The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge is the first Patricia Duncker book I have read, though I do have another novel and a book of short stories somewhere in the stacks, and I got a hold of this one via the good offices of the very nice people at Bloomsbury ages ago. So something I meant to read and review a while back but the Curse of the Slump took hold, and here we are months and months later finally getting around to reading it.
So, it’s New Year’s Day 2000 and hunters in the Jura region of France find bodies lying in the snow, the result of what appears to be a mass suicide by a cult, not the first time this particular group, The Faith, has done something like this. The investigating judge, Dominique Carpentier, a specialist in religious sects both real and fake, is determined to get to the bottom of this though in some ways, apart from the tragic deaths of the children, it isn’t clear whether any crime has been committed. In pursuing this, Dominique comes across the composer Friedrich Grosz who knows more than he at first lets on. And a battle of wills gets underway.
I absolutely fell in love with Dominique, a woman of intellect and strong convictions, and at first it seems strange when she falls under the spell of Grosz, but he is also a fascinating and powerful character and I could absolutely see why she might be drawn to him.
This is a hugely enjoyable and clever (in the right way) novel which I found difficult to put down. The sense of place is very strong, especially when we are on Dominique’s home turf, and the mixture of religious belief, astronomy and music is very seductive. I wished the ending had been different but it absolutely made sense.
Beautifully written and very enjoyable, I’ve been recommending it to the Book God and Silvery Dude and frankly anyone else who will listen to see what they might think of it. No takers as yet, though.
For another perspective on this book you should visit Paul Magr’s blog where he talks through his reaction.