Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge” as Want to Read:
The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge

2.9  ·  Rating Details ·  228 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
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 Andr Schweigen knows who to call: Dominique Carpentier, the Judge, also known as the "sect hunter." Carpentier sweeps into the investigation in thick ...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published January 1st 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 30, 2010 Tori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
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
Nov 09, 2010 Nightowltoo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Mar 24, 2012 Leonie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2011 Caitlin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
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
Sergiu Pobereznic
I am truly sad because I really wanted to like this novel, but it fell short in my expectations. The expectation was based on reading the author's previous work "Hallucinating Foucoult", which I enjoyed and gave 4 stars – it didn't get the full 5 stars because the opening felt a little too long winded, that was all that marred the work. It was otherwise brilliant.

This time, the hard won 3 stars were given because I like the author and believe that she has good literary skill. But something went
Nov 30, 2014 Shane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2016 Saturnina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Awkward. Every sentence was pain from the beginning to the end. The tone was completely impersonal and passive, which made me not care one bit what happened. It was made worse by descriptions of totally random things which did nothing to contribute to the atmosphere of which there was none to begin with--maybe that was the problem. The characters' actions were not sufficiently justified, suddenly they just profess love for each other even though the other one is just constantly creepy and threat ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Jule rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
- Hörbuchrezension -
In Patricia Dunckers Kriminalroman „Der Komponist und seine Richterin“ versucht die französische Richterin Dominique Carpentier, die grausigen „Aufbrüche“, Massensuiziden von Sektenanhängern, aufzuklären.
Dominique Carpentier wird zu einem zweiten „Aufbruch“ gerufen. Traurige Bilanz: 9 tote Erwachsene und 7 tote Kinder. Bei ihren Ermittlungen trifft sie zunächst auf Friedrich Grosz, einen berühmten Komponisten, der mehr über die geheime Sekte, die „Der Glaube“ genannt wird, z
Aug 22, 2010 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 01, 2012 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2010 Jmm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2011 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


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
Sep 07, 2010 Kristi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, mystery
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
Aug 17, 2010 Bert Edens rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Feb 17, 2014 Kittynn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2010 Les Gehman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nicolene Smith
Jan 24, 2015 Nicolene Smith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thank heavens I bought this book at the charity shop for next to nothing, because I would have been extremely angry if I had paid a lot of money for it. Money I could have spent on an actual good book.

What a load of crap!

Firstly, do not write a book in English (which is already my second language) and then flood it with French sentences. If I wanted to read a French book, I would have bought one. Or German for that matter. (Even though German is my third language).

Secondly, I was rather excited
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
Ann Tonks
I coun't tell whether this was going to be a thriller, a cult story, a fantasy - and in the end I don't know the answer. I must have read it badly or too quickly but I don't know the murderes happended; I don't know why the Composer died. I ended up frustrated rather than rewarded.
Jul 26, 2012 Biogeek rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2016 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Unfortunately this was a potentially good book spoiled by unnecessary romantic subplots. All I wanted was an in-depth investigation into murder and mysterious cults and while there is some of this quite a substantial amount of the investigation is driven by desire and lust (not great police work).

Sadly this wasn't for me.
Folkert Wierda
Jun 21, 2016 Folkert Wierda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Proust's Overcoat: The True Story of One Man's Passion for All Things Proust
  • Heavy Metal Pulp: Pleasure Model (Netherworld, #1)
  • Midnight Fires (Mary Wollstonecraft, #1)
  • Il sole dei morenti
  • The Detective and The Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Pindar Diamond
  • The I Hate to Cook Book
  • The Mad Monk of Gidleigh (Knights Templar, #14)
  • The Angel of Blythe Hall: A Historical Novel
  • Relics (Faye Longchamp, #2)
  • Rasputin's Revenge
  • The Spy Game
  • Smoking Poppy
  • Everything
  • The Not-So-Great Depression: In which the economy crashes, my mom goes broke, my sister's plans are ruined, my dad grows vegetables, and I do not get a hamster
  • Beside the Sea
  • The Doublet Affair (Ursula Blanchard, #2)
  • Bon Courage: Rediscovering the Art of Living in the Heart of France
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
More about Patricia Duncker...

Share This Book