My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Chief Inspector Gamache is intrigued by his new case, the death of a monk in a remote monastery in the far reaches of Quebec. No outsiders are ever admitted, but the murder forces the abbot to make an exception. As Gamache approaches the solid door, he wonders whether the walls are there to keep evil out or to hide it within, a question he will ponder frequently over the next couple of days. For, as in any human group, the dynamics of the tiny community are profoundly shaken when a stranger enters among them. In return, Gamache and his assistant, Beauvoir, must struggle to cope with the monks’ strict schedule of work and prayer, particularly as all of their daily services are sung in Gregorian chant. “It’s like walking into joy,” Gamache muses.
The Beautiful Mystery is a fine police procedural, but what made it especially interesting is its setting. This is a silent religious order, and as Gamache comes to realize that a deep rift separates the monks into two camps, the alien atmosphere creates a sort of meditative state in the inspector. Forbidden the use of words, the monks are expert in the art of subtle, nonverbal communication, which complicates the investigation. And just as Gamache is keenly observant, so are they. The equilibrium is even more disrupted when his despicable superior makes a surprise visit, but refuses to explain his presence. Gamache needs to keep his mind clear, but his boss knows how to rattle his cage. Violently. By the time the murderer is identified, all peace and joy have been shattered for monks and police alike.
At 400 pages, this book is rich and engrossing but a bit too long. But now I know the history of the Chanticler breed of poultry!