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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge

Duncker, Patricia.  The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge.

I'm not really sure what I thought of this novel.  Different.

The novel begins at the scene of a mass suicide on New Year's Day, a "departure," and Andre Schweigen recognizes the details.  He has seen them before.  A few years previously a similar scene was discovered in Switzerland.  Although many of the individuals had been French, the Swiss investigation had excluded both Commissaire Schweigan and Judge Dominique Carpentiera, who investigates crimes concerning cults or sects. 

Schweigen is excited-- to have the opportunity to bring someone to justice for both "departures" and to be once more involved in Dominique's life.  This mass suicide in French territory.

The opening of the novel is beautifully done; the description of the scene and the hunters who discovered it is somehow both conversational and chilling.

The novel moves a bit incoherently, in an almost dream-like manner, leaving the reader without connections, skipping around a bit without giving the reader all of the details.  Not exactly stream-of-consciousness, but with similarities.

The relationship between Schweigen and Dominique is unusual, but involving.  Dominique's character is a kind of duality: elegance, sophistication, and intelligence, but with an earthier, more practical nature.

I had no desire to abandon the novel at any point, but somehow neither did it register as reasonable, and reason and faith appear to be the theme.  The discovery of a kind of Grimoire in code, The Faith, the composer and his role--seemed something of an enigma for the author to puzzle over, but that leaves the reader with more questions than answers.  

Fiction. Mystery.  2010. 260 pages.


  1. I just read this one recently too and had the exact same reaction. I couldn't seem to figure out if I liked it or not. It didn't flow very smoothly, but that somehow seemed to fit - sort of. Anyway, thanks for the review.

  2. I was looking forward to your review of this one. It sounds interesting - a bit different. I think this is one of those I'll have to be in the right mood to read.

  3. Jem - It was certainly a different kind of novel. I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt a bit ambivalent!

    Iliana - I agree. This one may require a particular mood to enjoy.