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Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton

3.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  786 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
In 1696, Christopher Ellis, a young, hot-tempered gentleman, is sent to the Tower of London, but not as a prisoner. A sudden twist of fate has led him there to assist the renowned scientist Sir Isaac Newton, who as Warden of the Royal Mint has accepted an appointment to hunt down counterfeiters who threaten to topple the shaky, war-weakened economy. Armed with Newton’s sup ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 28th 2003 by Broadway Books (first published 2002)
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
368th out of 1,278 books — 3,259 voters
Honesty in World War 2 by Chris-Jean ClarkeThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Last Kingdom by Bernard CornwellWolf Hall by Hilary MantelDissolution by C.J. Sansom
Historical novels set in England (written after 1950)
118th out of 166 books — 38 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,428)
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Diana Sandberg
Dec 03, 2009 Diana Sandberg rated it really liked it
Excellent. A fictional treatment of Sir Isaac Newton during his time at the Royal Mint, very well done, most engaging. Some differences of opinion about some of the events in Newton’s life – compared to the author of the biography I just read – but fine with me. In fact, I think this author's explanation of Newton's mysterious episode just prior to coming to London - mercury poisoning - was somewhat more plausible than the biographer's theory of disappointed love. The setting of this work is viv ...more
Dec 01, 2015 Isabel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
P. 82 - "Então é o efeito gravitacional da lua que causa as marés? (...) Newton assentiu. - E ficastes a saber tudo isto pela queda de uma maçã?
- Para falar a verdade, foi um figo - respondeu ele. - Mas não suporto o gosto dos figos ao passo que aprecio bastante maçãs.
Nunca pude tolerar a ideia de que foi um fruto que eu mais desprezo no mundo que me deu a ideia de como esse mundo se move."

Sir Isaac Newton e o seu assistente, Christopher Ellis, vêem-se a braços com complexa situação envolta em
Aug 09, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isaac Newton as Sherlock Holmes? Written by the author of the Bernie Gunther/Berlin Noir trilogy, which on the whole I liked? This seemed just the sort of thing for me, so in I jumped.

Well, it sounded a lot more fun than it proved in fact to be.

Which isn't to say that it's altogether a bad or boring book. It isn't. It's just not nearly so good as perhaps it might have been.

Although there are occasional genuine Newton quotes stuck into the dialogue (the small boy playing on the beach, for example
Alexandra Rolo
Oct 23, 2012 Alexandra Rolo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,41 bem gastos numa tarde de compras num Continente perto da Ericeira à muitos meses atrás...
Este livro é um thriller que nos deixa viciados e a querer mais à medida que se vai lendo. Aqui acompanhamos Isaac Newton (caso não se lembrem, é o tipo da maçã) e o seu ajudante Christopher Ellis na sua investigação de várias mortes ao mesmo tempo que tentam desocbrir quem está por trás das moedas falsas que andam a circular.
A história não é apressada e segue um rumo quase que natural. A única personag
Althea Ann
Mar 08, 2012 Althea Ann rated it liked it
If you are interested in finding a book to read with the goal of learning more about Isaac Newton... read another book. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a reasonably entertaining historical murder mystery - check this out.
The Newton we meet here is more Sherlock Holmes than, well, Newton. The story is told by his clerk, who happens to be a swashbuckling, pistol-toting rakehell. (Newton was aware that there were plots afoot, and that he might need some protection, you see.)
It's set at
Aug 17, 2012 Jon rated it it was ok
Isaac Newton...Detective! A historical mystery, accurate in just about every researchable detail, and according to the author's postscript, even more accurate than I had imagined. It has everything going for it that should have prejudiced me in its favor--set in 17th century London, much of it in the Tower of London, involving codes, cyphers, buried treasure, secrets of the Knights Templar, Arianism versus Trinitarianism and Huguenots versus Catholics, the new scientific outlook versus superstit ...more
Jan 04, 2008 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, mystery
Although it took me a while to get into this novel, I rather enjoyed it, for the most part.

