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

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

by Patricia Duncker

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Overview

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 André Schweigen knows who to call: Dominique Carpentier, the Judge, also known as the "sect hunter." Carpentier sweeps into the investigation in thick glasses and red gloves, and together the Commissaire and the Judge begin searching for clues in a nearby chalet. Among the decorations and unwrapped presents of a seemingly ordinary holiday, they find a leather-bound book, filled with mysterious code, containing maps of the stars. The book of the Faith leads them to the Composer, Friedrich Grosz, who is connected in some way to every one of the dead. Following his trail, Carpentier, Schweigen, and the Judge's assistant, Gaëlle, are drawn into a world of complex family ties, seductive music, and ancient cosmic beliefs.

Hurtling breathlessly through the vineyards of Southern France to the gabled houses of Lübeck, Germany, through cathedrals, opera houses, museums, and the cobbled streets of an Alpine village, this ferocious new novel is a metaphysical mystery of astonishing verve and power.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608192878
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication date: 10/25/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Patricia Duncker is the author of the novels Hallucinating Foucault (winner of the Dillons First Fiction Award and the McKitterick Prize), The Deadly Space Between, and The Doctor, as well as collections of short stories and essays. Her
work has been shortlisted for the Macmillan Silver Pen Award and the
Commonwealth Writer's Prize. She is Professor of Contemporary Literature
at the University of Manchester.
Patricia Duncker is the author of five previous novels: Hallucinating Foucault (winner of the Dillons First Fiction Award and the McKitterick Prize in 1996), The Deadly Space Between, James Miranda Barry, Miss Webster and Chérif (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2007) and The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge (shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger award for Best Crime Novel of the Year in 2010). She has written two books of short fiction, Monsieur Shoushana's Lemon Trees (shortlisted for the Macmillan Silver Pen Award in 1997) and Seven Tales of Sex and Death, and a collection of essays, Writing on the Wall. Patricia Duncker is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of Manchester.

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The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge 2.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
sjmccreary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like many excellent books, this one has an interesting premise but a slow start. However, rather than gradually picking up steam and becoming more and more intriguing, as the excellent books do, this book slowly ground to a complete standstill. I only made it to the middle and so can't comment on any that happened in the second half, but from reading the other reviews posted here it seems that I haven't missed anything worth reading. In the beginning, I was excited about the setting in the French mountains in winter, and the discovery of a grisly scene containing several bodies arranged in a circle laying on the ground in the snow. All appearantly dead of suicide except one. All belonging to the same strange cult. The investigator in charge of the case has absolutely no personality whatsoever. He calls in the "judge" (or had her forced upon him, I can't remember and don't want to go look it up) who is to direct the investigation. (I was never clear just what her function was. It wasn't really explained. Maybe it's a French thing. I'm not French, but neither is the author, so I'm not sure.) She seems to be quite knowledgable about things and has some familiarity about a similar case in another place. So her inquiries follow-up on the other case, leading the two of them to travel to several different places where they engage in a very not-romantic affair and where they meet people who know her but it wasn't explained how or why.I had hoped that when we finally got around to meeting the composer that things would pick up. But he is just as dull as the police investigator, at least to the point where I quit reading. And I was afraid that the judge was going to sleep with him, too, and that thought just turned my stomach.Others have commented on the language and the lack of character development, and I agree with those comments. There are also several comments about the book starting out as one thing and transforming into something else. That is also true. None of those shortcomings is necessarily fatal for me. But this combination of them turned out to be more than I could bear. My apologies to the ER program staff and the publisher for not holding up my end of the bargain in failing to complete the book. But it really isn't a book I could recommend to anyone else in good conscience.