Title: The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge
Author: Patricia Duncker
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2010)
Book Source: Review copy from Publisher
Back Cover Summary: The bodies are discovered on New Year's Day: sixteen dead in the freshly fallen snow. The adults lie stiff in a semicircle; the children, in pajamas and overcoats, are curled at their feet.
When he gets the report, Commissaire Andre Schweigen knows just who to call: Judge Dominique Carpentier, also known as the "sect hunter". She is the recognized expert in this field, brilliant and relentlessly rational, but Schweigen has his own reasons for wanting her on his case. In the vacated chalet, the investigators uncover an encoded book of celestial maps that points them to the inhospitable doorstep of a composer, Friedrich Grosz. But as the skeptical sect hunter earns the Composer's trust, she finds herself drawn into a world of complex family ties and ancient cosmic beliefs, unable - and increasingly unwilling - to escape.
Interrogating faith, immortality, and passion, The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge is a metaphysical mystery of extraordinary power.
My Thoughts: I found it difficult to decide if I liked this book or not. I was puzzled by the style and pace. It was quite an intriguing read and certainly left an impression - a confusing one. It raised some interesting issues about the tensions between faith, reason and emotion. You are best to judge for yourself if The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge sounds like the type of book you would like.
The mass suicide that the novel opened with set the story up like a traditional suspense/murder mystery type thing, but as I read on it became apparent that it was just an introduction to a much wider scope of issues. The title was very well chosen. The book is focused on the characters (the Composer and the Judge) puzzling relationship more that it is about any specific crime or events. As the Composer leads the Judge on a strange journey into the heart of his belief system, the Judge struggles to keep control of the relationship. She finds herself intellectually and emotionally off center where her rational mind and disdain for religious cults is no protection against the Composer. "... the Faith had proved to be the one sect that had piqued her interest and commanded her attention, precisely because it was not fraudulent or corrupt."(p.240)
As the Judge collects more information about the cult and spends more time with its leader, the Composer, she finds herself drawn to him and to his daughter. She struggles with her feelings while continuing to investigate the cult. Everything builds to a crescendo when the Judge has to decide if she will accept the role that the Composer wants her to take on.
A Quote: "She saw him clearly at last, beyond her reach, his arms raised in triumph, his face transfigured with certainty and joy."(p.252)
12 hours ago