I never really had any sense that this was Isaac Newton, other than the fact that other characters would refer to him as such, and occassionally make reference to one of his scientific theories. He was, however, an interesting "detective" for a crime novel. He seemed to be quite masterful at observation and with a pretty good sense of human character (despite being pretty terrible at social discourse), and
DARK MATTER (Amateur Sleuth-London-1600s) – Okay-
Kerr, Philip – 11th book
McArthur & Company, 2002- Paperback
Christopher Ellis has been hired and clerk and protector to Sir Issac Newton, now Warden of the Royal Mint. In their efforts to track down counterfeiters, they uncover murders, ciphers and a much more dangerous plot.
*** In spite of the length of the book, it did read quickly, probably because I did a lot of skimming. Kerr's detail of the period is fascinating and well researched, but t
Sep 07, 2008 Michel rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, eleole, hist-fic
A crucible of secret plots and horrid murders, counterfeiters and French spies, heresy and religious hatred, alchemy and secret knowledge, deceit and political ambition, science and codebreaking, against the meticulously reconstructed background of London, pre-1700.
A gordian knot beautifully untied by Newton (elementary, my dear Chritopher).
All this distilled by a master storyteller, who devotes his talent to character as well as plot: after reading this book, you will feel as if you knew all th
Sean Wylie
Jan 25, 2012 Sean Wylie rated it liked it
This is a fun book with some of the best dialogue I have enjoyed in a while. This is a fiction story where Issac Newton is the chief investigator fighting forgery for the British Mint during the great re-coining effort of the 1600s. Newton is portrayed in the model of Sherlock Holmes, a supremely observant person with a sharp mind for details. The narrator hold true as he is in the model of Watson, a brave companion constantly shocked by the revelations of his 'master'.

Only 3 stars because I th
Mark Nelson
Mar 23, 2015 Mark Nelson rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-literary
The day I finished this book I gave it 3 was enjoyable on several levels, had a good beat and you could dance to it. The next day I downgraded it to 2 stars...after mulling it over, I thought it had too much gratuitous sex, violence and unbelievable intrigue for who I could imagine Newton to really be. But now a week later I'm back to 3. Its stuck with me, and surprisingly for the insights into Newton's religious beliefs, as well as the historical details that did ring true which is w ...more
May 16, 2014 Joe rated it it was ok
Difficult to follow at times. Jumps around, involving recoinage, relationships and religion.
As several others have noted, this read more like a Holmes and Watson adventure, only with less character development or wit. I slogged through the first third, waiting for something to happen. Things briefly became lively and interesting, then nothing for another long while. There was potential here, but it wasn't developed. By the end of the book, I didn't care any more. The book just didn't work for me, although the historical tidbits scattered throughout the book were terrific. Evidence of o ...more
Sep 10, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it
We all know that Sir Isaac Newton was a genius, Cambridge professor, Priest, mathematician and scientist. But the Warden of the Mint in London? It's true that he served in this position during the last years of his life with Christopher Ellis as his assistant.

The novel jumps off from here with gruesome murders in the Tower where the Mint was located. "Sherlock" Newton uses his power of observation and intelligence to discover the plot to silence these men.

This was a fun read with period touches.
Oct 14, 2009 Mike rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Not the usual way we think of "SIN" (i.e. Sir Issac Newton). But, a bit fun to see a man whose intelligence and erudition laid many of the foundations of the modern world (at least in mathematics and physics, although Lebniz did simultaneously concieve of the calculus and we use his, not Newton's nomenclature today). But enough of that true history diversion!

Sit back and enjoy the ride as Sir Issac attempts to sleuth his way through a few murders and a state crisis or two.
Dick Gullickson
Oct 11, 2010 Dick Gullickson rated it really liked it
Set in London in 1696 when Isaac Newton, former Lucasian Prof of Math at Cambridge [note that this is the position that Steven Hawking occupied 300 years later], becomes Warden of the Mint in the Tower of London. An interesting historical mystery novel based upon the real events of Newton's life. Fascinating account of the conflicts between protestants and Catholics in England and France. Even throws in a bit of physics, alchemy, and cryptography. Worth reading.
Aug 01, 2012 Daniel rated it liked it
It's been a while since I've read this but I recall enjoying it - a dark murder mystery set in the Tower of London, mostly. Main cast was Sir Isaac Newton and his assistant - who played, essentially, Holmes and Watson in a shadowy game of mysteries and murders that somewhat reminded me of the grisly muders in The Name of the Rose. It was fun hanging with Sir Isaac, spending quality time with his superior intellect and tagging along as he deciphers riddles and saves England.
Interesting but not compelling. The story is centered around Isaac Newton's term as Warden of the Royal Mint. In 1696 he and his new clerk, Christopher Ellis, who narrates the story, become involved in a variety of conflicting and overlapping plots. There are plenty of people who want to get hold of the dies from the mint and make their own coins. There are a series of gruesome murders involving people involved with the Mint. There are signs that point to a possible connection to alchemy and a c ...more
Jul 31, 2011 Otak rated it liked it
enjoyable historical thriller from the time newton managed the royal mint. writen as 1st person narrative by newton's assistant, seemingly well-documented although casts the great man in rather a frienly light for someone responsible for a number of executions. touches on newton's unorthodox religious views which is iteresting and will probably make me dig around for some bography. the book would make a good movie, let's see how long before someone takes it up :)
Sep 27, 2015 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isaac Newton: crimefighter? Who would have known?