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It used to be that a good mystery was a good mystery and literary fiction and it's attendant awards were another world. Then authors like John Banville and Kate Atkinson wrote mystery novels and a new creature was born; the literary mystery. Of course, they've always existed. What else is Crime and Punishment or Murder in the Rue Morgue or any number of classics with a hint of suspense or crime? There have always been mysteries that had something out of the ordinary to say, or told the story in a different way, but now marketing's on to them and the possibilities of additional sales to book clubs or the promise of the publicity of awards. As someone who loves a good mystery and relies on the shortlists provided by various awards to find new authors doing interesting things, I'm a likely target for the literary mystery label. It sucks me in every time. The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge begins in a very promising way. A group of bodies are discovered by hunters in the snow. They've arranged themselves in a semi-circle, with their dead children at their feet, all poisoned except for the central figure who was shot, the weapon nowhere to be found. A French commissaire and a judge who specializes in hunting down cults are called out. There had been a similar incident in Switzerland, but the authorities there had hushed it up, but this murder/suicide happened in France and Schweigen, the cop, and Carpentier, the judge, are determined to bring the guilty to justice.This was a solid beginning, with characters who could be complex and interesting and a story that could be exciting and involved. All that potential is wasted, however. Schweigen is a direct descendant of Larry, Curly or Moe, only without the nuance. He messes up every interrogation he takes part in and reacts to everything without regard for appropriate behavioral norms. Carpentier is absolutely perfect. She's stunningly beautiful, charismatic, intelligent, tiny and every character in this book falls madly in love with her, from her administrative assistant, to the commissaire, to the people she investigates for murder. It's boring. At one point it's mentioned that she doesn't like music and I grasped this as the sole indication that the judge was human. Of course, she then is then moved to tears by Wagner. The writing is also problematic. No one walks or drinks; instead they ooze and guzzle. The judge, we are often reminded, is wee. Everyone she speaks with looms or towers or bends over her. The simpler verbs are ignored. Here is a discussion in a kitchen:He bulged into the entire space between the freezer and the door, like the gigantic symbol of the Macrocosm. She found herself smiling back at his candour and impertinence. The Judge knew, she always knew, when a man was lying; she had a nose for perjury, and this man was made of truth.Oh, and that intriguing beginning? We only ever learn anything about one of the dead bodies. The rest are forgotten. As is the plot. At the very end things are tied up briefly and in passing.
booksfordeb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not your ordinary mystery so be aware of that fact. It is a literary novel disguised as a mystery. It is full of philosophical exploration and the ramifications on society. I enjoyed the story and found it interesting and flowing. While some people did not enjoy the writing style, I did not have a problem with it. I picked up the book and read through it very quickly. It moves quickly and then slows down and then picks up again. The movement between some events is a little jarring but not overly so. I found the idea of exploring cults/sects that leave people dead very interesting and see this as a topic that is very relevant today.
woodsathome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 have seldom encountered prose so stilted. It almost reads like a bad translation, as if English was not the author's first language. I think it is in reality a case of the author trying too hard. Open any random page and you will find tortured sentences like these:From page 178 "And although her confidence in her own intuition remained absolute, she needed to draw a hard circle around her morsel of gleaned knowledge."Or from page 179 "The Judge sent a message back to Gaelle via Reception and sallied forth into the fiery summer streets, where the leaves hung limp in the airless swirl of traffic, and spillage from the fountains evaporated at once upon the burning stones."The whole novel is like this - thick, overly descriptive prose taking precedence over plot and character development.The lack of character development being particularly annoying. Characters fall madly, obsessively in love with each other mere moments after meeting. Consider Andre, a dedicated Commissaire with a wife and young child who falls in love during his first meeting with the Judge based seemingly on her smile - "The smile, full of humour and affection, doomed to be Schweigen's undoing, ensured that from then onwards his every third thought was dedicated to the black-haired, dark-eyed Judge, whose ruthless efficiency, terrifying discipline and legendary self-control drove her colleagues to drink." He precedes to spend the rest of the novel doing little more than emailing her and calling her. She despite the fact they are working a case (and that she is sleeping with him) routinely ignores him.Then there is the Composer who after two meetings (which are basically interrogations) also falls madly in love with the Judge, declaring his undying devotion to the Judge and asking her to take over guardianship of his goddaughter should anything happen to him.The Judge after four meetings and four letters falls madly in love with the Composer. Agreeing to said guardianship, handing over vital evidence, and seriously considering marrying the Composer and leading his cult.
drneutron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge is a rather strange little mystery by Patricia Duncker. What started out as a intriguing idea didn't live up to that promise in execution. Almost nothing happens, the pace is slow to the point of plodding, and the characters just aren't that interesting. Worst of all for me, the author kept throwing in bits of French into the dialog in (I think) an attempt to add color. Instead it came of as confusing on one hand - are these characters speaking French, German, or what? - and pretentious on the other. Either way, it didn't work for me at all. It's unlikely that I'll recommend this to others.
