New Year's Day, 2000. Hunters on their way home through a forest in the Jura stumble across as half-circle of dead bodies lying in the snow. They are questioned and sent away. As they descend the mountain, a large dark car rises past them in the gloom. The woman within barely acknowledges their presence.
The Judge, Dominique Carpenter, is in charge of the investigation. She and the Commissaire Andre Schweigen, have encountered this suicide sect before. They are searching for clues when they find a strange leather-bound book containing maps of the stars. The book of the Faith leads them to the Composer, Freidrich Grosz, who is connected to every one of the dead. And so the pursuit begins. Carpenter and Schweigen are drawn into a world of complex family ties, ancient beliefs and seductive, disturbing music. The Judge, known as the sect hunter, prides herself on her ability to expose frauds and charlatans. She also likes to win. Has she met her match in the Composer?
This books starts with the shocking event of the New Year's Eve suicide. The investigation then builds up slowly and the book is extremely atmospheric. Patricia Duncker explores the world of sects, the kinds of people involved in them and the reasons that ultimately lead them to give up their lives. The Judge is a very complex character, her whole career is based upon her beliefs; the book of the Faith and the Composer come along and challenge everything that she thought she was so sure of.
I enjoyed the story and I particularly liked how the author moves location many times in the book. The Judge often finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings and circumstances which often lead her to make judgements and decisions that she may not normally have done. I found the use of French in the book quite irritating, I just thought that it was unnecessary to have the French immediately followed by the English translation.
The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge is indeed strange. The events and characters in the book are out of the ordinary and the reader is drawn in the Composer's intense and secretive world. If you are looking for a good mystery with a bit of clout behind it then you should give this one a go.
Thank you to the lovely people at Bloomsbury for sending me this book to review.