In The Beautiful Mystery, the eighth book in Canadian author Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his protégé Jean-Guy Beauvoir investigate the brutal murder of a prior within the isolated and mysterious monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. Despite taking vows of silence, the Gilbertine monks have recently earned renown (and buckets of money) by releasing a low-quality recording of their astounding choir performing Gregorian chants, and the monastery is now divided between those who wish to court their new fame and those determined to remain faithful to the purity of their monastic vows. With the unexpected arrival of Superintendent Francoeur, Gamache's superior and acknowledged if undeclared enemy, the Inspector must attempt to unravel the murder while being undermined by one of his own.
Within the first few chapters, it becomes obvious why Penny has garnered consistent critical and popular acclaim for her series. She writes an elaborate and intricate mystery, weaving together various plots in a thematic tapestry that mirrors the complex chants she writes of so beautifully. With a wonderfully atmospheric setting and painfully realistic characterization, The Beautiful Mystery is an excellent story on its own, but is also firmly grounded in its series and would certainly be enriched by familiarity with the previous Gamache novels. It is sure to delight current fans and will no doubt gain Louise Penny many new ones as well. --Judie Evans, librarian