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A Philosophical Investigation: A Novel Paperback – April 27, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Semantics, epistemology and serial murder share center stage in this imaginative but unconvincing near-future thriller. The year is 2013, and European researchers have discovered a physiological basis for violent criminal tendencies in men. The Lombroso program in Britain screens possible subjects and maintains a database of those diagnosed with the condition, as aids to law enforcement--serial killings have become terrifyingly common. When a previously law-abiding pharmacist is diagnosed as "VDM-negative" (potentially dangerous), he breaks into the program's computer system, removes his name from the records and begins systematically assassinating other men on the list. In London, Chief Inspector Isadora "Jake" Jakowicz takes on the case and begins a philosophical cat-and-mouse game with the killer, code-named Wittgenstein. Kerr ( A German Requiem ) interpolates passages from the murderer's journals into the third-person narrative, along with citations from the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein and other philosophers. But the cliches and improbabilities of the plot are not camouflaged by their outlandish context, as Kerr overplays his most original ideas, delivering the details of his futuristic vision in a distracting gee-whiz manner. The frequent philosophical discussions, as they are drawn out, become less convincing and more ostentatious.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
When the English government mandates genetic testing for predisposition to violence in the early 21st century, it also creates an elaborate computer network to store the results. But when a computer expert with just such a violent predisposition breaks into the carefully-guarded data, he decides to protect the rest of society by killing off others on the list.
Enter Inspector "Jake" Jakowicz, a tough, smart cop who must use all her powers of intuition to track the sociopath who wants to draw her into a chilling dialogue about the nature of life itself.
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Top Customer Reviews
I would have liked to see a deeper engagement with the philosophical ramifications of this. There is plenty of philosophy here, but it's relatively shallow (perhaps inevitable in a novel that has no pretensions of being a treatise). My largest complaint is that there's doubt even at the end whether the perpetrator is in fact completely sane. This dulls the impact of the self-fulfilling prophecy (tell an otherwise law-abiding man he's genetically predisposed to serial homicide, and what do you think he's going to go out and do?), and also of the moral problem. The narrator of Walker Percy's "Lancelot" is a fascist, but at least he doesn't think he's his own pseudonym. (Incidentally, this is perhaps the least plausible part of the novel: upon being diagnosed, the soon-to-be killer is given by the government the alias "Wittgenstein," a philosopher with whom he has so much in common, and with whom he identifies himself so closely, that he may become delusional, at times thinking he is in some way Ludwig Wittgenstein. What are the odds of him getting that one name out of all the possible aliases? Please.) The novel would have been much stronger, and its message much more disturbing, had only the killer been clearly sane. Then the contrast between the retribution-minded government and the prevention-minded killer would have been more interesting. Then the reader would have to take seriously the killer's conclusions drawn from premises of existentialism and utilitarianism. Kerr leaves a way out for the reader ("the man's crazy!") that he shouldn't have allowed.