This is another Inspector Armand Gamache mystery but the setting is a little different in this book. Gamache and his Sargeant Jean-Guy Beauvoir are called out to a monastery situated literally in the middle of nowhere. A monk has been murdered and supposedly they all lived in perfect harmony – well obviously not as one of them has to be the killer.
Gamache and Beauvoir have come off a couple of very difficult cases and Beauvoir has also finally got over his addiction to pain killers following a near death experience. Neither is particularly happy about being sent to the boonies to investigate the crime. They both miss their loved ones and their homes and routines but know they need to just knuckle down, figure out the mystery and then they can finally go home.
The murdered monk is the choir director and apparent best friend of the abbot. There seems to be little emotion regarding the death; a few of the monks were showing sadness but most of them make it obvious they just want to be left alone. At first glance and interview it seems as though everyone loves everyone and there are no reasons for anyone to want the choir director dead but as Gamache probes deeper and deeper, there are more questions than answers. Why did the abbot not want the monks to record another album when their first was so well received? Why was the dead monk clutching a seemingly useless piece of paper at the time of his death? Is it legitimate practice for a monk to recruit members for their monastery? Gamache asks questions of all the monks again and again until he can finally begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Even though the two detectives seem to be stranded, at least the food seems to be extraordinarily good and the rooms relatively comfortable but that is little help when they cannot even get a signal to go online, even with a satellite. They are left to investigate without any outside help and a lot of leg work.
The monks are not unfriendly just very remote. The abbot lifts their vow of silence and asks that they cooperate as fully as possible. They are still not exactly verbose and have to be coaxed to say just about anything. Gamache pushes on and does come to a conclusion eventually, it just seems painfully slow.
I have to say I miss all the characters in the previous Gamache mysteries by Penny but I daresay that they will return in the next book. The writing in this book is, as ever, excellent and you find yourself transported to the monastery. Another good one.