Variously entitled Dark Matter, The Theory of Everything, and Free Fall, Juli Zeh's novel is my contribution to the last letter in the half-year-long exercise that has been the crime-fiction alphabet. I read the book a couple of weeks ago as it is on the list of titles eligible for the International Dagger award this year.
Karen of Euro Crime recently wrote a post containing the UK and US covers and publisher blurbs of this novel, which are very different, and asked readers which they prefer. I prefer neither, not only because I find it intrinsically hard to agree with anything, but mainly because I felt neither blurb helps the book. The UK blurb gives away the first big plot development, never a good idea although ubiquitous in the industry. It is as if these blurb-writers think nobody will read or buy the book unless they give away something crucial, but in fact all it does to me is to induce tedium until I get to a point in the book that continues from where the blurb left off. The US blurb, on the other hand, makes the book sound intellectually challenging or even pretentious, which it isn't. Rather than quoting from either blurb here, therefore, I will provide the first paragraph of my review of the book, which is submitted to Euro Crime and will be out in full fairly soon:
DARK MATTER is a detective story with a physics theme. The
basic story is an apparently simple one. A happy family consisting of
Sebastian, a professor of physics at Freiburg University; Maike, his impossibly
beautiful wife who helps to run an art gallery; and their ten-year old son
Liam, temporarily separate during the summer holidays – Maike on a cycling
tour, Liam to scout camp, and Sebastian to spend time in solitude working on
his latest theories about the nature of time.
While Sebastian is driving Liam to the camp, however, a terrible event
occurs. Before he can properly react, Sebastian is sucked into a vortex of
terror and criminal activity, and the contented existence of the family is
The edition of the book I read is translated from the German superbly by Christine Lo.
The author studied international law and creative writing, worked with the United Nations in New York, and now lives in Brandenberg. She has won many awards for her writing.
Dark Matter was published in the UK in March, by Harvill Secker. Here are links to some reviews of the book (most of which contain more information than I would have wanted to know before I read it):