This was my first introduction to Armand Gamache, of the Quebec Surete. And what an introduction! I was captured from the first pages. (It’s also #8 in the series so I knew I had a lot of books to get).
Gamache and his assistant, Beauvoir, are called to a murder in a monastery. Another version of the Locked Room Mystery, this should be a simple whodunnit, a killer somewhere among a closed community with no access for outsiders. However, this isn’t your everyday monastery and this isn’t your everyday murder.
Monastery of Mystery
The monks in this particular monastery are of a strange sect, the Gilbertines, thought to have died out in the 12th century. They’re alive and well in a remote area of Quebec, in an abbey of stunning design set in the equally stunning wilderness. Their order is distinguished by two things – the Vow of Silence and the magnificent voices of the monks when raised in Gregorian Chant.
Music of Mystery
Gregorian chant is, of course, vocal music, and the only time that the monks use their voices is in this plainsong but they can communicate in nuance, in many shades of subtlety. How can this be enough to solve the mystery?
The two most important men in the monastery are at odds with each other. One wants to keep the seclusion of the last 400 years and particularly the Vow of Silence, the other wants to take the choir out into the world.
In the remote and claustrophobic community, Gamache begins to understand the significance of suggestion.
Penny is a wonderfully lyrical writer. The descriptions of the forest, of the abbey, of the wondrous light and, of course, the music are enthralling. A magical book indeed.