LOUISE PENNY’S

The Beautiful Mystery, Part 1

The Beautiful Mystery, Part 1

Introduction

I asked to enter into a discussion of The Beautiful Mystery because reading the Acknowledgments and the Prologue hooked me before ever opening Chapter One.

I’m a lifelong operaphile, starting at age 13 when a friend took me to see Renata Tebaldi singing in La Traviata at Chicago’s Lyric Opera. Tebaldi was a robust woman, decked in a gorgeous dress featuring real camellias, so the idea that she grows increasing frail and dies of consumption reeked of miscasting—except that her voice was glorious, passionate, convincing, the music moving, so in the end I accepted Violetta’s fate. Music made me believe, music was the passport to Verdi’s story, into a world where its logic, if you can call it that, ruled.

I’ve chased operas all over the world for 60 years now, and every performance produces the same immersion experience. And I’ve learned that opera grew out of church music, from the simple beginning, chants such as those sung by the monks of the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, to more complex performances. As I’ve grown older I travel back from the complexities of Puccini to the operas of Monteverdi, then Cavalli, and back farther into the rediscovered music of Hildegard of Bingen.

You can make a little of this journey by listening to a transitional stage from chant to opera in the “The Play of Daniel.” And read medievalist Priscilla Royal’s mystery The Valley of Dry Bones inspired by this play. Its performance requires more of the singers than does chant since it is liturgical drama based on the biblical Book of Daniel accompanied by monophonic music. One of two surviving versions is found in a 13th-century manuscript containing ten liturgical dramas. Recordings exist, as they do of what it is imagined Hildegard’s music was.

However, as Louise writes in the Prologue:

“. . . no one knew what the original chants sounded like. There was no written record of the earliest chants. They were so old, more than a millennium, that they predated written music. They were learned by heart . . . there was power in [their] very simplicity. They first chants were soothing, contemplative, magnetic. They had such a profound effect on those who sang and heard them that the ancient chants became known as ‘The Beautiful Mystery.’ The monks believed they were singing the word of God. . . .

“Gregorian chant was the father of western music. But it was eventually killed by its ungrateful children. Buried. Lost and forgotten. Until the early 1800s. . . ”

Controversy raged over what might be genuine Gregorian chant as resurrected. But no one knew for sure, for there was no starting point, no benchmark against which to compare. So The Beautiful Mystery remains one still. . . . And lies at the heart of this novel where the choir director of the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, secluded in Québec’s wilderness, is murdered.

Louise writes in the Acknowledgments that she too has a fascination with music “and a very personal and baffling relationship with it.” Like me, she finds it transformative and acknowledges neuroscience that links music with brain function. I’m sure I’ve read that studying is enhanced by listening to baroque music, its harmonies and rhythms inducing better concentration. Certainly this works for me. When my husband turns up jazz at the other end of the house, I get jangled when I hear it, feel edgy. Various mystery writers I know, notably Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, and Peter Robinson, have discussed with me and with readers how they listen to jazz when writing; So too does John Harvey. So their brains react differently than mine, and no doubt to each other’s, when music is playing. And informs their writing.

The other fascination I have with The Beautiful Mystery is its structure, a marvelous adaptation of a classic form: the country house murder.

What do I mean when I talk about the geometry of crime fiction? There are more or less four shapes. The closed circle wherein all the suspects dwell and the detective is either on the spot at the outset or brought within it. The thriller where the circle opens out into a path or road down which the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) chase each other. The megaphone shape of novels of suspense that build from a small beginning to a crescendo, much like Wagner’s Liebestod if you listen to it. And finally, the caper, where the lines of the circle, the road, or the megaphone fragment into pieces that end up fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle if the caper is successfully designed. (Appositely “transformation geometry” can be applied to music). I have had some fascinating discussions on this topic with Professor B. J. Rahn of Hunter College and others at Malice Domestic, and with a number of British crime writers.

The village mystery, the country house murder, the murder taking place in a theater or on a ship or, as in a memorable Nero Wolfe novel, inside a banquet room, takes the closed circle shape. The victim and some number of suspects are gathered together; ingress or egress from the circle is limited (maybe a blizzard engulfs a house, or the ship is at sea); and a sleuth whether an amateur with special skills or a policeman or a consulting detective is introduced. Some of the suspects have secrets, some may have none, or as in Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, a classic closed circle, everyone but the sleuth shares one big one. Alibis, red herrings abound. And often if the plot is diabolically clever, it takes a second murder or more to expose the culprit(s).

