• The Beautiful Mystery

  • A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
  • By: Louise Penny
  • Narrated by: Ralph Cosham
  • Length: 13 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (6,109 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Nominee, Mystery, 2013

The brilliant new novel in the New York Times best-selling series by Louise Penny, one of the most acclaimed crime writers of our time

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.

©2012 Three Pines Creations, Inc. (P)2012 Macmillan Audio

Featured Article: Best Mystery Series—Listens That'll Take You Right to the Crime Scene


While a standalone mystery is great when you're in the mood for a one-and-done, sometimes you want to feed your craving with an entire mystery series—knowing there's a world and characters you can keep coming back to for the satisfaction of solving crimes. With audiobooks, you get the added bonus of sinking deeper into the setting, clues, and suspects as the story is performed for you, so you'll feel like you're alongside detectives, ready to bust a case.

What listeners say about The Beautiful Mystery

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Something Rather Different from Louise Penny

I am a great fan of the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. "The Beautiful Mystery" is, I think, a not-all-together-successful attempt to move the story along while touching on a different aspect of the French Canadian culture that has been so well presented in the books.

The setting and premise of the basic mystery here are quite intriguing. Murder takes Gamache and his associate to a secluded monastery on a remote island in Quebec. It's a place never visited by outsiders, and the residents have a tradition of silence except for the "beautiful mystery" of their simple yet glorious plainsong chant.

So far, so good. The basic story of this murder is intriguing and interesting, but the problem comes with pulling in the ongoing mystery in Gamache's past. This has been a part of the series' storyline that has always seemed weakest to me -- the conspiracy theory/police corruption incident that has made Gamache something of a saint and a martyr. Penny's attempt to intertwine these two story lines is sometimes quite contrived.

I missed the plots and characters of Three Pines, and hope Penny's next book will go back there! Meanwhile, I think all real fans of the series will want to read "The Beautiful Mystery." But don't start the series here -- it assumes a good bit of knowledge about Inspector Gamache's backstory.

One more picky little thing for those of you who, like me, ask for attention to detail. The music which opens and closes this recording may be nice religious music, but it is not the all-male Gregorian-style chant described in the book.

65 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Engaging, entertaining, and heartbreaking.

Louise Penny has written a tale with all my favorite things - fascinating historical context, complex, emotional characters, and a good story. The cloistered monastery setting is wonderfully detailed, and each monk has a clear, vivid character (even the minor ones). The twists of the story, whether humorous little details or fast-paced dramatic actions, prevented me from putting it down. The murder mystery was a wonderful tale, with an interesting resolution and a strangely hopeful twist at the end.

The parallell story, among the regular characters, will be interesting to new readers, and almost overwhelming for those of us who follow the series. I noticed in her previous book, "Bury Your Dead," that Penny has a gift for imagining the most heart-breaking thing that could happen to Inspector Gamache, and making it so - drawing it out over the course of hundreds of pages, awful yet irresistible. This book is no different. She definitely has a gift for creating characters whose emotions are so engaging, so vivid, that I am invested in their well being.

I loved this book, but I do feel like I need a support group now.

55 people found this helpful

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A Really Beautiful Mystery

Wow, Ms. Penny hit it out of the park.
Instead of getting stuck in Three Pines (like Cabet Cove), the good inspector is off and running in this lovely "cozy". Set in a monastery on an island in the big woods, where just like Eden, serpents abound. A monk dead, fractions split the brothers into battling groups, a very sad development in a sect devoted to prayer and singing. Mr Cosham give life and lyrics to our favorite characters. Suspend disbelief and enjoy the sun, cool shade and blueberries.

25 people found this helpful

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You can start here

I usually agree with C Telfair's very good reviews, but in this case I disagree-- You can start here with Penny's Inspector Gamache series. In fact, I have been trying to get into the series for some time but hadn't been able to finish a novel. This one had the added attraction of the monastery setting, and it grabbed my attention from the beginning. Now that I've been introduced to the characters later on in the series, I am more motivated to go back to the earlier novels to fill in the blanks about the characters and continuing story lines.

I think Penny gets the exterior stuff of the monastery right, but I didn't find the portrait of the interior life so convincing compared to other classic detective cozies set in convents/monasteries. The setting still made the mystery for me-- I felt like was visiting the monastery in a northern Quebec autumn. And now I want more Inspector Gamache.

22 people found this helpful

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Back to Three Pines, Please

Three Pines, Louise Penny's fictional village outside Montreal and its characters are so dear to me. I missed them! The research that went into The Beautiful Mystery was amazing, but I was almost glad when the book ended.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Not so much

Having listened to all of Ms. Pennys book, I am a big fan. To be honest this was one I will not listen to again. The ending was so wrong and I would like to go back to the goings on in Three Pines.

12 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Fascinating Music Lesson, ho hum setting

It's got to be me. I loved learning about the origin of written music and Gregorion chants. It's fascinating and well written into a good mystery. But I found myself bored with the rest of the story.

I wonder if Penny did too. Because she brings in Gamache's nemesis and that of his protege. So I give a low 3 stars.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Hits You in the Head and Heart!

What made the experience of listening to The Beautiful Mystery the most enjoyable?

The unique setting; the use of more humor than usual by the author but always in the right setting and which never takes away from the drama of the story itself; the well-defined characters and the interplay that occurs between them; and, as always in a Louise Penny novel but especially in this one, the feeling of evil wending its way throughout the story, maybe just around the next corner, but never where you expected to find it.

Who was your favorite character and why?

There were several great characters, as usual in a Louise Penny mystery, but in the end it was Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. His powerfulness of character, his intellect, and even his frailness are front and center in this novel.

What about Ralph Cosham’s performance did you like?

His performance never takes over the novel, never interrupts it; he is flawless.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I cannot answer this question without giving away part of the plot, but I thought about this story -- am still thinking about this story -- long after I had finished listening to it.

Any additional comments?

Wonderful.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Mesmerizing!

This story does not take place in Three Pines but deep in the secluded woods of Quebec in the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. The novel covers only a few days and is confined almost exclusively to the monastery. The real villain here is not the murderer but Gamache's boss who ranks high among the evil characters of English fiction. The strong relationship between Jean-Guy and Gamache is tested and the Chief Inspector's patience and real love for Jean-Guy are evident.
I enjoy the "Three Pines" novels but I also welcomed the break to a different world. One warning - this may not be a good place to start reading Louise Penny. Her continual references to the gun battle (see "Bury the Dead") may be confusing especially in an audio book if you do not know the whole story.
Finally I hope Ralph Cosham continues to narrate Louise Penny's books. He does a terrific job.
Now I can't wait for the sequel to this story. There must be one!

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Louise Penny has a Beautiful Mind

Yes, it's a murder mystery, but as with all of the previous Chief Inspector Gamache novels, there is a certain peace that you feel while reading this book. It takes place in an isolated monastery that is accessible only by boat or float plane among a group of monks who have taken a vow of silence - except for their Gregorian-style chants. The pacing is perfect and as the investigation takes place, both the Chief Inspector and Jean-Guy Beauvoir are still dealing with the not only the machinations of the Surete but also the physical and emotional aftermath of a previous raid in which they were both injured.

This book is a lovely 'read' - the narration is perfect - a very good mystery (it took me right until the end to even get a clue!), and a wonderful way to spend some leisure time. I DID miss Three Pines and the people there, but I am hopeful that we will get to "see" them all again soon.

Recommended.

10 people found this helpful