Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge by Patricia Duncker

A collective suicide--or is it murder?--points to a strange sect, and the investigating judge sets out to find answers.

I never got entirely comfortable with The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge. I enjoyed the European settings (although occasionally there seemed to be too much of an effort to add local color) and the Dan Brown-like "mysterious sect" touches were interesting, but I was still unable to really get into the book's world.

I think this was for two reasons. The first was the timeline, which moved forwards rather jerkily. The novel starts with a murder scene that sets the action, then there's a backstory dump about two of the characters, then the main story jumps forward three months and there's a bit of backfilling about what happened in between. The jumps forward repeat themselves two or three times.

The second reason was the characters - I just couldn't get into them. The passion of the two men for the Judge just didn't seem convincing to me, and the Judge herself came across as a cold character, even when we were seeing her point of view. As for the Goth Greffière, what the heck? Maybe it's seeing her through American eyes (I'm British-born but I've been here a few years) but the Goth thing seemed like arrested development to me. In fact she came over as very childish altogether.

The whole thing was quite well written and it did have its points, but I just couldn't get excited about this book. I'm going for an "ambivalent" rating because it's one of those instances where I want to give the author another chance and might read her next offering.

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