Apr 5, 2011


taken from THE TELEGRAPH 

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge by Patricia DunckerThe story of the Heaven’s Gate group, 39 of whose members killed themselves in California in 1997 in the belief that this would allow their souls to board an alien spaceship, is recommended reading for anybody who thinks that the premise of Patricia Duncker’s new novel is too outlandish. It concerns an outbreak of suicides among the Swiss members of a cult who worship an astral body in the constellation Auriga they call the Dark Host and believe to be a herald of the Apocalypse.

But there is a twist in Duncker’s tale. The cult members are not the usual saddos but Switzerland’s scientific and artistic elite, including its chief global- warming adviser and best-known television astronomer; to appreciate the effect this has, we have to imagine Nicholas Stern, Patrick Moore and the whole of the Royal Society jumping off the roof of the Greenwich Observatory.

The novel begins with the discovery in a forest in the Jura of the corpses of 16 people, arranged in a semicircle. André Schweigen, a petulant French cop, notes similarities to a mass suicide in Switzerland some years earlier and summons his colleague and lover, Dominique Carpentier, a judge known as “la chasseuse de sectes”, the cult hunter. She is a rational thinker who tracks down the ageing smoothies who set up bogus sects in order to fleece the gullible.  READ MORE....

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