and Beauvoir's actions near the end simply unbelievable. I wish she would bring the factory raid chapter to a close and let these characters get on with their lives.
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VINE VOICEon July 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
or maybe not. I have read a few Louise Penny books previously, and while I thought them pleasant and well-written, I didn't LOVE them. I loved this one. Everything about it, from the well-written and compelling mystery to the daily life of a Gilbertine monk. I loved the way the monks were portrayed, as being men of God, but human nonetheless. I loved the dilemma of the monks--to continue to serve God in their quiet, humble way, or to go forward into society with their chanting, to raise the money to fix the monastery. I loved the subtlety of their communications, and the subtle and nuanced writing. There is a lot of conflict here--quiet conflict, but the whole book is one conflict after another. The monks vs. modern life, vows of silence vs. commercial chanting, Gamache vs. Francoeur, Gamache vs. Beauvoir, the abbott vs. the prior--on and on. It made for entertaining reading, but above all, I loved the atmosphere, the isolation of the monks, the peacefullness, the solitude and how that was horribly interrupted by so base and human a thing as murder. I thought it was brilliant.
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on August 30, 2012
I've loved Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache books, but this one -- yet another variant on the classic closed room or closed site story -- seems to be stretching Gamache's history with internal Surete politics and a traumatic raid out too far. It also reads as if someone told her it would punch things up to use more sentence fragments, which I just found irritating. I like her creation of a lost religious order, the references to Gregorian chant, amd the strong visual sense of the locked monastery. I will of course continue to read the Gamache books as soon as they come out (Kindle book preorders are the ultimate instant gratification!) but I hope the next one puts some old history to bed and ditches the pseudo-journalistic style. Clearly there will be more of these, because the last chapter seems constructed to pack in as many cliff hangers as possible, short of an actual cliff.
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on September 9, 2012
This book was an enormous disappointment to me. I have been a fan of Louise Penny and her Armand Gamache since Still Life. Yes, it is true that it would be difficult to have yet another murder in Three Pines (too murderous for such a small place), but this setting was simply too claustrophobic. Just Armand and Jean-Guy locked into this desolate monastery. Also it is past time to finish with Francoeur. Ms Penny has made us care about her characters and now seems on the verge of destroying both Armand and Jean-Guy. It is time to restore both Jean-Guy and the Surete to full health. Truly, if this isn't done in the next book, I am afraid it will be my last Louise Penny book. I really hope that readers do not start with this book, they might miss the wonderful experience of the books that came before.
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VINE VOICEon September 13, 2012
After having read and reread and enjoyed seven of Penny's Armand Gamache novels, I don't like labeling number eight a dud, but I can't help myself.

I am obviously in the minority among the reviewers in being disappointed with "The Beautiful Mystery." It starts out well, with a seemingly senseless murder in a closed society of monks whose distinction is the way in which they sing Gregorian chants. Penny describes the chants and their effects well but, for me, she dwells on them and repeats so much that after a while I found myself muttering, "Get on with it. Get on with it." She finally does, but in the end the mystery is solved by a trick rather than cerebration.

Others have pointed out flagrant errors in the writing about chants and life in a monastery, and I agree with the comments on her developing habit of journalistic one or two word sentences and paragraphs. We're adults; we can read real sentences.

The novel falls apart in earnest with the arrival of Sylvain Francoeur, Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, who wants to destroy Gamache. I can't help wondering why, in successive books, Penny is putting increasing stress on something unrelated to the murders Gamache is working to solve. It's time to either end the struggle within the Sûreté, put it on a far back burner and ignore it, or abandon mysteries and write only about the struggle (which I, for one, don't care about).

If she wants to bring Jean-Guy Beauvoir back into his former relationship with Gamache, Penny has a real challenge to do it credibly because the rift here is so drastic. Or perhaps she wants to get rid of Beauvoir and promote Agent Lacoste to be Gamache's second in command. The way for that is clear now, but let's make the internal workings of the Sûreté strictly peripheral to the Gamache novels. If it continues to take so prominent a role in Penny's books, I will no longer be among her readers. The next novel will tell.
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on September 1, 2012
As a raving fan of Louise Penny and her Gamache novels, I pre-ordered on my Kindle and counted the days 'til delivery.

