Ah, Louise Penny has given us a beautiful mystery in The Beautiful Mystery (ha, see that? yeah, I know, right?) Not only was the story itself superb, but the audio book narration is exactly as Audiofile’s statement on the back cover reads, “Ralph Cosham’s excellent narration of Louise Penny’s newest mystery demonstrate why a terrific narrator is an author’s best partner.”
Amen to that one! (again, ahem, did you see that there? you know, because this is a story about a secluded monastery, monks that have taken the vow of silence…amen…okay, okay I’ll give it a rest now.)
At any rate, The Beautiful Mystery is very unlike the others in Penny’s series featuring Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, in that it does not take place in its usual setting of Twin Pines, the tiny Quebec village. Instead, Gamache, and Beauvoir are requested to enter a remote monastery and solve a murder of one of their brothers. No one, not for hundreds of years, no outsider ever, has been granted access or even glimpsed at what is behind those heavy locked doors of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. However, when their choir director is murdered, Gamache and Beauvoir are brought in to solve the crime.
The monks inside Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups are the masters of Gregorian plainchant. These ancient chants have such significant effect on people, both the singer and the listener, and are so profound they are known as “the beautiful mystery”. (Click here to listen to some of these chants.) As an aside, the playing of a chant at the beginning of the audio CD and again at the end was marvelous. No, actually, listening to this whole story was marvelous. The descriptions of nuemes and chants and of these monk’s devotion and dedication to chant and their quiet, introspective lifestyle was such a beautiful and absolute listening delight. Although there was a murderer among them, I found myself quite calmed and relaxed during my daily commute as I listened to this story.
It is not long before Gamache and Beauvoir realize however that there is a great divide among the monks and they must work through this in order to uncover which of the remaining 23 monks is responsible for killing the choir director. To pause and reflect on this aspect of the story, I must comment that this investigation did seem to continue in a far more prolonged manner than was necessary. It is, and remains, my only complaint with this story. It was, toward the end, someone that I had considered but it was still quite some time before he was actually revealed.
But, in addition to the mystery requiring their solution, Penny also treats us to more character growth and to the continued healing that Jean-Guy is undergoing following a harrowing factory experience from a few novels ago. Jean-Guy is still quite fragile and not quite handling well his recovery. Here, well, here is where the narration of Ralph Cosham simply shone. Oh how absolutely brilliant Cosham is when bringing to life Gamache and Beauvoir. No, I do not believe Ms. Penny could have found a more brilliant actor for her characters. It was as though I was seated in a room across from them and listening in on their conversations. So many, many times I would bust out loud laughing in the car listening to their banter. I’m afraid there will never be a time when I don’t seek out the audio book of this series. It would just never do it justice or provide the level of entertainment I experience every time I listen to Cosham. 4.5 shining stars for another wonderful Louise Penny/Ralph Cosham experience.