Review: The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge

“The bodies were found early in the afternoon of New Year’s Day. “

The bodies are discovered in a forest in France, adults and children in pyjamas are laid out in a semi-circle. This is not a murder scene but the mass-suicide of members of a sect only known as the Faith. This ‘departure’ calls commissaire André Schweigen and judge Dominique Carpentier to the scene, and they have seen this kind of thing before in Switzerland. Schweigen is explosive, angry and in love; the judge values rationality above all else. But she is “la chasseuse de sectes”, and investigating the Faith leads her on a journey that will disturb her equilibrium.

The problem with the Faith is that its members are all part of the elite, scientific and artistic. They are all successful, intelligent and no-one would have expected them to be members of a sect, let alone a suicide cult. In the judge’s investigation everything leads back to the composer, Friedrich Grosz.

The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge is a mystery and even a thriller, but it is often metaphysical and slow-paced. Duncker focuses on philosophical questions, and the relationship between the composer and his judge, between passio et ratio is the core of this book. This novel is by no means boring, in fact it is rather tightly plotted, however you have to be interested in Duncker’s forays into the mystic, apocalyptic (the millennium looms large here) and occult.

This novel requires you to suspend your disbelief at times, but what you get in return is a contemplation on the genre, an intellectual game and the fine arts. It also reads best curled up with strong coffee and dark chocolate.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Library Loot: June 1-8

I might possibly gone a little mad and accumulated an insane number of library books in my place. But I love to have a lot of books to choose from and they make my room look much more cosy! And it’s not like the library has a limit, not that I’m aware of at least …

Here’s most of it:

Consuming Passion:Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain (Judith Flanders)

Still unhealthily fascinated with the consumer revolution of the 19th century.

The Island of the Colorblind (Oliver Sacks)

Everything Sacks writes about is fascinating and my library had the English edition of this one so I thought I’d give it a go.

The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire and Phosphorus (John Emsley)

I’m reading this at them moment and it’s fantastic so far. How could I have survived without in-depth knowledge about phosphorus? 😉

Rape: A History from 1860 to the Present Day (Joanna Bourke)

I’m so not reading that one on my commute, I’ve learned from the whole American Psycho thing. Anyway, this looks like a great if disturbing look. It’s focused on the rapists not the victims, but as she says in her introduction, that title would have gone over even less well.

Citizen Vince (Jess Walter)

Less than Zero had a great first half and so much potential, so I thought I’d see what else Walter has written.

The Fahrenheit Twins (Michael Faber)

A short story collection and my first ever Faber read. I’ve read two stories so far and they are deliciously creepy and unsettling.

Borges and the Eternal Orangutans (Luis Fernando Verissimo)

A detective story, an anti-detective story, a parody of a detective story, Borges as a kind of armchair detective, academic feuds and a Poe conference. I loved it!

Meierhoffs Verschwörung / O Opositor (Luis Fernando Verissimo)

Loved the other book so much, I got another Verissimo. I couldn’t find the title of the English translation, if it exists. The German title roughly translates as Meierhoff’s conspiracy.

Nervous Conditions (Tsitsi Dangarembga)

The book on postcolonialism and black women.

Comedy in a Minor Key (Hans Keilson)

Re-loot, Iris motivated me to read more Dutch lit.

The Doubtful Guest (Edward Gorey)

I love Gorey’s stuff, whatever that says about my sense of humor.

Detection Unlimited (Georgette Heyer)

Obligatory cosy mysteries!

Messenger of Truth (Jaqueline Winspear)

Still wrestling with the Maisie Dobbs series.

Rattling the Bones (Ann Granger)

A Fran Varady book, a series I hadn’t tried before, but Fran is very likeable and the mystery quite cosy.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (P.D. James)

HAve to give James a chance at some point, hope this one is a good introduction to her works.

 The Pumpkin Eater (Penelope Mortimer)

Can’t remember where I read about it, but it was on my tbr list.

The Matchmaker (Stella Gibbons)

Curious about her other works.

Tea with Mr. Rochester (Frances Tower)

Cosy, without the crime (I think).

The Tortoise and the Hare (Elizabeth Jenkins)

Praised by everyone it seems, hope I’ll enjoy it as well. Love the cover art!

To the North (Elizabeth Bowen)

Have been wanting to read Bowen for a while.

Mariana (Monica Dickens)

Reading this one at the moment, it’s nice so far.

The Blessing (Nancy Mitford)

One should always have a Mitford around 😉

Love’s Shadow (Ada Leverson)

Finally I get to try one of those Bloomsbury books!

What have you recently looted from the library?

Library Loot: February 2-8

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!


