It has been a while since I’ve shared a book club read. Our club meets on Sundays, and last week we discussed The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. I consider myself an amateur expert on mystery novelists, so I was chagrined to discover that Penny had completely escaped my radar.
This is one in a series and it is set in Canada, Quebec to be more precise. I’ll be honest, I know little about our neighbors to the north, and even less about French. So there were a few things, and probably pronunciations, that escaped me.
As a whole, it seemed like everyone enjoyed this novel. To be fair, as a group we are huge fans of murder mysteries, so bias may exist. We loved the characters, and the story the mystery was set around. This particular book is set in a monastery, a very reclusive order of monks are our main suspects. It seems someone has murdered their prior.
Integral to this story is music, specifically Gregorian Chant. Anyone who lived through the 90’s may remember chant took the world by storm in that decade. Personally, I still enjoy it. Who doesn’t like to hear men with beautiful voiced sing?
By setting this mystery in a rural monastery with spotty to no cell reception Penny is able to explore a bit about how our relationships are shaped and perceived through our prolific use of texting. The inspectors were able to communicate with their families only via text since their cells couldn’t receive phone calls. It is amazing what can, and can’t be said through a text message. It is also interesting how we perceive meaning and tone through a medium that cannot really convey tone.
There were some complaints about Penny’s writing style. One was that she used periods to an abusive degree, stopping the flow of thought and action entirely too often with a misused period. Another was that some of the thoughts and actions conveyed, especially in regards to a young romantic relationship, were juvenile. I wonder now whether this immaturity was less of a style issue, and more of a statement about that particular character. Perhaps they were meant to be juvenile.
I plan to revisit Penny and Inspector Gamache (the main detective) in the future. Probably with the first novel in the series, Still Life.