I bore you with this because I am so impressed with the way Louise has used this traditional form in her work, especially in The Beautiful Mystery. The community of monks is limited in size. 24 men. It’s cloistered, closed to outsiders. It’s in the wilderness, limiting access and departure; a stranger could not hide. The monks have taken a vow of silence, although they are allowed to sing. When their choir director is murdered, there is thus a very limited circle of suspects and in this religious community, to suspect anyone is almost unthinkable.

The detectives, Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, arrive by boat with the local agent, Captain Charbonneau. They are admitted. And locked in. And must rely on traditional detecting tools, observations, interviews, intuition, to guide them. They are on their own, although they text the outside world. And attune themselves to the failings, the passions, the pride and the regrets of the monks, the cracks in that circle where the modern world seeps in.

This is actually thrilling stuff, captivating, puzzling, heart wrenching. Louse has a gift for actions arising out of character rather than the characters serving the demands of the plot. The result is an always unpredictable journey for the reader, a voyage of discovery undertaken with Gamache. Plus here, as I’ve said, she sets the stage for future stories even though we don’t see it at the time but only when we’ve read future books.

One of the joys of deep reading of mystery, of learning its conventions and tropes and gaining familiarity with landmark books, is being able to admire the skill with which an author takes the familiar and does something new, something unexpected, something complex yet fundamentally simple, something at once familiar and fresh. You can read The Beautiful Mystery with joy without knowing anything about crime fiction geometry, but it’s a richer experience to see someone engage the levers and give readers an extraordinary reading experience, carrying them out of their world into one like the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. And Three Pines.

Recap (Prologue and Chapters 1-17)

My Introduction is so long I’m making this short. We begin by talking about music, The Beautiful Mystery, and glimpse its history in the Prologue. In Chapter One we move to the modern story where we get a scene in the monastery and meet Dom Philippe. Then we view Armand Gamache’s daughter Annie with her lover, his second in command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who gets the summons to join Gamache as the Scene of the Crime Team sent to the monastery. They will pick up a local agent of the Sûreté when they arrive. My favorite quote in the first chapters of the book ends Chapter One. It is so perfect for this story.

Chapter Two allows us to explore the Québec wilderness as the Scene Team travels by boat through rough country to the isolated community. Then we explore the monastery and enjoy a gradual introduction, an immersion, meeting the monks. A joy of this book is its leisurely pace, free of hurry-up pressures from the outside world despite the texting to and fro.

Gamache and Beauvoir observe and interview the monks, none of whom claims to have a clue as to who killed Mathieu. The abbot says, in Chapter Nine, “I actually believed I could look at them just now and tell. That there’d be something different about him. That I’d just know.” Is this naiveté, or is this someone so free of sin himself he truly believes that mortal sin wears a visible face? Our detectives know better. . . .

Gamache asks the abbot, “Who could have done this, mon père?” And the abbot replies, “I don’t know. I should know, but I don’t.” If the leader of the community is so in the dark, cannot see the wolf in his fold, how will two policemen succeed when they have little to work with except their own observations and hearts? (I refer you again to my quote from Matthew10:36).

Eventually, in Chapter Sixteen, Gamache stands in the garden, the scene of the murder, 24 hours after it has occurred. He stands there with the abbot and he imagines himself in the mind of the killer, and he also wonders if Mathieu had sensed he would be murdered. It had taken him a little time to die, a time when he crawled away from the abbey, towards the dark, away from the light. Animal instinct? Or was Mathieu making some kind of statement?

And then comes Chapter Seventeen and a game changer: the arrival of Sylvain Francoeur, the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, dropping from the sky not on wings but via a plane. The dynamics change. And our chapter ends with Gamache thinking about Saint Gilbert, praying to him. And asking himself, “if it was ever right to kill one for the sake of many?” Is he referring to the murder at the monastery, or to something relating to his superior?

In Chapter One we saw how the relationship between Gamache’s daughter Annie and his second, Jean-Guy, had developed. As we move along they are now apart, communicating by text, their own closed circle broken. This is a major thread to follow as the story unfolds. What signals are there to this point about how it will go for them?

Favorite Quote

Anne Daphné Gamache, Matthew 10:36
“And a man’s foes, shall they be of his own household?”

Discussion Questions

1. In her Acknowledgments, Louise mentions the neuroscience of music, its effect on her creativity, its effects on our brains. How does listening to music—and what music you listen to—affect you?