I’m an idiot, I looted a pile of books although I’m going home for the semester break on Sunday. But the weather has been grey and wet and stormy and I wanted a perfect cosy read for that but somehow my own books didn’t look as tempting last night. Also, my uni library has this system where you have to order books online and then they’ll unearth them for you from somewhere and you just have to pick them up. So yesterday I browsed the catalogue and hit order a bit too often, and when I picked up the books today I saw that I had also forgotten that I had ordered another book sometime this week, oops!

Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)

Seems like everyone’ read and loved this one, though I hadn’t ever heard of it before I started blogging. Cuppa tea and I’m curling up!

High Wages (Dorothy Whipple)

Persephone, though my edition is a Penguin, with the tiny print, some things never change 😉

Hand in Glove (Ngaio Marsh)

Obviously I had a craving for cosy books, and what could be more cosy than (golden age mystery) murder? ;P

Comedy in a Minor Key (Hans Keilson)

Saw this reviewed somewhere. A Dutch novella, I’m intrigued (also, I love that cover!).

Feminism: A Very Short Introduction (Margaret Walters)

Felt inspired by the Feminist Classics project, but haven’t had the time to read the books with anything like the concentration they deserve. So “very short” appealed to me.

The Theory of Absence: Subjectivity, Signification and Desire (Patrick Fuery)

I’m a nerd, or I would be if I hadn’t actually forgotten that I ordered this book.

About the voting (see previous post): I’m going to give you till Sunday, though the results look really interesting already! My tea’s ready and I’m going to curl up with the cosy books now.

What did you loot from the library this week?

Library Loot: June 9-15

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Has it been another week already?? Although I´ve been reading, I feel like my tbr pile hasn´t gotten smaller at all. When I look at my reading pace and my library looting, Sisyphus comes to mind.

Here´s this week´s loot:

Das Ikarus Mädchen/ The Icarus Girl (Helen Oyeyemi)

I´m sure Helen Oyeyemi needs no introduction, her works are very present in the blogosphere, and most reviews have been positive.

Bozo David Hurensohn/ The Man Who Came In From The Back of Beyond (Biyi Bandele-Thomas)

Bandele-Thomas is another Nigerian author. This novel was apparently written when he was only eighteen and is about modern Nigeria and also about a novel within a novel. I got Oyeyemi and Bandele-Thomas´ books for the Orbis Nigerian Mini Challenge which runs till the end of June.

The Raw Shark Texts (Steven Hall)

This is a thriller featuring a character with amnesia, and  The Literary Lollipop´s review of it convinced me to try it.

Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)

It´s an Atwood novel, it depicts a post-apocalyptic society, it´s bound to be good. I want to read it this year for Jennifer´s Canadian Authors Challenge.

Das Labyrinth der Wörter/ La tete en friche (Marie-Sabine Roger)

I´ve been eyeing this one for a while now, and it was finally not checked out from the library. It´s about a not too clever man who meets an old woman on a park bench and she begins to introduce him to books. I seem to be reading a lot of books that feature old women this year 🙂

Talking about Detective Fiction (P.D. James)

Perfect book for those who enjoy the detective genre, I´m hoping P.D. James will have a couple of good recommendations for a picky crime reader like me.

Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present (ed. Janet Badia and Jennifer Phegley)

I think I´ve seen this book on some blog but I really can´t remeber where exactly. Anyway, this looks like a fascinating read and I´m really beginning to like my university library.

The Surplus Woman: Unmarried in Imperial Germany, 1871-1918 (Catherine L. Dollard)

Ana made me want to read about surplus women, and I thought I should try to read about Germany, so I got this book, also from the uni library.

Have you read any of these books, what did you think? And what did you loot from the library this week?

Library Raid

Wednesday is my library day, and I can never resist checking out new books even though I haven´t read last week´s finds yet. These are all the books I have out at the moment:

Pop Co (Scarlett Thomas)

Strong Poison (Dorothy L. Sayers)

Carry On, Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse)

The Vesuvius Club (Mark Gatiss)

And Now You Can Go (Vendela Vida)

Man Walks Into a Room (Nicole Krauss)

Olive Knitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)

What Was Lost (Catherine O´Flynn)

The Night Watch (Sarah Waters)

I doubt that I´ll be able to read them all within the next 3 weeks but they look really good on my nightstand 🙂 I´ve finished The Night Watch and am currently reading What Was Lost. Any suggestions what to choose next?

I´m also really happy about the tv show shelf in my library, especially when there are actually some DVDs left other than Lindenstraße.  I got too many DVDs as well but it´s a great way to try out  new (to me) tv shows. I´m really into British shows at the moment (in case you can´t tell 😉 ). I don´t get why there are so many great British and American shows, but there are at the most two German shows I can stomach (oh and they´ve been cancelled for a while now).

The Royle Family

The League of Gentlemen- season 2

The Office- season 3

Spooks- season 3

Has anyone seen the shows? I mean I know The Office (how many versions are there now?), but I´ve never heard of the others before.

And should I make this post part of the Library Loot meme?