Becca, my awesome niece
, insisted that Hazel, my awesome spouse, read this. When she finished, Hazel insisted that I read it as well. It's my first dead-tree book in a while. Soooo heavy my arms hurt ;-).
Whatever, it's quite a good book. It deals with a monastery in a remote part of the province of Québec. Allegedly, it is a Gilbertine monastery, which comes as a surprise because the Gilbertines were thought to have become extinct in the 16th century (while the 16th century extinction part is true, I suspect that much of Penny's historical background on Gilbertines is not quite correct, but was "fiddled" to make for a better story). Whatever, these particular monks are chosen for their musical ability as well as their individual vocational skills (carpentry, cooking, farming, etc.), and as a result, they present the purest form of Gregorian chant known to man. They had not been known to man for some 500 years, of course, until they made a recording that became an international sensation. The recording allowed them to make enough money for some necessary repairs. Then, some of the monks decide they should make yet more money with another recording and also a road trip. This creates dissension and one of the monks is murdered ("the love of money is the root of all evil", so says Paul). So, Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sureté du Québec
shows up to investigate, along with his side kick, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Both of them are emotionally scarred in one way or another.
The course of the investigation involves having the two protagonists become involved in the life of the monastery, including attending the services and becoming enchanted, so to speak, by the chants. So, along the way, we get to know the people, we get to know quite a bit about Gregorian Chant and early forms of musical notation, something about monastic life, and so forth. We also learn quite a lot about the destructive passions of the human soul.
I suppose I should also mention that a Superintendent of the Surité, who detests Gamache with a passion, and a Dominican from the Pope's Department of the Inquisition (whatever the rebranded name is in the 20th century, something about fundamental doctrine,—never mind that Popes went off the rails as far as sound doctrine goes back in the 3rd century, if not before) both show up to "thicken the plot", as the saying goes.
It's a very engaging story with well drawn background and good character development. There are enough loose ends lying around at the end of the book to justify having another book in the "Gamache series". This particular book is the 8th in the series and Penny has now managed to crank out up to no. 10.
I suppose it's only fair that I admit my review might be somewhat favorably biased because I have rather an affinity for church music and contemplative spiritual practices.
-----------------------------------Note to self:
Never post a review until you've slept on it for at least a day or two. That way, you won't have to repost it when you find, that in your haste to post, while also under the influence of a nectar well known to monks, you've left some important bits out.