2. Would you read—or reread—The Beautiful Mystery while listening to, or after listening to, Gregorian chant? (There’s a surprising amount recorded.) Would you expect to alter your reading experience by doing so?

3. Chief Inspector Gamache’s writ runs to the whole province. Do the books taking him (and other characters) to new corners of Québec enrich your enjoyment or are you happiest when the story focuses on Three Pines? If so, why?

4. Do you find the closed-circle concept works for you when thinking about the structure of the mystery in this book? In any of the others? What challenges does this geometry set the author?

5. The monastery is a cloistered community of 24 men. One of them must be the killer. Did you start asking yourself which of them as you read Chapters 1-17? In other words, are you a reader who likes to solve the mystery or do you prefer to wait for the revelation?

6. Depending on how you answered that, do you read other authors’ mysteries differently?

7. If you have read the books in order as Louise wrote them, by now you know that she plants seeds for future plots. As you read Chapters 1-17 were you struck by anything that might carry forward into a future book?

Discussion on “The Beautiful Mystery, Part 1”

I too have loved re reading them and revelling in the characters. The books are so rich. And it is is such a treat to close one book and immediately start the next and pick up the story right away. When I finished how the light gets in last year (having sat in a chair for five hours with out moving to do so) I emailed the friend who introduced me to ms penny, exclaiming, she’s genius. Did she really have the whole series plotted out from the first book? Does anyone know?

I love that Louise includes lots of imagery but doesn’t dwell on it. It enhances rather than slows the movement of the story. That is a rare talent. So many authors spend too much time on setting the scene that the I lose interest.

The other element is the wry humour. Didn’t you love the tale of the bathmat and the byplay between Jean Guy and Annie. It is that warm insight that can be lacking in other books.

I love Elizabeth George but sometimes she could do with a little more warmth. Same with PD James. I do enjoy those stories but even those masterful writers feel a little bleak and flat when I compare them to Louise. Her ability to raise an eyebrow or lift the corner of my mouth in a smile even while exploring the depths of human darkness is enviable.

Yes, “wry humor”. I’ve just been catching up on the re-reading so am not as far in the book as I should be but was struck by this sentence in chapter five. “It didn’t bear thinking about what happened to the celestial choir when yet another director showed up.” I’m sure I missed that completely the first time around.

Nancy, that was such a delight! There are all sorts of wonderful bits of humour in these stories. Life has its joyful funny moments, and these in Louise’s books make them so true to life. They are a very necessary contrast to the dark and anxious times in the books, particularly in this one.

PUZZLED

I have been mostly silent during the discussion on this book, facinated by what you have shared so far. I have, though been puzzled. Lots and lots of discussion about the beautiful mystery of the chants but no mention about the light!

As we watch Jean Guy slip away into darkness, away from love, we are bathed in light!

“What must have struck every man, every monk, who entered these doors for centuries was the light.”

“The corridor was filled with rainbows. Giddy prisms. Bouncing off the hard stone walls. Pooling on the slate floors. They shifted and merged and separated, as though alive.”

Jean Guy’s life should have been full of rainbows with his sweet new love. It seems though he was like the guide that took them into the monastery, “The Chief wondered if their guide, the hurrying monk, even noticed the rainbows he was splashing through any more. Had they become humdrum? Had the remarkable become commonplace in this remarkable place?”

In the Pacific Northwest we have a lot of rain. Tourists are often quick to complain. They seldom seem to notice the abundance of rainbows! Nor the flowering azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons. Here after the storm comes the rainbows, plural. The little loved pets I’ve lost here have always had their choice between rainbow bridges to cross.

We are given regular lessons, when our lives are cracking, of how the light gets in.

Jean Guy didn’t notice though he was sharing the same space and time as Armand.

“The Chief Inspector knew his mouth had dropped open, but he didn’t care. He’d never in a life of seeing many astonishing things, seen anything quite like this. It was like walking into joy.”

Surprised by joy, again!

Good insights about light. Light can be all around us yet we can be blind and live in the shadows of our fears.

Thanks so much, Barbara, for your discussion of music and your description of the geometry of mystery books! I’m not sure I completely understand them all – how would you classify some of the Inspector Gamache books that take place in Three Pines – the megaphone, perhaps?

I also love your statement that:
“One of the joys of deep reading of mystery, of learning its conventions and tropes and gaining familiarity with landmark books, is being able to admire the skill with which an author takes the familiar and does something new, something unexpected, something complex yet fundamentally simple, something at once familiar and fresh.”

