At my house when a new Louise Penny book arrives (and yes, this is one author that I pre-order) there's a debate over who gets their hands on it first. I usually win. My oldest daughter who lives near (through the back gate) usually heaves a sigh as she realizes Candleman gets it second. She doesn't complain too loudly because she doesn't pay for the books.
The Beautiful Mystery is book 8 in the Inspector Gamache series. Many of the other books in the series can be read as stand-alones, although it's better to read them in order. I didn't the first time I read them but I was able to put the pieces together just fine. With the second reading, I read them in order. Definitely better. But if you're intimidated about 8 books, pick one and read; and then pick another but don't start with The Beautiful Mystery.
You don't want to read The Beautiful Mystery until you've developed a relationship with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his First Lieutenant Jean Guy Beauvoir. Trust me, if you read any of these books you will develop a relationship with the characters. They are so real, so complex, and often quirky.
I spent the first 100 pages interested in the story but missing all the characters from Three Pines. The Beautiful Mystery focuses on Gamache and Beauvoir in the setting of a Monastery. I enjoyed learning about the monks who lived with a vow of silence except when they gathered several times a day and sank Gregorian chants.
I don't want to say too much about the story because I think each new reader should experience it page by page and not from review to review. When I say "new reader" I don't mean new to the series. Again, I don't think this should be the first Louise Penny book you read, but if you have been reading these, this one is a must. It's powerful. I have been thinking about it for 3 days since I finished reading and am dying for my husband to finish so I can discuss it with him.
I liked this description of the abbot: "An autumn face, after all the leaves had fallen."
A theme that comes through in several of the books is appearance. "Again Beauvoir was taken by the clash of perception and reality in this monastery. and the choice to reflect what looked good rather than what was truthful." And, "That was the thing with the bad apple. It was insidious. Slow. It looked just fine, from the outside, until the rot spread. And by then it was too late."
Macmillan Audio has provided a short clip to listen to.
My only question at this point is how am I going to wait for a whole year until the next book arrives?