Oryan685 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had very high expectations for this book. I was absolutely delighted and intrigued when I received it in the mail as an ARC, so much so that I immediately put down the other two books that I was reading and devoted myself to it wholeheartedly. At first I was pleased. The writing style is beautiful while still being precise and succinct, not overly flowerly but still really descriptive. There is a smattering of French and some German throughout the book which I have heard people complain about but which I found charming and I felt it added much to the realism of the setting. The main character, Madame Le Juge, was great. She is spunky, intelligent, very compelling and fun to read about. All of the characters were really well developed and I was following their stories intently and I was excited about how the case was playing out and I couldn't wait for the Judge to discover the truth about this cult that she was pursuing. Then it ended with a completely unsatisfying ending where the characters all did very uncharacteristic things and absolutely no questions were answered satisfactorily. So, in the end, what could have been a really great mystery just sort of got left with some very weak conclusions. I was very disappointed, and in the end I am not sure that the ride was great enough to justify the final destination.
lpg3d on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 am hoping that the author produces more books based around Judge Carpentier.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 spent too much time trying to figure them out, wondering if I was missing part of the story. The characters never came to life for me, and from what I knew of them, I didn't particularly like them or care about them. The love interests seemed cold and unrealistic. The writing was occasionally too flowery for the story.Wagner always comes home to roost. There is a method that underwrites his power: complicate, prevaricate, withhold. Let the water's seepage through the dam become palpable, visible, viscous to the touch. Then unleash all that has been promised and desired in a mighty flood. Deliver the goods.Like Wagnerian opera, the book was unrealistic, overblown, and sometimes boring. And like Wagner, this book will probably have many fans. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. Give me Verdi over Wagner any day. For me, this book didn't deliver the goods.This book was provided to me by the publisher.
MurderMysteryMayhem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not a mystery. It starts out as one, as hunters stumble upon the site of what appears to be a mass suicide by poison, in the woods of France. The dead include adults and children who have just walked away from their holiday celebration to lie in a perfect semi circle, on the frozen ground in the snow, and die. But one among the sixteen has not died by their own hand.This is not a suspense. It continues slowly, weaving in and out of the life of Dominique Carpentiera, the Judge assigned to investigate illegal cults on French soil. Money, coded books, star maps, a charismatic composer and his orchestra are the clues the Judge follows as she struggles to deal with the legal and philosophical questions of faith.What is this? It is an enigma wrapped in music shrouded in an ancient belief.
dksthomson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh my gosh! I am trudging through this book and only about 2/3 of the way through. Since I'm doing this for early review, I'm feeling guilty that I haven't finished by now. Can you like and loathe a book? The beginning gave promise of a great mystery to be solved, but all I'm getting is the picture of an overly self-loving woman with two men who become obsessed with her at first meeting. Also, you could put this book on your bookshelf and retitle it, 'The Book of $2 Words.' Overkill on the descriptive prose! Maybe when I finish (I will finish), I can come back and add something more positive. Where's Hercule Poirot when you need him? He would have already had this case wrapped up :)
JechtShot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 brilliant considering the subject matter. The words were lyrical, the crescendos built the tension and the decrescendos serves as a break from the action. Everything flowed in a very orchestral fashion. I am uncertain at this time if I loved or just liked this novel, but it was certainly worth the read.
taramatchi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an intriguing mystery. The little mystery is a cult or sect called "The Faith." It kind of reminded me of the cult that committed suicide in San Diego a while ago, but the cult in the book, took their kids with them (which was more shocking).There is a bit of a side story with the relationship of Judge and the Police Commissioner. A strange attraction that leads him to want to continue his inquiries just to be near her. It is not so much of a love story, more of a stalker quality to it. The Composer is the most interesting character of the book. He has such presence that I (as the reader) wanted to know more.It was not face paced, but it had a nice rhythm and kept me engaged. Not light reading though. It is a book that will keep you thinking after you finish, I know I have not been able to stop thinking about "The Faith."