Not many books – mystery or traditional novel – can stand up to this deep reading, in my opinion. One of the things I love about Louise’s books is how well they do stand up to it – they are so carefully and thoughtfully crafted that the foundation stands firm (unlike the threatened abbey in this book), and all of the themes and characters take their place in the spaces created for them. I have been struck, as we do this re-read, by the fact that this is not just true for each individual book, but for the series as a whole. I am awed and touched by the planning of the series! I would love to ask Louise how much she planned at the very beginning, before she had published Still Life. How many threads does she hold in her hands as she crafts the next books?

NEWS FLASH! _ “STILL LIFE” DVD’s AVAILABLE!
Just got an email from a friend who has also read this series. She’s purchased a copy of the Canadian Broadcasting Systems video of this book with Nathaniel Partker (who also has played Inspector Thomas Lynley in the Elizabeth George series) – as Gamache. They’re selling it for $29.99 & it’s available at:

http://acornonline.com/still-life/p/still-life/

# 3 I do not read these books because they are “mysteries”. I was concerned when we started the reread and I didn’t remember the circumstances of the murder or who was the murderer. How could the books be so important to me when I didn’t remember the mystery. I was relived when others posted that they didn’t remember either. Some books have nothing much going for them except the mystery. The characters, the history, the descriptions of the environment, and the architecture of Quebec are what holds my attention.
# 4 Usually when I read a mystery, I read the beginning and then the solution. Then I decide if the book is worth my time. About 10 years ago, I realized that I was not reading for a school assignment. I am free to read as I want. If I’m not really interested by page 25 or so, I close the book and that is that.

My ex’s mother used to read the last page of any book she brought home from the library. It was because one, long ago, she read a mystery and when she came to the end, the last page was missing, and she was so frustrated, that forever after, she read the last page first. I always thought she missed out on it’s “unfolding” for her that way. Why do you read the ending before the rest of the book? Don’t you feel kind of “cheated” when you know how it’s all going to turn out?

No, I still get to enjoy the unfolding. I learn how the author brings it all together. My reading buddies think reading the ending would ruin the book for them too.

Barbara:
That is exactly how I read all books. The first 10 pages and the last 10. It has never ruined the story nor my enjoyment of it.
To each her own.

By the way, I always read these posts from the last one today to the last one last night.

Am so enjoying reading you all.

#6. Have any of you read Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series? If so, have you thought about how very similar he and Gamache are? He is a Venitian Gamache. He has an evil boss (although Pata does not compare to the slimeball Francoeur), a handpicked assistant named Vianello (Jean Guy), he adores his wife and children, loves music and books, and truly loves good food and wine. Hmmmmm.

Kathy, I have to admit that I didn’t see that and I’ve read all of the Brunetti series. Hmm. Is that compartmentalizing? 🙂

There is also a Guido Brunetti cookbook (with excerpts of the stories discussing the dishes). Maybe there can be a Three Pines Bistro Cookbook??? I would buy it in a heartbeat!

# 3 I very much enjoy the trips into other areas of Quebec away from Three Pines. While I love Three Pines and its residents, I am thrilled at the opportunity to learn more about the history of Quebec and actual places there. I like to see Gamache and his team in different settings. I not only learn more about Quebec but more about the characters in environments very different from Three Pines. Just so we always return to Three Pines.

Barbara, thank you for the beautiful and informative introduction. I envy those who live close enough to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore to attend the many author events offered. It’s a little far from Georgia.
# 2 I don’t read and listen to music at the same time. However, I have CDs of Gregorian Chants and enjoy them very much. I am sure that some of the music I heard in my head, as I read The Beautiful Mystery, was probably remembered from those CDs. My musical tastes are rooted in Classical and Religious music. Unfortunately, I do not enjoy recordings of operas as much as live performances or those shown on PBS. I feel that may mark me as shallow.

Join the club, Barbara. I guess I’m shallow, too, hahaha. I have to see the whole spectacle of the opera to really enjoy it. Once I have seen an opera a few times and recognize the music, I get some enjoyment out of recordings, but for the most part, I want to see it unfold before me. Watching it on TV is great, as you get to see some of the very best in the world without having to travel, not to mention the cost of top-notch opera tickets! I think this is because the music in the opera is part of a whole story and you need to see the whole story to truly “get it”. It’s thrilling then.

