Friday, January 15, 2021

The Chief Inspector Gamache series, books 8 and 9

The Beautiful Mystery is the eighth book in the Inspector Gamache series. Following that book is How the Light Gets In. The books have a connection, with a cliffhanger ending (of sorts) in The Beautiful Mystery leading to events which are resolved in the next book. Thus I am posting my thoughts on them together.

The Beautiful Mystery

I really can't do justice to a summary of the plot for this book so I will rely on the description at the author's website:

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Québec, 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.

As usual this was a beautifully written story. I enjoyed the new setting. The stories set in Three Pines are charming and I love visiting the inhabitants of that small town, but I also enjoy exposure to other parts of Québec. It was interesting to get a look at the workings of a small monastery.

There is a second plot in The Beautiful Mystery. In past books there have been references to differences within the Sûreté du Québec. At the highest levels, there are people who resent Gamache. This situation comes to a head in this novel, but is not resolved.

How the Light Gets In

Had I realized that this book was set at Christmas, I might have tried to read both of these books before the end of the year. As it is, I started this book a couple of days before the end of the year, and it was the first book I finished in 2021. I read the books back to back because I saw that the cliffhanger ending in The Beautiful Mystery was going to bug me until I read the next book.

There is a mysterious death that is determined to be suicide at the beginning of the book. The incident keeps coming up until it is finally tied in to the rest of the plot towards the end of the book. Around the same time, Myrna, the owner of the bookshop in Three Pines, calls Inspector Gamache and asks him to check on a friend who lives in Montréal and was scheduled to visit Myrna for Christmas. When Gamache goes to her home, he finds the friend dead, murdered. He also discovers that she was one of a famous set of quintuplets who were born in Québec in the 1930s. She had used an assumed name to conceal her identity. 

But at the same time that Gamache is investigating that death, he is dealing with changes in his department. Many of his best detectives have transferred out of his department, some voluntarily, some forced to move by Gamache's superior officer. Only Inspector Isabelle Lacoste is still working with him. New officers have been transferred into Gamache's department.

This book was a very good read. It was overly long, but had a faster pace than The Beautiful Mystery, and kept me reading too late at night in order to finish the book. I will admit to having some reservations as to some plot choices in both The Beautiful Mystery and How the Light Gets In, but not enough to deter my enjoyment. 

These two books fit together very well, it was like reading one very, very long novel. And fortunately, I enjoy immersing myself in the Inspector Gamache books. But that only worked for me because I already had a copy on hand. I would have been quite unhappy to read The Beautiful Mystery when it first came out and then find out I had to wait a year to find out what was going on.


Pub. data for The Beautiful Mystery

Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2013 (orig. publ. 2012)
Length: 373 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Series: Inspecter Gamache, #8
Setting: Québec, Canada
Genre: Police Procedural
Source: Purchased in 2020.

Pub. data for How the Light Gets In

Publisher: Sphere, 2018 (orig. publ. 2013)
Length: 534 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Series: Inspecter Gamache, #9
Setting: Québec, Canada (Three Pines, Montréal)
Genre: Police Procedural
Source: Purchased in 2020.


CLM said...

Did you get tearful like me at the end of The Beautiful Mystery?

TracyK said...

No, Constance, I was more upset and dismayed. Well, OK, maybe a little tearful. Louise Penny sure does get the reader involved in her stories.

Cath said...

Yes, the end of A Beautiful Mystery knocked me for six. I was horrified for several days. To be honest I was quite disturbed by that whole loop, but the two books were really quite fantastic. I'm waiting to get the next book from the library when it reopens.

TracyK said...

Cath, I had to read the next book right away because I had to get that ending resolved, however that was going to be. I will wait awhile to get the next book because I have other books I need to be reading, but I am eager to continue.

Neeru said...

It seems you got really involved with the books, Tracy. And you have reminded me that i need to sample this series too. So many books, so little time....

Margot Kinberg said...

I agree completely about those books, Tracy. It really is best to read The Beautiful Mystery and then right away, and then How the Light Gets In. I think that's the best way to really appreciate both novels. Louise Penny is so good at inviting the reader to engage in the story, isn't she? The reader just has to know what's going to happen next. And I think a lot of it has to do with her character development.

Katrina said...

This is one series which I'm up to date with, in fact always gasping for the next one to come out. I must admit that I wasn't so keen on the setting of the monastery, I really missed Three Pines and the quirky characters. I also have some reservations to some aspects of the plots, but I manage to get over them.

TracyK said...

Neeru, I know what you mean about too many books. Too many authors I have not tried yet.

It took about 4 books in the Inspector Gamache series before I was really pulled into it, but now I am quite involved in it. How the Light Gets In is very long, but the next few after that stay under 400 pages so that will be better.

TracyK said...

Margot, it is amazing how attached you can get to those characters. And conversely, I get irritated with them sometimes too. Louise Penny is a talented author.

TracyK said...

Katrina, even though I am not religious, I have always enjoyed books with religious settings, so I enjoyed that. Although the pace did seem slow and repetitive in that one. I have nine more to read to catch up so it will be awhile.

Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: I found The Beautiful Mystery the most frustrating book in the series. I enjoyed much of what happened at the monastery but was distracted by what I considered an anti-Catholic bias and issues over the nature of the setting. I ended up writing two posts so I could express my full thoughts for one of the posts has spoilers.

I thought How the Light Gets in was a better book. I would have preferred if Penny had excised the conflicts within the Surete from all of the books in which it took place.

There are more than enough wondrous books in the series to make up for the pretty good books.

TracyK said...

Bill, I did come back and read your posts on these two books later. I try never to read about Louise Penny's books before I read them. I thought your posts were very thoughtful and provided a different take on the issues in the books that I was not aware of, not being that familiar with either the religion or the setting. I admit to frustrations over some of the attitudes in the book, which did not provide me with enough information about the background behind the issues. But overall I enjoyed reading both books together. I am happy to know that there are even better books ahead in my reading of the series.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Tracy, I know from reading Donna Leon's mystery series what a wonderful thing it is to discover a talented mystery writer and I definitely need to give louise Penny a try. I will start with Stil Life and I think I am going to enjoy it but a mystery set in a monastery fascinates me too.

TracyK said...

Kathy, Louise Penny is worth a try and I hope you like her books. I have only read a few of Donna Leon's books but I have more of them so I should get back to that series. I like police procedurals.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

Followed you over here from Cloak & Dagger 2021 challenge.
I've only ever read one Louise Penny -- Still Life -- and I don't think I liked it much. Still, I see Penny quoted everywhere, so I guess really have to give it another try!
~ Lex

TracyK said...

Lex, I wasn't impressed with the first book in the series (Still Life) and it took me a while to try the series again. After that I liked each book better. Unfortunately there are a lot of books to catch up on.

bookertalk said...

I might have to go back now and read them in sequence - I had quite a long gap so didn't fully pick up the plot connections as you did. I loved Beautiful Mystery so much that I went and bought a CD of Gregorian chants !

TracyK said...

BookerTalk, I have enjoyed reading the series in order. Sometimes I am too rigid about that but in this case it increased my enjoyment of the series for sure.

col2910 said...

I will read the one I have one of these years. Too late for me to try and commit to them all though, especially with what I already have accumulated.

TracyK said...

Col, I wish I could stop myself from getting involved with new long mystery series, since I have so many ongoing. But I never seem to learn.