highvoltagegrrl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 littered the beginning pages.Reaching the final page left me confused. I wasn¿t confused about the murder case. I was confused on whether I liked the book or not. Actually I am still asking myself that question. Before I answer that question, I have to ask `what kind of book do you want to read?¿ I think it works great as a piece of literary fiction. However if you are looking for a mystery book, which I was, it is missing some of the excitement and suspense of the genre.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 the Swiss police's lack of cooperation. It quickly becomes clear that there is a method and reasoning behind these mass suicides. Another disturbing fact that emerges is that all the victims are far from fringe members of society and all held high ranking jobs and places in society. Also interesting is the fact that at each site, one of the victims was shot. Through their investigation, they come up with a chief suspect, Friedrich Grosz, a very talented composer who is friends with both of the aforementioned victims. Questions swirl around Grosz and what, if any, is his involvement with these deaths. I really enjoyed the first part of the book and there is something about the author's style that I really like. But somewhere along the way, the story became a bit too tiresome and bogged down with details. Dominique goes from a woman who I liked to one that I just did not understand at all. Here was a brilliant woman, very well educated and many of her actions just did not make sense. That she is having an on/off affair with Schweigen is an established fact but then out of nowhere she is falling in love with the composer. It was very weird and and I could not really understand the sense behind it. The whole thing tries to become a love triangle between Dominique, Andre and the composer. That the composer was sometime of a dynamic character is a fact but he was also a boor with a violent temper and a forceful manner that bordered on the invasive. I just did not buy that a woman as intelligent as her would allow herself to become emotionally embroiled in such a situation and with her prime suspect. Unfortunately, the book ended up as a bit of a disappointment as it never lived up to the promise that it initially promised. By the time it is resolved, I did not care who had done what or why.
sunqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found parts of this book extremely interesting and fast paced, but others slowed down to a crawl, going more into a side trip about the Faith philosophy. I think the uneveness hurt the story overall.
goose114 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 'The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge' we follow a French Judge who works on religious sects and cults. The Judge is trying to figure out the sect behind two murder suicide incidences. In both situations people are arranged in a semi-circle and poisoned. One person in the middle is shot. This is nothing like the Judge has seen before and searches for this unknown religion. During her search she is lead to a composer who seems to know much more about this religion that has been dubbed the Faith. The Judge becomes entangled with the composer who is close friends with a family from her home town. As the Judge gets closer to uncovering the truth about the Faith she becomes closer to the composer and to the potentially dangerous outcomes of this religion.I really enjoyed this book. The characters were original and intriguing. I wanted to learn more about the Judge, but the little glimpses into her past were just enough to expose personal aspects of her character. The story of wonderfully weaved together and kept the reader interested. The beginning of the story was fast paced and I was unable to put it down. In the middle the case slowed and was not as fast passed. The interactions between the characters really kept the story moving and interesting. However, the end of the book picked up again as the Judge became more involved with the Faith. Anyone who enjoys a mystery and a story about complex characters will like this book.
amachiski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really struggled with understanding the writing in this book. I felt like I was reading a very flowery philosophy book rather than a mystery. There were too many foreign languages that were not translated and it left me very unwilling to devote more time to this book. The first chapter started off very interesting but as it went on it was missing excitement and suspense (wasn¿t it labeled a mystery??) which led me to eventually put it back on the shelf unfinished, something I very rarely do!
wandering_star on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dominique Carpentier is a judge, known as "la chasseuse des sectes": a hunter-down of those who defraud and beguile the gullible out of their money or their lives. Her hyper-rational nature makes her well-suited for the task. But there are some things which rationality can't explain: love, music, and above all faith. The Composer (with whom she comes into contact in the course of one of her investigations) may just represent all three. And so the Judge finds her rationality tested...I loved the writing in this, and the way it teased out ideas of rationality and its opposite, about truth and lies. Of course, even at the beginning the Judge's rationality is not as pure as she thinks it is: she is not immune to love or friendships, and is passionate about her work. "Reason is neither gentle nor kind, and the Judge believed in Reason with as intemperate a commitment to her own credo as any of the secret initiates who had given their hearts to the suicide Faith."I am a big fan of Patricia Duncker, but her last novel, Miss Webster and Cherif, didn't quite hang together for me. This, fortunately, is a great return to form. It feels more mainstream than some of her early work (eg it doesn't play around quite so much with notions of gender) - I personally miss that, but perhaps it will mean that this can be her breakthrough success.Sample: The Judge crouched in her seat, baffled by the action and the incoherence of the music. Yet everything unrolled according to her prejudiced expectations: forbidden love, desperate conflicts of loyalty and trust, she loves this one but has to marry that one, who is this one's lord and master. So far, so predictable. But the music unsettled her nerves; a monolith of sound, oddly broken and discordant. Each theme she picked out modulated, mutated, dissolved and escaped, so that she could never keep hold of the threads. The Judge confronted a structure, which resembled the barrage in the mountains above Montpellier, a giant man-made dam behind which the waters mounted, pressed. She could hear the danger rising, rising. And so two conflicting emotions bubbled within her: anger and irritation at being forced to listen to something that she neither liked nor understood, and hypnotised fascination. Her gaze flickered across the rapt and concentrated audience: another sect, another sect.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 necessarily fit the characters quoting them, dashes of what appear to be vaguely understood Post-Modern philosophy. Sadly everyone of them sort of hangs there on the wall like congealed oatmeal (and just as appealing). It was so excruciating that I stopped reading it on BART about one-third of the way home and stared out the window so I wouldn't have to keep trying - this is an unusual event and speaks volumes about how much I just couldn't get through this one.
