Cultural Inspirations from The Beautiful Mystery

“Some malady is coming upon us,” Gamache quoted under his breath. “We wait. We wait.” (The Beautiful Mystery, Page 110, Trade Paperback Edition)

Murder in the CathedralGamache’s quote above, as he points out, is a direct line from T.S. Eliot’s play, Murder in the Cathedral, and he repeats it in Louise’s eighth novel when confronted by an ominous plaque that may hold a clue to murder. Eliot’s play is a perfect reference as Gamache has come to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups to investigate a homicide.

Murder in the Cathedral, as Gamache tells the reader, details the assassination of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Becket, who had a long running feud with King Henry II over the rights of the Church verse those of the Royal Government, was bludgeoned and hacked to death in 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral by way of the King’s command. Becket was later canonized as Saint Thomas and today is regarded as the “protector of the secular clergy.”

Thomas BecketT.S. Eliot, who was also a big inspiration on The Cruelest Month, dramatized Becket’s story in 1935. Rather than betray his conscience, Becket chose martyrdom, and, knowing Louise, she specifically chose the story of Saint Thomas to illustrate her ongoing theme of morals: right versus wrong, principles, and, of course, the conscience itself.

“Gamache sat up in bed. He knew only two things could give a killer a good night’s sleep. If he had no conscience. Or if had a conscience, and that conscience had been an accomplice.” (The Beautiful Mystery, Page 106)

“You’re willing to throw the abbot to the wolves, you just don’t want it on your conscience. Instead you imply, suggest. You all but wink at us. But you don’t have the guts to stand up and say what you really believe.” (Page 230)

“Gamache had seen decent young Sûreté officers turned into cynical, vicious, strutting thugs. Young men and women with little conscience and big guns.” (page 294)

Discussion on “Cultural Inspirations from The Beautiful Mystery

  1. Susan Zamell says:

    This was my first Gamache book. It was given to me as a gift and after I finished it, drove to the Book store and bought all previous books. I have since read every one in the series. What amazing characters and story lines!

    • Pat campis says:

      I did the same thing but I got the audio books. The Gamache series audio books have a wonderful reader!

      • Connie S. Houchins says:

        I loved listening to Ralph Cosham read the books; sadly he passed away in 2014. I have not listened to any since then but reading them myself. I loved his voice, perhaps the new reader is just as good? I do not enjoy listening to the Harry Bosch books nearly as much since Len Cariou no longer reads–I identified him so closely to Harry. The Inspector Gamache books are wonderful no matter how enjoyed, Louise Penny’s use of words brings the characters to life.

        • Jeanne Lese says:

          The new reader is good, but not Ralph Cosham. I think we will grow to like him because the characters are so strong.

      • Kathy McNeil says:

        The narrating is good but considering that Gamache is a French-Canadian, I find it disconcerting that he has a very British accent on the audiobooks. There are so many fantastic French-Canadian actors that could read the part. I’m sure if Gamache was a real person that he would be insulted that a British actor reads his part.

        • Linda Bradshaw says:

          Re your comment as to find a French-Canadian actor to portray Gamache. In a sense I agree with you but remember when Gamache speaks English he does so with a British accent. I think that is why a British actor was chosen.

          • Joan Mitchell says:

            Jean Reno for Gamache and Vincent Cassil for his foe Francoue perfect for the next movie or pbs series

    • Sue Jackson says:

      I too am in the process of buying and reading all of the Gamache books – in order, this time. I’m buying one at a time until I catch up to the last three that I previously purchased. I love reading these books in order and seeing how some of the later plots are foreshadowed. The literary references are exquisite and perfect addition to Penny’s fabulous writing. And, of course, I love how Gamache grows and changes and yet remains the same wonderful person/character.

    • Zena Zumeta says:

      Me too!

  2. Dorothy Jones says:

    This was the hardest book for me to read in the sense it hurt my heart and spirit. Inspector Gamache shows such patience and love, his hurt is tolerable only because of his faith in his second in command.

    • Doris Barratt says:

      I agree. My heart ached for them through the whole book

    • Shirley Hamilton says:

      The emotional turmoil was heart breaking. It was done so well, I could relate to it with things that happened in my life but really weren’t coincidental at all. Just the emotion. It brought back sad memories but I loved the story so very much. It showed a way to deal with unjustified rejection.

  3. Sue Mosher says:

    One of my favourites from the series. You can just picture whatever Louise Penny writes about and I enjoyed the setting of the monastery and the secrets behind what was first seen. Intriguing.

