This was an odd one for sure, but I liked it. And kind of hated it. This is the second of the books to take place mostly absent from Three Pines, this time in a cloistered monastery, that until the murder, had a secret location known only to a few. The monks at Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups belong to a sect formerly believed lost or gone, and their vocation is music. They have recently become world-renowned (and paid for much needed repairs to the abbey) due to a recording their music director released the year before of their chants. This has caused tension, and then their music director turns up murdered. Gamache and Beauvoir are allowed in to investigate as only one of the monks could have done it. And the monks will have to break their vow of silence to give their evidence.
Some spoilers ahead.
The mystery itself was interesting if only for the setting, but the actual resolution didn’t do much for me emotionally. The real center of this book is Beauvoir and his descent back into addiction, thanks to a hefty push from Chief Superintendent Sylvain Françoeur (Gamache’s nemesis), who arrives to fuck with Gamache. He succeeds, by drugging Beauvoir and hitting all of his buttons. The book ends with Beauvoir essentially betraying Gamache and going to work with his rival, and it’s unclear if their relationship can ever be repaired.
It’s been months since I read this, and I’m only reviewing it now because I’m about to start book nine, but I remember there was some lovely subtlety and resonance in the book, but it’s been lost to time. It’s not my favorite of these books, but it was well put together, and I appreciated that we got a break from dead bodies being found in Three Pines, and that same friend group being involved in it all. At the same time, I’m looking forward to checking in on those bozos. I’ve come to really like most of them.