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A fan’s thoughts on A Beautiful Mystery

Spoiler Alert!  I am a huge fan of Louise Penny, author of the Inspector Gamache series and in the following post, I talk about her most recent novel.  If you have not yet read it, then you may not want to read my post since I give too much away.  This is an abridged letter I wrote to Ms. Penny after finishing A Beautiful Mystery.


Dear Ms. Penny,

I have loved your Inspector Gamache series since first listening to Still Life from two-and-a-half years ago. You are a master at blending the standard structure of a mystery with the philosophical underpinnings of a literary novel. I deeply admire your skill in character development as well as plot formation. Since I listen to your novels, I’ve been able to “whip” through them while driving to work or knitting or taking walks. I’ve just finished A Beautiful Mystery and now I have that long wait ahead of me until the next novel.

I am writing to you after some careful reflection and a long talk with one of my closest friends, who is also a great fan of yours. I found A Beautiful Mystery troubling in a few ways that I want to share with you. It’s a testament to your writing that Inspector Gamache and Beauvoir have gotten under my skin to the point where I felt strongly affected by this last novel.

I was devastated by Beauvoir’s decision to leave with the Superintendent. His agony, his self-destructiveness was nearly unbearable. I had grown so fond of Beauvoir and was thrilled at the beginning of the novel to find that he and Annie were in love. I can understand that his injuries (both physical and emotional) from the raid would leave him vulnerable to the Superintendent’s manipulations, but was it inevitable that he would leave with him? I want to beg you to tell me that he will be all right in the next novel, that he will be redeemed, that all will be resolved and then all would be right in the world, but I know you can’t tell me that, whether or not you already know his fate.

Maybe my reaction to Beauvoir’s breakdown says more about me than the novel, but I do feel so “invested” in this series. Not financially, but up until now, the novels have been an escape for me. Yes, terrible things happen, like murder, like Clara throwing Peter out, like Ruth having to give up her duck, but the murders are resolved, Clara probably needs some time away from Peter anyway, and Ruth showed she was capable of nurturing and loving by caring for the duck.

And the murders were central to the stories as well, whereas, in A Beautiful Mystery, the murder became incidental, almost unnecessary except as a vehicle for putting Gamache and Beauvoir in a closed environment where they had no choice but to face their demons in the form of the Superintendent. By the time the murder was solved, I really didn’t care any more. I would have preferred that Gamache and Beauvoir had left together, leaving the murder for the Superintendent to investigate. The murder just didn’t matter to me once Beauvoir started falling apart.

The cliff-hanger ending also left me feeling distressed. That probably sounds funny, and I do feel a bit embarrassed to admit it. Really, this is just a novel, but the characters are so true to life. Gamache is not perfect; if he was, he would have been more forthcoming with Beauvoir, addressed his anxieties instead of just ordering him about as if the raid had never happened. He is partly to blame for Beauvoir’s breakdown and it makes sense that he is.

I guess I’m really writing this because I want to understand why you chose to end the novel the way you did. I don’t think you needed a cliff-hanger. This was your 8th novel and you are such a celebrated writer that surely you know that your next novel will be a bestseller as well. Really, if Beauvoir had regained his senses and chosen to stay with Gamache, I would still be eagerly awaiting novel #9. I would just have a more happy anticipation. As it is, I’m worried, even scared, that we will lose Beauvoir entirely to the “dark side.” So I await novel #9 with some trepidation, now that I know I care (too) deeply about these characters that you have painted with such skill and love.


If you’ve read this far and have your own thoughts on A Beautiful Mystery, please share them.  I am eagerly awaiting How the Light Gets In (due to be published in August of this year), but part of me also dreads it.  What does it mean when a writer, as a reader, can’t handle things going bad?

Categories: Book Review Reading Writing about writing

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

2 replies

  1. I feel exactly the same way! I have never felt upset before when finishing one of the novels but I am very unsettled…I just finished the book today and I have to wait until tomorrow to get to a store and find out what happened!! I am glad I’m not alone! I found this page while searching for reassurance that Beauvoir is OK…I didn’t find any yet.


    1. Sandy, thank you for reading and commenting. You must read How the Light Gets In, the next one after The Beautiful Mystery. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I will say that Penny “redeems” herself as well as Beauvoir 🙂


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