Title: The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge
Author: Patricia Duncker
Published: July 6th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Murder Mystery, Cult
Synopsis: 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 hears the news, Commissaire André Schweigen knows who to call: Dominique Carpentier, the Judge, also known as the “sect hunter.” Carpentier sweeps into the investigation in thick glasses and red gloves, and together the Commissaire and the Judge begin searching for clues in a nearby chalet. Among the decorations and unwrapped presents of a seemingly ordinary holiday, they find a leather-bound book, filled with mysterious code, containing maps of the stars. The book of the Faith leads them to the Composer, Friedrich Grosz, who is connected in some way to every one of the dead. Following his trail, Carpentier, Schweigen, and the Judge’s assistant, Gaëlle, are drawn into a world of complex family ties, seductive music, and ancient cosmic beliefs. Hurtling breathlessly through the vineyards of Southern France to the gabled houses of Lübeck, Germany, through cathedrals, opera houses, museums, and the cobbled streets of an Alpine village, this ferocious new novel is a metaphysical mystery of astonishing verve and power. (Synopsis from Goodreads.com)
I actually won this book in a giveaway and was beyond thrilled at the prospect of an exciting book that I didn't have to pay for. The novel starts off with the finding of a mass of dead bodies, which immediately grabbed me. For why on this dreadful Earth, would all those adults and children be lying in such an odd arrangement in the horrible snow? Well, I won't give you too many of the fabulous horrible details, but it most definitely has to do with a religious sect. Apparently, it isn't the first time this has happened and the police don't even seem to be phased by such a heart wrenching thing as children bundled in furs and poisoned to death. What pray tell is this madness?!
I'll tell you, it's a "suicide cult" who kill themselves and their children, but why. Why would they do something so horrible?
To this I would say that religion can and has made people do many things that I would look at with complete and utter horror, so why should this be any different. Why should a group of people, hand selected, to join together in a belief that unites them phase me? It doesn't, but there seems to be something off about this Faith and its followers. Maybe it's because our main character The Judge cannot find anything about them or the Faith. She cannot discover the beliefs and gospels held within and she cannot read the code inside the book of the Faith. The whole affair is shrouded in mystery, drawing everyone into its clutches. But our Judge, Dominique Carpentier does not give up. It is not in her nature to do so. But is what she finds in the end worth it? I will let you be "the Judge" and decide.
This I will say, as a whole, the book was a remarkable piece of fiction for which held me on to the bitter end. Although the book is told from a 3rd person omniscient point of view, The Judge is our main character and as a main character, I'd like to add myself as one of her adoring admirers. She is a tough cookie, always in control of what she wants. I think that it was probably her ability to look at most things with undeniable reason and without the drama of life intermixed that I loved.
She was not the only lovable character within the book, which made it an even more enjoyable read for me. The Composer was a lovely heated mess. Her assistant was so different from the norm that I could not help but adore her crass.
However, the French and German sentences thrown into the sentence mix really threw my reading and became annoying at times. I may be able to read French, but deciphering it is a whole other matter. And the German was even worse. There was also way too much description of things that were not important AT ALL to the story. How certain things looked and their position to The Judge was really just bothersome. It did not help to paint any specific portrait surrounding the plot except to confuse me with its excessive wording. Towards the end I began to skim over the extreme descriptions.
But, the story was still magnificent and disturbingly brilliant. Suicide cults have always intrigued me and caused my curiosity to flow like a hurricane. So, the book gets marked up for its excellent, gripping story and down for its excessive descriptions of the unimportant and its surplus of French and German (both languages I have nothing against).
4 out of 5 Butterflies