  4. Barbara Sonnenshine says:

    This book got me interested in Gregorian Chants and sent me into a frenzy of reasearch and now ownership of several new CDs…I love to listen to them before I go to sleep at night…very soothing.

    • Connie S. Houchins says:

      This book and the discussion of chants reminded me so vividly of visits to monastery and church ruins in England. I agree, they are very restful and have several to listen to especially when traveling as they ease me into sleep.

    • Joan Keller Maresh says:

      I had the same response when I read this book last year. I had been in a convent and we learned chant and sang it. Could not find many CDs however

    • Michal Dale says:

      I’m so glad to hear of your sparked interest in Gregorian chants and your efforts to listen to them. It’s such a lovely thing to hear of this kind of response to reading a book. I’ve done things like that and had decided I was the only one who did it! (After reading The Red Tent, I researched geography, history, and women of Biblical times and learned so much!) Hardly ever have others with which to share my research/interest. Louise Penny and her books–and this forum–may be just what I’ve been looking for!

  5. Linda Meadows says:

    Usually I leave space between books in a series, never reading an author back to back. However, as soon as I finished this one, I went to the library and got the next one. I couldn’t bear to leave my favorite characters in their pain. I don’t know what I would have done if the next book hadn’t been there. Also, I would really love to have a retreat in that monastery.

  6. Karen says:

    I usually don’t read a book twice. I have every intention of reading this series again. There are so many little things I may have missed in an effort to get to the books resolution.

  7. Pat Moran says:

    My absolute favorite…because of the plainchant, the intricate relationship between Jean-Guy and his boss, and discussion of the offices. The Beckett connection was just the icing on the cake.

  8. Barbara Coop says:

    I need to parcel the books out because Ms Penny can’t write as fast as I would want her to. My husband is not much of a reader of non-fiction but he began listening to these and can’t go fast enough. He will soon pass me by. Such a wonderful series. I (like many of us I think) want to visit Three Pine and especially meet Ruth.

    • Donna Vinson says:

      You said exactly what I think. I have been reading them since fall of 2015. Just finished How the Light Gets In. Have gotten hungry to catch up, but want to savor the series.

  9. Cathey Avery says:

    This was my first Gamache and what a book to start with! I am a musical person so it really touched my heart both that way, and with all the pain that many of the characters are carrying around with them. I love this series on the cultural inspirations and will be reading more Gamache, probably starting at the beginning. They, I’m sure, are all stand alone novels, but there were times when I knew I missed something that had gone before. Beautiful work – thanks for sharing your gift!

    • Connie S. Houchins says:

      I hope you now go back and read these books in order, it’s so enjoyable the way you get to know the characters and grieve with them in their troubles.

  10. Deb Snyder says:

    Recently visited St-Benoit-du-lac in Quebec. A much sunnier and welcoming place than described in the book, but oh! the chants (and the cheese!)

  11. Wendy Rawson says:

    This was my favourite book. I had a CD of Gregorian chant and would listen to it as I read. It was so painful and so beautifully written. I could see and feel it all. You have such a gift, Louise. We are lucky to have found you.

    • Martha Vowles says:

      What an ingenious idea to listen to Gregorian chant while reading this book. I had those ephemeral sounds in my head as read, but I think I now must read the book again with an actual recording providing the soundtrack.

  12. Barbara Ordas says:

    Like so many of the above comments, this was my first book of the series. There was a review in People magazine saying “Monks! Monastery! Murder! Mystery!”. I had to check it out and have been hooked ever since. I love her story lines and her characters and how she pours her heart into them. I can never wait until a new book comes out, but then I devour it and have to wait another year for the next one. Guess you can tell I’m addicted to them! (Wish they would make another movie or two.)

    • Ruby says:

      What movie?

      • nicki says:

        Don’t even search for it….the characters were NOTHING like the ones on Ms Penny’s pages. I was devastated when I found it on my Kindle Prime and watched it only to be dismayed by the travesty. I think that’s why they haven’t made any more of them. It will take perfect casting to portray these characters and with the pool they have to choose from today? I don’t think so. Leave them on the page where we can see them in our imaginations and hearts.

  13. Nancy Wright says:

    This was my first book also. I was absolutely mesmerized by the lyrical beauty of this “new author” I had discovered. After reading about Ms Penny I started reading all the books in chronological order. Waiting now for the release of the latest.

  14. Bonnie Kilgore says:

    Wondering if Gamache has a little bit of the martyr in his own personality. Loved this book.

  15. Fredericka DeBerry says:

    I’ve read all of Louise’s books, beginning with Still Life and have loved every one. But, being a music person (church organist), this book really moved me. I could almost hear the music as I read. That was when it came out – time to re-read it.

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