As a lover of medieval music and particularly Gregorian Chant, I was enamoured with the skillful and clever way she wove the music into her story and even into her actual prose. Really well done. Overall, I enjoyed the read and the story as well.

The frustrating part is that there really are two mysteries (at least) at play in this book--one of which is again left dangling. There is the fascinating mystery of the prior's murder and the many layers of relationship and intrigue within the dynamics of the monastery. Thankfully that one is resolved! On the other hand, there is the ongoing mystery of the factory raid--who leaked the video of the raid, and how its lingering effects shall finally be resolved in the lives of characters whom we love--that is not only left unresolved, but to my way of thinking, uncharacterisically (for Penny) muddled in a clumsy and ham-fisted way.

Perhaps it's the result of my own love for the music, but at times I found myself transported into the situations at the monastery through Penny's prose and her story of the chant's effect in the lives of the characters. When she dealt with the factory raid and the various streams and dynamics related to that story line, I found the writing almost cartoonish. Certainly clumsy and 2 dimensional.

Although I have loved all her novels, this is the first review that I've written. On reflection, I suppose that she had set such a high bar in previous stories, I expected the same high level to be achieved with this novel. In part she does achieve it. "The Beautiful Mystery" story of the prior's murder at the monastery is delivered skillfully. I found the storyline of the conflict between Gamache and Francouer involving internal Surete politics and the factory raid and its aftermath (esp. the effect on Beauvoir) to be lacking.

But all in all, it's still an entertaining read!
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on August 30, 2012
I have read all of Penny's Gamache series in order and have been hawking the arrival date of this latest one. I purchased it the first day the kindle version was available and read it straight through! I now know way more than I ever wanted to about Gregorian chants and still don't know the identity of who leaked the factory video. Therefore, that event will, no doubt, loom again. As always, I found Gamache captivating as a character, but Beauvoir seemed one-dimentional this time out. Even the relationship with Annie and him was uninspiring. And the ending...I actually couldn't believe it was over when it was over. I don't need cozy endings with all wrapped up in bows, but the ending was very unsatisfying. I can't imagine how these characters will interact in the next installment; or maybe we've seen the end of Beauvoir. Too bad Penny became enthralled with the music and lost sight of her characters.
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on September 14, 2012
I have read all the books in this series and so much looked forward to the latest installment that I pre-ordered The Beautiful Mystery on Amazon. I have to agree with much of what the 1 star reviewers had to say and I do say this with regret. The conclusion of all the other books at least left me with a feeling of satisfaction that justice was done and a lot, if not all, loose ends tied up. The conclusion of this book was such a disappointment! I do wonder if she can save the series with the next book. LaCoste is surely not going to replace Jean-Guy! What a mistake that would be. The characters she built in Three Pines were interesting & enjoyable & likable. I am afraid there was not much to like in this book. One reviewer pointed out all the mistakes about monks and monastic orders & culture, etc. I know little of those things, but so much was not ringing true as I read the book, so now I understand why.

Please, please Louise, make it right with the next book! Too much groveling in the not getting over it and lack of moving on. Yes, the factory scene was tragic and I cried, but these people had the resources and support so many people never have. I hope Jean-Guy is not consigned to the trash heap, but he is your character and you have the pen and the power. You have been my favorite mystery author of current books and I do hope to continue reading your novels. Give your fans a break, give us something to look forward to in the next book!
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on September 18, 2012
Although I am a fan of Penny's previous books, this book was a huge disappointment. I didn't mind that it wasn't set in Three Pines, actually, I was looking forward to the change. However, the plot in this book and the narratives about the music seemed to drone on and on. By the time I reached the end of the book, I didn't really care who the perpetrator of the murder was. Spoiler alert from here forward. Of further significance was the unseemly drama in the subplot regarding the conflict between Gamache and his chief and then Jean Guy and Gamache. Also I found Jean Guy's addiction to pain killers unrealistic in that that one minute he's a functioning police detective, although under the influence of pills, and the next, he's in withdrawal, out of his mind and pulling a gun on his chief and friend. Jean Guy's diminishing loyalty to Gamache did not ring true. I had pre-ordered this book, and I'm sorry to say I will not buy the next book until I've thoroughly read the reviews of the readers.
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