Cannonball Read V: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
I am very fond of Louise Penny's writing, and I sometimes wouldn't mind moving to Three Pines, the idealic fictional town in Quebec that serves as the backdrop for most of the novels in the Armand Gamache mystery series. The town and its colorful group of artists and unique individuals provide more than enough side stories and additional detail to fill out the central mystery in these novels. And that is where my biggest disappointment comes in with this latest novel in the series. The town is one of the central characters, and it is absent here.
Armand Gamache is Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, and his job typically takes him to Three Pines but not in The Beautiful Mystery. Instead, he is called up into the deep forests of northern Quebec to investigate a murder that has taken place in a secret congregation of monks. These monks have been living unknown for thousands of years but have recently become notorious as a recording of their musical Gregorian chants was released. One of the congregation -- the choirmaster -- has been murdered, and Gamache is called in to find the killer.
One of Penny's trademarks is her beautiful use of language, and it is evident here; but the beauty of the writing couldn't fully overcome the lack of action and slow pace to keep my interest. While I understand Penny's intention to mirror the slow and measured pace of the monastery with her words, I still found it to be frustratingly slow. Pages and pages are dedicated to the discussion and attempt to understand the purpose and meaning of the Gregorian chant. At the same time, Penny brings in one of the ongoing storylines regarding Gamach and his tenuous relationship with his superior. While this story progresses more than in other novels, I was left wishing that more details were revealed. The resolution at the end felt inadequate and frustrating.
I give The Beautiful Mystery three stars. It's hard not to compare it to Penny's other Gamache mysteries. I would give most of them a four star rating. While her use of language and ability to tell the story is still intact, I just wish there had been a significant supporting story to give this tale a bit more to keep my interest.
(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)