This was actually the first Gamache book I read (suggested by a friend who knew my love of Latin and chants and music in general.) At that time I didn’t even know Three Pines existed, and I must say, the allusions to prior events intrigued me as much as the murder at hand. I really admire the way Penny wrote so many hints about what had happened at the factory, and the corruption within the Surete, but here I fell in love with both Gamache and Jean-Louis, for very different reasons, with the focus on just the two of them, without the usual police and village characters. And I immediately went back to the beginning for a non-stop Penny fest! I SO do not want this series to end!

Other questions: I find it difficult to read and listen to music at the same time. It divides my attention too much. Music sets me on flights of fancy of various kinds, depending on the piece, and of course if there are lyrics, I’m totally stymied! And I confess that I’m not that fond of the closed circle mysteries and, in fact, have never liked Poirot! (Heresy?) Claustrophobia sets in.

And an even darker confession is that I shall not finish reading “The Beautiful Mystery” this time because I’ve come to the arrival of the plane and Francoeur. For once I recall an ending all to well and have no desire to re-live the stomach churning that I feel whenever the man’s name is even mentioned. Have never known a fictional character I’ve hated so much!

One quick aside: Did anyone else–I haven’t read carefully yet today–wonder about the translation of “entre” in the name of the monastery? That puzzled me from the very beginning and I was happy to have it eventually explained.

I find it distracting to read and listen to music too. I can happily clean house or drive listening to music or a recorded book (well, sometimes it miss my off- ramp!).

Karen – I had interpreted it for myself when I first read the name, but then, when it was interpreted for us as “among the wolves” I figured it was one of those things that is inferred by context and I just didn’t know, so I was surprised to find that I’d been right in the first place, hahaha.

GREGORIAN CHANTS ETC.

Have a dear friend who practices Buddhism and who religiously meditates daily. As I read Gamache’s reactions to the Gregorian chants of the monks, their remarks about their ‘beautiful mystery’, little bells started tinkling in this old brain. (I’m going to hold off on more specific comments involving chants & the monks until we finish the book.) I think the chants, meditations, repeated quiet practices like saying the rosary or mantras – all offer an opportunity to tune out the outside world, to shut out distractions or personal concerns, to become immersed in a period of internal quiet that allows one to find self – or even find God more personally.

Find it interesting that Armand relishes the peace that the chants provide because he is comfortable with an honest, internal dialogue and self assessment. On the other hand, Jean-Guy is antsy, impatient, squirms in the pew and mutters about when this (the service) will be over! He’s not really matured enough yet to dip into those meditative ‘waters’ of internal evaluation. Sometimes I can listen to Gregorian chants and become so relaxed that I find myself nodding off! :~)

I actually had a few Gregorian chants on my listening list on Pandora. I played them a few times to set the mood and to remind me how beautiful they are. I can better understand now, that the monks who sing them, believe the chants are not only the words of God, but the voice of God as well.

Welcome Wendy. I am so glad you felt comfortable sharing! This isn’t one of those book clubs where you have to “speak” unless you want to. It’s lovely that you did. How insightful for your son to connect to Agent Nichol and find self understanding. She is such an interesting character and while prickly and hard to like at times, she has lessons for us all.
Good luck to your son.

I love being in Three Pines but stepping away and seeing other settings keeps returns to the village fresh and exciting. Going away always makes us appreciate going home.
I found the devolution of Jean Guy very hard to watch. It illustrates the fragility of our sense of self. Despite being surrounded by strong people who love him, particularly the Gamache family, he draws away from the love. It is as though he so fears rejection he makes rejection real. I actually understand that but it is frustrating and hurtful to watch.
I think it is a measure of these books that really we don’t talk much about the murder at all, it’s just a device. It’s the people and the places and the ongoing story that draw us back. I imagine there is a murder in the next book that’s not why I will read it.

Anna,

I so do agree with you about not really caring about the murder device utilized in each of these books thus far. The only two ‘victims’ that elicited any of our empathy were the deaths of Ben’s mother and Clara’s neighbor Jane. Think I could also add Clara’s teenage nemesis too to the list – as she became in later life. I’ve had problems with believability of some of the crimes or ‘murderers’. A little girl who could figure out how to electrocute her mother with lots of people around? Ollie or Old Mudlin as villians or doers of the deed? You’re right! I care about the core characters whom we’ve followed from “Still Life” to now.