sarah-e on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am left with mixed feelings about this book. It didn't deliver what I expected, but I didn't dislike it. Some elements of the story were distracting, while others were enjoyable.The first few chapters were quite compelling, as were the last two or three, but the long middle section dragged out what could have been accomplished more succinctly. Perhaps I don't appreciate the nuance of the story, but I felt it lacked the charm and urgency I typically seek in a mystery. I appreciate that the story is more literary than straight genre fiction, but I would argue that the main character's transformation is still too subtle for the length of the book - so this doesn't totally work for me as either a piece of literary fiction or as a mystery.The highest compliment I can give this book is that the situations and characters are unique, and not at all predictable. If you're interested in religious cults and foreign mystery, I recommend this book.
merideth1775 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As many other reviewers have stated, I will reiterate that this was a well written book despite its many faults. The characters were difficult to relate to, and the book seemed to fall between categories- neither mystery nor suspense. I was interesting merely for its difference and unusual qualities that forced me to keep reading, intrigued just enough to follow it through to the end.
NatalieSW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found the style artificial and the characters unconvincing.
adpaton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Most of us remember the Doomsday cults of the 1990s and this cover blurb will attract anyone fascinated by the Branch Dravidians or the Heaven¿s Gate crowd: a group of hunters come across of semi-circle of corpses laid out neatly in snowy mountains, members of a mysterious suicide cult. The cultists belong to a sect known only as The Faith, and parallels with the Order of the Solar Temple are obvious, even down to the leader being a musician, the Western European setting and the astronomical connections. The book has a promising premise, a confusing beginning, and from then its all downhill as the reader flounders in Duncker¿s prose, as densely unreadable as a pedantic mid-Victorian translation ¿ suffocating, but with moments of brilliance. And oh Goodness, why og why does everyone fall in love with the insufferably smug Judge? men and women, young and old, are inexplicably drawn to her!
macabr More than 1 year ago
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 earlier, the same scene had been set in Switzerland, the difference being that in Switzerland the body count was much higher. There sixty-nine people had been found in the semi-circle, one killed violently. Schweigen sends for Dominique Carpentier, the investigative judge known as the "sect hunter". They had been called to Switzerland because some of the people who had participated in "the departure" had been French citizens but the Swiss had not wanted to proceed with an investigation, so Dominique and Andre had been left with questions and no way in which to get answers. Now, with the crime on French soil, they can pursue the case and make the connections between the two events. In Switzerland, sixty-eight people had died by poisoning, one had been shot in the head. In France, fifteen had died by poisoning, one had been shot in the head. No gun was found at either scene. Someone had watched people die and then ended the life of one. In Switzerland, the last to die was Anton Laval. In France, the last to die was Marie-Cecile Laval, his sister, and Dominique's best friend from childhood. Dominique's reputation was built on her determination and her success in ferreting out pseudo-religious sects that prey on the desperate, the lonely, the religious, and the rich. As the authorities examine the house in which the newly dead had been living, there are signs of celebration: Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, gifts, and the things associated with the mid-night celebration of the New Year. Yet, just after that moment, nine adults had willingly died and had taken their children with them. As Andre and Dominique search through the house, they find a book, old judging by the paper on which is printed, written in a strange language, like Hebrew, but not a language anyone recognizes. There are prayers and poems and a celestial map. Astronomy has been a part of many religions through time and the "Faith" seems to incorporate elements of the monotheistic religions and some incantations of the Egyptians as well. The book is clearly one of a kind and the name of the owner is written in very small script,not meant to be easily seen. The book belongs to Friedrich Grosz, the world famous composer and conductor. The investigation leads Dominique back to her childhood and the time spent at Domain Laval, a winery of some distinction. It also leads her to Grosz, a larger than life character of formidable charisma. Andre is in love with Dominique, his partner in a long relationship, and, soon, Grosz will be his rival for the love of the judge who is drawn to the Composer but unsettled by his intensity. THE STRANGE CASE OF THE COMPOSER AND HIS JUDGE has been described as a "metaphysical mystery". Dominique's job as a judge in the French legal system is not to weigh evidence but to find it so it can be passed on to those who decide who is pros