My first experience with the writing of Louise Penny, Beautiful Mystery is akin to a religious experience. The beauty of the Gregorian chants echo through the haunting wilderness setting of Quebec’s wild forest monastery, Saint Gilbert Entres les Loups. Ms. Penny’s words are almost lyrical, as she describes the monastic life of the monks, giving a cadence and rhythm to the investigation as Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Inspector Armand Gamache search for a murderer amid an order of friars that aren’t not even supposed to exist.
The layers of the relationship between of Jean-Guy and Armand is more than that of officer and commander, complicated by his secret relationship with Armand’s daughter, theirs is also one of respect and love: of friend, mentor and father figure. But like many relationships, there is also some dysfunction, as in Jean-Guy’s rebellion.
Additional tension is added to the investigation and the relationship when Chief Superintendent Francoeur of the Surete du Quebec arrives at the monastery, another battle of good and evil wages as a battle of will are fought behind the lines.
At the end of the Beautiful Mystery it is the parallel of life– ‘when man does not live up to expectations’– that is mirrored in both the solution of the case and the sad truth of life. “… he was just a man.”
With great power, talent or genius comes great responsibility.