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 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.The Beautiful Mystery is the winner of the 2012 Agatha Award for best novel, the 2013 Anthony Award for best novel and the 2013 Macavity Award for best novel.
"*Starred Review* 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. It begins when the choir director of a monastery in a remote corner of Quebec is murdered, his skull bashed in with a rock. Outsiders are not allowed inside the monastery's walls, where 24 cloistered monks pray, make chocolate, and sing though a few years earlier, a homemade recording of their chants was released and created a sensation, helped along by the inaccessibility of the artists. Now, with the murder, the doors of the monastery are opened to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, charged with finding a killer among a group of largely silent monks, who, it quickly becomes apparent, are engaged in a civil war over their music, but one fought with glances and small gestures until now, when rocks have been added to the arsenal. P. D. James, of course, has made a career out of taking her sleuth, Adam Dalgliesh, into closed worlds to investigate murders, and while Penny follows that formula, she layers her plots more intricately than does James, this time adding an entire contrapuntal plot concerning Gamache, Beauvoir, their relationship, the secrets each conceals, and the demons each continues to fight. The deepest passions could appear dispassionate, the face a smooth plain while something mammoth roiled away underneath, Gamache thinks, expressing not only his frustration with the case but, inadvertently, the coming crisis in his relationship with Beauvoir. Of course, there is always something mammoth roiling away beneath the surface of Penny's novels but this time the roiling is set against the serenity of the chanting, producing a melody of uncommon complexity and beauty. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A major marketing campaign and a 150,000-copy first printing will launch Penny's latest in style.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Religious music serves as the backdrop for bestseller Penny's excellent eighth novel featuring Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete (after 2011's A Trick of the Light). Gamache and his loyal number two, Insp. Jean-Guy Beauvoir, travel to the isolated monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, which produced a CD of Gregorian chants that became a surprise smash hit, to investigate the murder of its choirmaster, Frere Mathieu, found within an enclosed garden in a fetal position with his head bashed in. Gamache soon finds serious divisions among the outwardly unified and placid monks, and begins to encourage confidences among them as a first step to catching the killer. 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. 150,000 first printing; author tour. Agent: Patty Moosbrugger, Teresa Chris Literary Agency. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved