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The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Audible – Unabridged

4.3 out of 5 stars 1,474 customer reviews

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By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2012
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.
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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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