It was 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 Andre 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 Gaelle, 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 Lubeck, 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.
Patricia Duncker is the author of four previous novels: Hallucinating Foucault (winner of the Dillons First Fiction Award and the McKitterick Prize in 1996), The Deadly Space Between, James Miranda Barry and Miss Webster and Cherif (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2007). 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 on writing and contemporary literature, Writing on the Wall. She is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of Manchester.