It all comes about because Newton was the warden of England's mint, and counterfeit specie has been found undermining the economy as England wars with France. Such actions could bring the whole country down. If there's not enough good money out there, how will the troops be paid?

Newton is in his fifties and enlists a younger helper, Mr. Ellis, as kind of a protege and bodyguard. And in the course of their investigations, they not only uncover the
Jul 21, 2010 Mark rated it liked it
This historical novel succeeds due to Philip Kerr's ability to immerse the reader fully into unfamiliar societies, cultures and times. Kerr has proven once again with Isaac Newton that he can provide a seemingly full account of what it must have been like to live, breathe and survive in times past. Dark Matter suffers only from being a bit of Holmes and Watson set a few centuries earlier.
Mar 16, 2009 Petra rated it liked it
A Victorian murder mystery with Isaac Newton and his assistant as the Detectives. The book is written very much in the style of The Name Of The Rose but not as long winded. The story revolves around a string of murders taking place in the Royal Mint. I enjoyed the book and found it to be easy reading.
Jun 14, 2011 Hasan rated it really liked it
Newton and his assistant at the British Mint, Christopher Ellis, work to solve crimes rather than physics equations one might expect from the book’s title. It is a well told story even if it has little insight into Newton. Dark Matter is more detective story than one would expect, but interesting enough.
Aug 09, 2013 Dan rated it liked it
A novel with murders, a secret code, an investigation and good period color. The plot is fairly straight forward although complex. Like Kerr's prior A Philosophical Investigation I enjoyed it, but it was a bit flat. The characters did not take fire, still I learned a lot.
Jul 16, 2015 Frank rated it really liked it
[library audiobook, plot summary elsewhere]

Seems like Kerr's books are read with a British accent, although this one is legitimately in Britain rather than Germany. The setting, the details about the Tower of London and the Mint were very strong, as well as the politics of England at the end of the 17th Century and the issues of religion. Newton's role at the Mint was interesting. Ultimately, the mystery adventure set against this backdrop was unsatisfying. I vacillated between a 4 and 3, eventu
Dark Matter is set in 1696 when Newton was the Warden of the Royal Mint at the Tower of London.

Christopher Ellis, the narrator of the book, is sent to the Tower to assist Newton to hunt down counterfeiters during the period of the Recoinage of the currency, when fake gold coins were being forged. This leads to the discovery in the Tower moat of the body of the former clerk of the Mint , followed by yet more murders. Newton at times seems remarkably like Sherlock Holmes in his powers of observati
Lissa Notreallywolf
Jun 19, 2011 Lissa Notreallywolf rated it liked it
Thankfully I didn't buy this book-- I "rented" it, based on the title it shares with a great PBS series about Isaac Newton. The novel is a mystery worthy of Doyle, but only if A. Conan Doyle was in detox. The setting is Newton's time at the Mint, definitely a cloak and dagger opportunity. But it allies Galileo with the martyred "scientist"; I believe this distinction belongs to Bruno, burned to a crisp. Newton's knighthood is the result of bartering his niece, Catherine Barton to Lord Halifax, r ...more
Rowland Bismark
Aug 02, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it liked it
Dark Matter is sub-titled: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton was a brilliant but odd fellow, and there's little enough known about his varied public life; a novel focussing on the private affairs of the man sounds like it might be good fun. Told by Christopher Ellis, who worked as an assistant to Newton at the Royal Mint (where Newton was Warden at the time most of this story takes place), Dark Matter unfortunately doesn't bother much with Newton's private life: the man remains a ciph ...more
Oct 02, 2007 Brooke rated it it was ok
I finished reading this book by Philip Kerr a little over a week ago. I picked it up because it was on the "if you liked the DaVinci Code" library book list. I was stranded in lower Queen Anne about a month back without any reading material, so I wasted an hour in Twice Sold Tales until I decided on this one.

At first, it was hard to get past the stylized 17th-century British writing style. Considering the book was written about four years ago, but was supposed to be written by the character of
Un des maîtres du thriller , Philip est renommé pour ces thrillers à saveur intellectuelle. Il se lance avec “Le chiffre de l’alchimiste” dans le polar historique. Un mariage mi figue mi raisin.

On suit Sir Isaac Newton, alors gardien de la Monnaie, un rôle qu’il avait cru honorifique à la poursuite de faux-monnayeurs, meurtriers et quelques dégénérés de service. Newton est accompagné d’un fidèle assistant, Christopher Ellis. Le scénario vous semble familier? Avec raison, même si Kerr a su intégr
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Kerr has published eleven novels under his full name and a children's series, Children of the Lamp, under the name P.B. Kerr.

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