Reviews for Beautiful Mystery : A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

Booklist Reviews 2012 July #1
*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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2012 September
When football meets murder

With an impressive eight books to his credit in as many years, Michael Koryta once again wows readers with The Prophet, a tale of football and murder in a small Midwestern town. Brothers Kent and Adam Austin have followed wildly disparate paths since the abduction and murder of their beloved sister many years before. Adam has become a bail bondsman, haunting the fringes of the criminal element of Chambers, Ohio. Kent, by contrast, has grown deeply religious; he is something of a town hero as well, as the high-school football team he coaches seems poised to win the state championship. Then the sweetheart of the team’s star receiver is found strangled to death, and all hell breaks loose in the usually peaceful town. Worse, the murder bears marked resemblances to the killing of Kent and Adam’s sister all those years ago, stirring up ghosts neither brother is prepared to deal with. Already optioned for a feature film, The Prophet is one of the year’s best mysteries.

Copenhagen cold case investigator Carl M?rck, who made his debut in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s 2011 novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes, once again takes on a cold—make that frigid—case in The Absent One. The case involves the killing of a brother and sister some 20 years before, a case in which the prime suspects were the progeny of some of Denmark’s most prestigious families, all classmates in a high-dollar (er, kroner) boarding school. Most of said suspects went on to become contemporary Danish movers and shakers. One, a “poor ­relation,” went to jail for the murders. And one, Kimmie—who knows that the convicted murderer was nothing more than a paid scapegoat for his wealthy friends—is living on the streets, furtively plotting her revenge on the band of sociopathic socialites. Somehow, M?rck will have to find a way to bring the miscreants to justice before Kimmie has the opportunity to administer her altogether more Old Testament style of retribution. Scandinavian suspense fiction is just about the best thing going nowadays, and Adler-Olsen is well toward the front of the pack.

Historical mysteries are not usually my thing, although I’ve made happy exceptions for Umberto Eco and Ross King (to name a couple). Now I will be adding Michael Ennis to my must-read list, thanks to his absorbing page-turner of 16th-century Italy, The Malice of Fortune. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to throw Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci together into a Renaissance investigation of serial murder, but Ennis has done just that. Populating the landscape with a plethora of real-life characters, the author has woven a tale of intrigue based on the well-documented slaying of the heir presumptive to the Borgia mantle. As Ennis notes in the intro: “All of the major characters are historical figures, and all of them do exactly what the archival evidence tells us they did, exactly where and when they did it. What history fails to tell us is how and why they did it. And thereby hangs a tale . . .” And what a tale it is, replete with byzantine machinations and subterfuge, a fair bit of bloodletting and something of a love story as well. What’s not to like?

Very little will break the monks’ vow of silence at Saint Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, a remote Quebec monastery dedicated to Gregorian chant. But one thing has: murder. In the garden of the abbot lies the choir director, his skull bashed in. Improbable though it may seem, one of the two dozen monks must be the killer. As Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery opens, Chief Inspector Gamache is summoned to look into the homicide with right-hand man Jean-Guy Beauvoir. It doesn’t take the canny pair long to realize that all is not harmonious inside the walls of Saint Gilbert. Indeed, there is a schism that has divided the monks: those who support the abbot and want to keep the monastery as it has been for hundreds of years, and those who supported the choir director, who wanted to make a high-tech recording of Gregorian chant, thereby drawing the order into the 21st century. Gamache and Beauvoir play off one another brilliantly, offering a stirring point/counterpoint with regard to the spiritual and secular issues that have become such an element of modern life. In the process, they do a damn fine job of solving mysteries.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 August #1
A prior's murder takes Quebec's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his sidekick, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, inside the walls of the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loupes. The Gilbertine order, long extinct except for the two dozen brothers who live on an island apart from the rest of the world, enforces silence on its members. In the absence of speech, a raised eyebrow or averted gaze can speak intense hostility. Now someone has found a new way to communicate such hostility: by bashing Frre Mathieu, the monastery's choirmaster and prior, over the head. Gamache and Beauvoir soon find that the order is devoted heart and soul to Gregorian chant; that its abbot, Dom Philippe, has recruited its members from among the ranks of other orders for their piety, their musical abilities and a necessary range of domestic and maintenance skills; and that an otherworldly recording the brothers had recently made of Gregorian chants has sharply polarized the community between the prior's men, who want to exploit their unexpected success by making another recording and speaking more widely of their vocation, and the abbot's men, who greet the prospect of a more open and worldly community with horror. Nor are conflicts limited to the holy suspects. Gamache, Beauvoir and Sret Chief Superintendent Sylvain Franoeur, arriving unexpectedly and unwelcome, tangle over the proper way to conduct the investigation, the responsibility for the collateral damage in Gamache's last case (A Trick of the Light, 2011, etc.) and Beauvoir's loyalty to his two chiefs and himself in ways quite as violent as any their hosts can provide. Elliptical and often oracular, but also remarkably penetrating and humane. The most illuminating analogies are not to other contemporary detective fiction but to The Name of the Rose and Murder in the Cathedral. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 August #1

Penny's (A Trick of the Light) eighth elegant entry in her Agatha Award-winning series is a locked-room mystery set in a remote monastery deep in the wilderness of northern Qubec. There are 24 cloistered monks. One is dead. There are only 23 suspects. The monks have taken a vow of silence, except that they made the most beautiful recording of Gregorian chant ever heard. And it caused a schism. And then a murder. Chief Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûret du Qubec come to investigate the murder and the difficulties in this formerly peaceful order that caused it. It also brings the viper within the Sûret to this remote place and exposes the rot inside Gamache's own house. VERDICT This heart-rending tale is a marvelous addition to Penny's acclaimed series. Fans won't be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 7/5/12.]--Marlene Harris, Reading Reality LLC, Atlanta

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 June #3

Religious music serves as the backdrop for bestseller Penny's excellent eighth novel featuring Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Quebec Sûret (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, Frère 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.)

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