The Beautiful Mystery (Armand Gamache Series #8)

The Beautiful Mystery (Armand Gamache Series #8) - Wow! I have so many mixed feelings about this book... but the story, itself, is amazing. I might not *like* the directions that the characters or the plot went to, but I can't dispute the genius of the storyteller.In this book, we venture into no-man's land - a remote monastery, where only 24 monks live and work. These monks are Gilbertian monks, who have taken a vow of silence, and yet devote their lives to Gregorian chants. Each man has a vocation (medicine, animal husbandry, gardening, cooking, etc.), but his avocation is singing. The monks made a recording that turned into an album/CD of Gregorian chants, which made its way into the mainstream and made these monks famous. But is fame a good thing? The Gilbertian monks left Europe and disappeared during the Middle Ages; most in the Catholic church, including the hierarchy, thought the order had died out. But these hardy monks traveled to Canada, found a remote part, and built a rock-solid monastery and hid themselves away, ostensibly afraid of the Inquisition. But there is supposed to be a treasure within the walls of the monastery. Is there?Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir find themselves where no outside man has been, ever, when they're called to the monastery. One of the monks is dead - obviously murdered, his skull caved in. Knowing that there isn't much time because of the notoriety of these monks, Gamache and Beauvoir intend to stay until the murder is solved - something they hope will happen within 24-28 hours. How hard can it be, after all? All the suspects are within the monastery walls; it can only have been one of them.But it's never quite that easy. While the Abbot gives the order the OK to lift their vow of silence to speak to Gamache and Beauvoir about the murder and to aid their investigation, there are still a lot of secrets. And these men aren't intimidated by silence, as most suspects are. There are layers within layers... politics and factions within the monastery hierarchy, greed and pride, and more.And out of nowhere comes Chief Inspector Gamache's nemesis, the Chief Superintendent. Why is he there? What can he possibly hope to accomplish, when there is such obvious animosity between him and Gamache?----------------There were many surprises within this book:1. No Three Pines - no continuation of the story with Clara and Peter. I'm anxious to know more of them. (And Rosa and Ruth)2. The bringing to a head the conflict between Gamache and the Chief Superintendent... this has been a thread within the books since the 1st book, "Still Life". And as readers, we knew that the conflict was escalating, especially in the last book, "A Trick of the Light", with the leaking of that awful video and the question of who leaked it. But I didn't expect what occurred in this book, especially not between the Chief Superintendent and Beauvoir. It makes perfect sense within the context Ms. Penny writes it, but it was a surprise.3. The murderer wasn't a surprise, which was a surprise, if that makes sense? This book was about so much more than the whodunnit. There are still so many layers going on within the emotional and mental spaces within Gamache and Beauvoir, not to mention within the heads of the monks that we come to know in this book.4. The music and this history... Ms. Penny always surprises me with the subtleness and yet thoroughness of her research, whether it's art, history, or now music. It's delightful to learn more about the Gregorian chant, neumes, and the life within a monastery.The worst part of this book is that now I have to wait likely another year before I can find some resolution with the over-arching story... Jean-Guy, Annie, Gamache, the Chief Superintendent... but also to go back to Three Pines and see Clara, Peter, Ruth, Gabri, and Olivier. And then to wonder if any of the monks in this story, especially the last one we meet, will have any further bearing on future stories.We've never had such a cliff-hanger before from Ms. Penny, although arguably, we did have cliff-hangers at the end of "A Trick of the Light". And while I was anxious to see and know the resolution of those cliff-hangers, I wasn't as bothered by the fact of them as I was by what happened at the end of this book.