Sunday, January 21, 2018

Murder in the Abbey (Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery)

     Louise Penny The Beautiful Mystery (2012) Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir investigate a murder at the abbey of St Gilbert Entre les Loups. Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, Gamache’s enemy,  arrives a day later and messes things up. Gamache solves the murder, but Beauvoir relapses into oxycontin abuse. The book ends with a rift between the two men, made worse because Jean Guy has fallen in love with Annie Gamache, Armand’s daughter.
     Penny’s strength is character. The puzzle is fairly solved, using the old provoke-a-confession ruse, but the focus is on Gamache and Beauvoir, and their complex relationship, which is tangled up in Sûrete politics and corruption. Gamache is just this side of too good to be true: Penny manages to make him believably sane and incorruptible, but she’s helped in this by the reader’s willingness to believe  such a man is possible. The history of Gregorian chant figures in the story, as do the mystery of monastic life, and the puzzle of faith. It’s a novel, an examination of characters in a specific context, and how that context affects their scope of decision and action, and how their weaknesses limit their options. Penny’s stylistic trick of short paragraphs wears a bit. Well done. ***½

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