Find I’ve reacted the same to P.D. James’ Adam Dalgleish and Elizabeth George’s Tommy Lyndley books. The chief ‘sleuth’ and his satellite of mates are as addictive to follow as Gamache’s for me. Hmmmm. Strangely, I realize that I’ve been following three female ‘mystery’ authors over the years! :~D

I have been really excited about reading The Beautiful Mystery again as it was my favorite first time round. I read the last part of the book while listening to some Gregorian chant on you tube and found it amazing. It really took me to another place and stayed with me for a long time. I, too, would like to share something with you all. My 28 year old son is in prison and I have been sending him this fabulous series which he is thoroughly enjoying. I’ve been looking forward to him reading this one, as I think it will really speak to him. I have a cd of Gregorian Chant to send him with the book, as he doesn’t have access to the Internet. Interestingly, he said he really identified with Agent Nichol as he has realized he didn’t listen! He keeps asking me if she comes back, but my lips are sealed. I am loving reading all your comments and wish that my son could have been part of the discussions. I was going to send them to him but that was just too hard. So I just fill him in from time to time. I haven’t contributed before, but after reading Barbara’s wonderful introduction, I just wanted to share how Louise is touching my life.

I loved Agent Nichol–she was so prickly and blunt and painful to watch in action–but Gamache saw something in her and I kept thinking of Ruth’s poem–what had hurt Yvette Nichol so badly, that she would blunder so willfully, blindly through life? And I thought, when she appeared in How the Light Gets In, that no character is too small or insignificant for Louise Penny to bring full circle–I think your son, if he resonated with Agent Nichol, will find HTLGI a joy to read.

I’m reading all of the Armand Gamanche books for the first time, and it was serendipitous that I just finished The Beautiful Mystery yesterday! Barbara, as many have said before, thank you for the incredible description of the mystery structures. I love closed-circle mysteries, but could never aptly articulate that– I just say “I like when they’re all stuck in a Bed and Breakfast!”

#2 Reading this book made me very interested in finding some recorded Gregorian chant. I remember listening to it in high school music classes, so I had a point of reference for the descriptions of Gamache’s reactions to the music, but I’d love to read The Beautiful Mystery again juxtaposed against the chant.

#3 I initially would say I much prefer the stories to be set in Three Pines, because I think those stories have the wonderful added humor of familiar and beloved characters like Gabri and Ruth. However, my two favorite books in the series have probably been A Rule Againist Murder, and (definitely my favorite) Bury your Dead. I think the nuance of Penny’s writing is evident in her ability to take Gamache out of the more familiar setting to reveal deeper character issues (his relationship with his father’s memory, his perceived failings to Morin).

#4 I love the closed-circle structure of this book (and, as someone stated earlier, all of the other books). I think the writing is a lot more reliant on character than in the other structures, but that’s the best part of the Gamache mysteries! I think structure is especially interesting to bring up in this particular novel because of the parallel stories in the abbey vs. the Surete Homicide department. Jean Guy being the prior to Gamache’s abbot, and the fissures in those relationships, etc.

I am wondering about the monastery that was described in A Rule Against Murder/The Killing Stone? It sure sounded like the Gilbertine one in The Beautiful Mystery, which BTW was my introduction to the series. The earlier one had chants and superb chocolate-coated blueberries but had a different name. It was located fairly close to Three Pines.

After listening to The Beautiful Mystery on radio (Chapter A Day on Wisconsin Public Radio), the only one of the series available at our local library was Bury Your Dead. Loved the Champlain thread and it’s my favorite of all.

Peg – the earlier monasteries had different names, and I THINK Louise intended them to be different – not just that she hadn’t hit upon the right name until the time came for the story. In this book, the Monks do not sell directly to the outside world, but rather, another monastery – and I think they trade the blueberries for cheese that may, indeed, come from the same monastery as the cheese that the Bistro and the Lodge serve. I don’t recall who had the chocolate covered blueberries, but I’m betting it was the Lodge. After all, the Bistro has the licorice pipes, what more do they need? Hee hee.

The monastery in A Rule Against Murder was St. Benoit du Lac, which is a real one located near Magog, where young Paul Morin was held hostage. The monastery in The Beautiful Mystery is somewhere farther north on a remote lake. I gather it is fictional, but I don’t know for sure.

Re Qs #5 and #6: I’d rather read and let the author unravel the story for me. There are times when I think to myself “Ah, ha, s/he is the murderer.”, but that’s rare. In fact, I’ve accused myself of forgetting the revelation at the end of a mystery so that I can re-read it in perfect innocence of the outcome. 🙂

By the way, this discussion sneaked up on me, so I’m just beginning my re-read of “The Beautiful Mystery.” Perhaps this was on purpose, too, as I found this story made me more and more sad for several reasons, but I’m trying not to get ahead of my own thoughts as I read.

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