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The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge: A Novel
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The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge: A Novel

2.87 of 5 stars 2.87  ·  rating details  ·  182 ratings  ·  62 reviews
The thrilling tale of a secret European sect and the musical mastermind at its center, from a critically acclaimed novelist at the top of her form.

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 A
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 6th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2010)
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What a difficult review to write....... this is a book I probably never would have picked up on my own, but since I won it on Goodreads, I was definitely going to read it. The story deals with a secret organization called The Faith - a group of whom commit a mass suicide on New Year's Eve. The main character is The Judge, Dominique Carpentier, who is investigating the case. Much of the mystery surrounds The Composer. At first, it was a little off-putting, referring to the characters as such, but ...more
An apparent mass suicide/murder in a snowy field by members of a secret cult. A missing gun. And a woman (the Judge) who is supposed to get to the bottom of it all with the help of the Commissaire. Sounds like a good mystery. And somewhere, mixed up in the middle of it all, the Composer, a musician and conductor.

I'm afraid it just didn't work for me. The mystery and the sect, the secrets involved, were not particularly compelling. There were too many unexplained non-English words and phrases and
I hated this. If I had not received this through LTER, it would have been one of perhaps a half dozen books (and I've read thousands) I failed to finish. Instead I persevered - all the while composing bad reviews in my head.

I'm tempted to say part of my dislike stems from expecting an escapist mystery and receiving a more literary novel. But the truth is if I had received a well-written literary novel instead of an escapist mystery I would have been thrilled.

The well-written part being key. I ha
Religious cults are pretty neato so I thought this would be right up my alley. It begins auspiciously - 16 people are found dead in the snow, children included, in what appears to be a mass suicide by members of a secret cult. Cool!

Buuut... then my interest in the story totally fell off from there. The police bring in the "Judge", Dominique Carpentier, renowned for her experience as a "sect hunter". It doesn't hurt that the Commissaire has a bit of a boner for her. They find a clue that leads th
This is probably really two stars, I'm being kind. Basically literary crime, and while initially the book makes it look like a good idea, it's not that long before it just doesn't do anything very well. I feel like Duncker had an idea for a story, wrote some of it, and where she should have then realised that the initial idea needed to be built on, that she didn't have enough plot or concept, she just kept on writing. There's not really a mystery here, and the Faith doesn't have any secrets. I u ...more
I really wanted to like this, but did not. It had a lot of potential - an ancient cult whose members suicide en masses semi-regularly, a French setting (Strasbourg), a female investigator renowned as a sect hunter. What's not to like? Sadly, the author is trying so hard to rise above genre into the realm of literary fiction that's it's painful to read.

In this case she throws all her pretensions against the wall, and they are many - multiple languages for random reasons, random quotes that don't
Chapter one had me hopeful that this was an actually good book. Hunters find a circle of bodies in the snow, evidence of a mysterious sect known as the Faith. It was a delightful first chapter, intriguingly well-painted, nearly five star level. But then the author introduced her main characters and they were just awful. I tried to like them, but as the book continued I grew increasingly disgusted toward just about everyone for stupid illogical actions, overly verbose & dramatic everything, a ...more
This novel would make a great movie. By which I don’t mean to imply that it falls short in any way as a novel, or even that its values are noticeably, let alone dominantly, cinematic. As always, Duncker’s style and concerns are literary. She luxuriates in language, and not just English (this text, at times distractingly, yields snatches of French, German and Latin), while her settings are so vivid, they function more like characters than exotic backdrops.

Mostly, I was too engrossed to imagine a
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Feb 01, 2012 Sara rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sara by: Tori
Shelves: 2012
A mass suicide on New Year's Day brings Dominique Carpentier ("the Judge") out to investigate alongside Commissaire Andre Schweigen. The pair had previously investigated a similar mass suicide and believe this to be the work of the same sect. The investigation leads them to a man known as "the Composer", Friedrich Grosz, who seems to be involved in the sect but his role in unclear, so the Judge continues to investigate while being drawn more and more into his life and charisma.

The book starts of
On New Year's day, the French police are called to the site of what appears to be a mass suicide . This case is eerily similar to a previous mass suicide that had taken place six years earlier in Switzerland, also involving some French citizens. Coincidentally one of the victims in this latest incident was the sister of one of victims in the earlier case. The chief investigators of the case, André Schweigen and Dominique Carpentiera, had also investigated the previous case but were stunted by th ...more
Jessica at Book Sake
At first I didn’t think my IQ was high enough to read this book. I really struggled with understanding the writing for the first few chapters. Eventually, I either got used to the writing or it dumbed down a little, because I was able to read and understand it easily enough.

All that being said, this book is definitely more then a simple ‘whodunit’ mystery. Actually as I got closer and closer to the final pages it seemed more of diatribe on philosophical matters then solving the dead bodies that
The philosophical discourse at the heart of The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge by Patricia Duncker is wrapped in just enough mystery to keep the reader pursuing the answers to the puzzling mass suicides committed by followers of an ecumenical religious order known as the Faith.

The story opens with the discovery of 16 bodies, adults and children, found by hunters in a field in France, the adults arranged in a semi-circle facing the east with the children at their feet. All but one ha


The book opens with three hunters looking down on a clearing on New Year’s Day. “Nine adults…stretched out upon their backs, settled into a sedate, reclining curve. Their elbows were bent back, their hands raised, palms facing upward….” At their feet, warmly dressed and swaddled, are the bodies of their children. Sixteen people dead, only one violently.

