The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge

New Year’s Day, 2000. Hunters on their way home through a forest in the Jura stumble upon a half-circle of dead bodies lying in the freshly fallen snow. A nearby holiday chalet contains the debris of a seemingly ordinary Christmas: champagne, decorations, presents for the dead children. The hunters 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 Carpentier, is in charge of the investigation. Commissaire André Schweigen is waiting for her. They have encountered this suicide sect before. In the chalet they find a strange leather-bound book, written in mysterious code, containing maps of the stars. The book of The Faith leads them to the Composer, Friedrich Grosz, who is connected to every one of the dead. Surely he must be implicated in The Faith? And so the pursuit begins. Carpentier, Schweigen and the Judge’s idiosyncratic assistant Gaëlle, are drawn into a world of complex family ties, ancient cosmic beliefs and seductive, disturbing music. Carpentier, 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?

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



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First published in hardback by Bloomsbury, March 2010

Published in trade paperback by Bloomsbury, March 2011

Paperback and ebook issued by Bloomsbury July 2011


Shortlisted for The CWA Gold Dagger award 2010

Shortlisted for the Green Carnation Prize 2011


Read or download an extract from this book (pdf)

German Edition

Der Komponist Und Seine Richterin

Aus dem Englischen von Barbara Schaden.

Berlin Verlag 2010 (hardback edition)

Berlin Verlag 2011 (paperback edition)

Patricia Duncker author page at Berlin Verlag


Dutch Edition

De vreemde zaak van de componist en zijn rechter

Vertaald door Annemarie Lodewijk

The House of Books 2011