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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 alternate Paperback edition.
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
Ostensibly about a meta-serial killer (a serial killer who kills potential serial killers) in the London of 2013, A Philosophical Investigation is composed of two distinct narratives. One is the blow-by-blow account of investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Isadora "Jake" Jakowicz. Abused by her father and harassed by her superiors, DCI Jakowicz is fighting Western Civilization's newest epidemic-"hollywood-style, recreational murders," media-generated, purposeless, ritualistic acts of male violence against women.
The second narrative is composed of diary entries by the serial-killer, codenamed "Wittgenstein" (the famous philosopher whose last work is titled-what else?-Philosophical Investigations). Part computer hacker, part dedicated public servant, part philosopher, "Wittgenstein" routinely gets his kicks by raping, killing, and mutilating computer generated images of women on his "Reality Approximation" machine in the virtual reality/privacy of his own apartment/mind. The problems begin when he decides to become a real world vigilante.
The alternating narratives also create a weird montage of current scientific and philosophical positions. Between the two of them, Jackowicz and Wittgenstein cover everything from the sexual symbolism of the brain to the mystical power of common names. By the time the narratives actually intersect, Kerr has shaken up most of our common assumptions about everything from free will to media manipulation, gender relations, political correctness, and the biology of morality.
Despite the "wonders" of universal DNA coding, holographic interfaces, and satellite phones, A Philosophical Investigation is more concerned with cross-examining the present than with escaping to the future. For Kerr that means coming up with a way to remain human in the face of vast systems of social tyranny and technological control. Through it all, Kerr remains optimistic. The low-key heroism and complex moral vision of DI Jakowicz will come as a great relief to anyone who appreciates the difficulty of doing the right thing in a world gone bad.
In an ultra violent society of the future which has become so denatured as to exclude compassion, Paul Esterhazy is a killer with a head for logic and a mind for Wittgenstein. He has a rare genetic disposition which makes him a likely candidate for mass murder. By hacking into a government computer he manages to find a list of other potential killers. He then sets about exterminating them.
In an effort to contain Esterhazy, Chief Inspector Jackowicz must try and capture him to limit the damage. However, under pressure from the Home Office an attempt is made to use Esterhazy's philosophy against him, i.e. force him to take his own life. Ironically it is left to C.I. Jackowicz to save Esterhazy from himself - but can she do it.
This book engages the reader by firstly spinning a carefull web of Esterhazys mind and then finally ensnaring the reader within it. The best thing about this book is that an entire 'mindspell' becomes apparent and, despite its title, no prior knowledge of philosophy is needed.
On a personal note, this book inspired me to write a screenplay based upon it. However, I appear to have been beaten to the rights - still, I can't wait for the movie!
I don't want to give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Kerr's Earth of the 2020's is a dystopia in the classic tradition. On the surface, everything is OK, as technology has made work easier and play more intense. At the same time, though, the technology has subtly stolen the freedom of the indivdual and blurred the lines between right and wrong. As a result, the villain lives in a world where a logical moral argument can be made for the murder of society's undesirables. Is murder wrong if it removes potentially dangerous (genetically identified) people from society?
"A Philosophical Investigation" succeeds as a futuristic thriller without any literary pretensions. The characters are deep and well drawn, and the future England is realistic. However, it is those "literary pretensions", that set this novel apart and that will leave you thinking. Enjoy!