The Strange Case Of The Composer And His Judge by Patricia Duncker. Book review

The Strange Case Of The Composer And His Judge by Patricia Duncker. Bloomsbury (2011) ‘7.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

It is worth remembering that the judicial system in other countries works differently from ours. In France, a judge is the one that collects the evidence, impartially, before a case comes to court.

This cerebral crime novel begins at the New Year of 2000 with the discovery of a semicircle of corpses lying in the snow. This looks like a mass suicide with children among the victims. Dominique Carpentier is a judge who has made a reputation investigating and prosecuting the leaders of sects who prey on the vulnerable. Her investigations of this cult take her back to her childhood village and the memories of her youth. The trail leads her to the charismatic German composer, Friedrich Grosz who quickly professes his love for her. Although she is portrayed initially as a cool analytical person she has a complicated love life, as a married colleague and occasional lover is besotted with her and is effectively stalking her under the guise of bringing her evidence to further the investigation.

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge is beautifully written but this kind of prose tends to be clinical, suppressing the emotions of the characters and the immediacy of the action. The portrayal of the French judicial system is probably very accurate; this is not a translation but is mostly written as if it were. The author is British but the characters are not. It is therefore rather disconcerting to have French speech being translated into English. It betrays a flaw in the author’s approach to her material. Since this was first published in 2010 the use of hindsight to predict events in the characters’ future comes over as a little too pat.

The Strange Case Of The Composer And His Judge by Patricia Duncker. Bloomsbury (2011) ‘7.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

It is worth remembering that the judicial system in other countries works differently from ours. In France, a judge is the one that collects the evidence, impartially, before a case comes to court.

This cerebral crime novel begins at the New Year of 2000 with the discovery of a semicircle of corpses lying in the snow. This looks like a mass suicide with children among the victims. Dominique Carpentier is a judge who has made a reputation investigating and prosecuting the leaders of sects who prey on the vulnerable. Her investigations of this cult take her back to her childhood village and the memories of her youth. The trail leads her to the charismatic German composer, Friedrich Grosz who quickly professes his love for her. Although she is portrayed initially as a cool analytical person she has a complicated love life, as a married colleague and occasional lover is besotted with her and is effectively stalking her under the guise of bringing her evidence to further the investigation.

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge is beautifully written but this kind of prose tends to be clinical, suppressing the emotions of the characters and the immediacy of the action. The portrayal of the French judicial system is probably very accurate; this is not a translation but is mostly written as if it were. The author is British but the characters are not. It is therefore rather disconcerting to have French speech being translated into English. It betrays a flaw in the author’s approach to her material. Since this was first published in 2010 the use of hindsight to predict events in the characters’ future comes over as a little too pat.