New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
Book reviews >

Who is the hunter, who the hunted?

Peter Anthony enjoys a study in ambiguity on many levels

The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge
Patricia Duncker
Bloomsbury £11.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.80

IT TAKES a while to work out what sort of novel this is. At first it feels like not much more than a slightly higher-brow Dan Brown spin-off. Soon, however, it becomes clear that it is a much more sophisticated literary offering than that.

The plot revolves around Domin­ique Carpentier, a French investigat­ing judge who specialises in fraud committed by secretive cults. Called to the crime scene of a mass suicide, she discovers a book containing hidden codes and astrological secrets, clearly the sacred text of a sect called “the Faith”. Involved is an enigmatic composer, Friedrich Grosz, a mesmerising, diabolical figure clearly at the centre of the mystery. Dominique must work out what this sinister group is, and pre­vent the next collective suicide.

This is not just a racy airport detective novel. It turns out to be a study in ambiguity on many levels. The reader’s starts off in sympathy with Dominique, intelligent, ten­acious representative of the law. But, as the narrative progresses, we in­creasingly see the flaws in her char­acter: her workaholic, emotion­ally wrung-out attitude to life; her heart­less attitude to men, whom she exploits and manipulates through casual sex.

In contrast, Grosz’s insistence on life and beauty beyond the here and now seems more and more seductive. Dominique finds herself falling under the spell of the man she is investigating, as roles are reversed and the plot reaches its denoue­ment.

It is an engaging read, and my only slight disappointment was the reasonably predictable, and some­what pedestrian, ending. One is left wondering whether the whole idea of detective novels centred on apoca­lyptic cults and conspiracies doesn’t feel just a bit old hat in a post-Dan Brown world. A good yarn, none the less.

The Revd Peter Anthony is Junior Dean at St Stephen’s House, Oxford.

Order this book through CT Bookshop

Job of the week


West Midlands

WORCESTER COLLEGE CHAPLAIN Worcester College, Oxford Salary up to £25,327 per annum + benefits As Chaplain, you will join a large and diverse community of many faiths and none and you will m...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

Singing through the tide of change

Singing through the tide of change

This month, the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland celebrates its 80th birthday. Gordon Giles looks back  Subscribe to read more

Top comment

Obstacles in the way of neighbourly welcome

Sarah Teather draws on the Bible for a forgotten insight into the blessing that can come from accepting refugees  Subscribe to read more

Thu 27 Oct 16 @ 17:19
Clowning glory Clowns are having a bad press but they represent an ancient & holy tradition, Pat Ashworth finds

Thu 27 Oct 16 @ 15:50
RT @deansouthwarkSo sad to here the news of Andrew Wakefield's death. Here he is recently getting his Hon Doctorate. May he rest in…