Commissaire Andre Schweigen is the police representative in charge of the investigation. Six years
Jen  (In the Closet With a Bibliophile)
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 fir ...more
I really wanted to like this book. The mystery sounded very interesting to me. (A mass suicide in Switzerland, but after a deeper look it may just be murder.) I never could get into it. It took me forever just to finish reading the book.

I didn't feel a bond with the characters that I often do when reading a story, and as a result I wasn't too interested in their outcome. While the majority of the book was written in English, there were French, German, and possibly other languages thrown in here
Bert Edens
Won this in a First Reads giveaway.

This really sounded promising, but it just didn't deliver. It started with a bang, literally, as a mass suicide was discovered with all but one dying of poisoning, and one of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There were even children involved, which really amped up my hopes for a nasty (in a good way) thriller.

But it never happened. I understand where the author was going with the relationships with the Judge and Composer and Investigator, etc., but after the st
I hated the book!

At first I had great problems understanding parts of the book. Most specialised literature I've come across so far is easier and more entertaining to read!

None of the characters is likeable. You keep on wondering what they are doing and why. Their actions are not plausible at all.

I don't even know why I bothered reading on until the end. Because the end ist worst. Nothing is explained, there is no real climax, just a really shitty ending.
JJ Marsh
There's an exciting premise, a fascinating cast of characters and rich range of locations. The author excels in delivering intriguing detail of locations and methods, personalities and cultural quirks. I enjoyed it, especially as the literary crime novel is probably my favourite genre. The cult at the heart of the plot is horribly magnetic and the way the The Judge gets drawn into the web is believable and hypnotic.
I found certain elements of the writing rather clunky, such as changes in perspe
Les Gehman
The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge: A Novel by Patricia Duncker is a wonderful European mystery involving a mysterious cult known only as the Faith. Judge Dominique Carpentier joins Commissaire Andre Schewigen in an investigation of the murder/suicide of sixteen cult members at a chateau in France.

Upon discovering a mysterious book written in an unknown language, the Judge turns the investigation towards the Composer who may or may not be involved. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and
On the surface, The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge is a mystery shrouded in a cult/sect known as 'The Faith'. However, the mystery aspects of the novel are pushed aside and this becomes much more a story of love and spirituality between the Judge and The Composer. My first impression of the novel was that the author focused too much on vivid descriptions and not enough on the plot. Upon further reflection, I think the author treated this novel more like a musical score, which is bril ...more
I won this on Goodreads and was hoping to write a positive review, but I can't. This novel focuses on a sect called The Faith. The Judge is the woman who is looking into them criminally and The Composer, a man possibly involved with the sect. The novel focuses mainly on these two characters...they are both fleshed out and written well, I just didn't really like either of them. The descriptive writing style was a little much for me and I was disappointed in the storyline by the ending.

I gave it 2
I had read Patricia Duncker's Miss Webster and Cherif and found it an understated exploration of culture with some wonderfully crafted characters. So, when I found a literary mystery written by the same author, I plunged in with great anticipation.

The first chapter did not disappoint. Bodies arranged in a celestial pattern, all dead from apparent suicides, except one shot by a missing gun. And then everything unravels in this book. The writing became stilted, the author could not decide what la
Folkert Wierda
I sort of liked the book. In the beginning you need to get used to the sometimes too detailed descriptions of weather phenomena, but later on the development of the main characters and of the main theme worked very well for me. Especially the super-romantic phenomenon of death idealization that is often connected to the Nazi-ideology, e.g. also investigated by Leon Uris in "Exodus" is well presented, with a strong connection to the mystical powers of the Muses, working even on rational human bei ...more
Potsdam Public
This writer is a true master of written English; polished, correct, expressive and powerful. But her characters don't ring true. I was bored and irritated halfway through. Didn't finish it. What a waste!
After reading the description of this book it seemed like it would be a good one. Perhaps I was expecting more, but I felt it barely qualified as a mystery and the book is not very deep. Story aside, a few things about the book bothered me. First, the author could not stick with a point of view (jumping from 1st to 3rd and back again within a paragraph). I also didn't like that French phrases were thrown in here and there without translation. I realize the characters are French, but if English i ...more
If someone had asked me to give a rating after the first half of the novel, it would have been 4 stars, but after I finished it I can only give it 2. Maybe I was a bit misled by the description of it. I thought to begin with that I read a crime novel - but it turned out I did not.

I loved the beginning - mystic, horrifying, sad and promising. I enjoyed the language, the french and european in it. The characters is ok - but no more.

I have no problems with religious or metaphysical mumbo jumbo in
Hazel Roberts
starts off well and then started to drag so I decided to cut my losses and return it to library unfinished
Mary (BookHounds)
This is not a book I would normally pick up to read on my own. When I did try it out and I found I couldn't put it down. It is a strange tale about the Judge (a little like the district attorney in the US) and a Composer (again, to me, in the US he would have been called a conductor). Once you get passed the little language issues and pull out your dictionary, the story is truly enjoyable. I found myself thinking about these characters long after I put the book down. I would love to read more ab ...more
Kathleen Wells
Read it for book club. Not bad at all.
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Patricia Duncker attended school in England and, after a period spent working in Germany, she read English at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She studied for a D.Phil. in English and German Romanticism at St Hugh's College, Oxford.

From 1993-2002, she taught Literature at the University of Aberystwyth, and from 2002-2006, has been Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, teachin
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