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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different take on the mystery/thriller genre
In "A Philosophical Investigation" Philip Kerr comes up with one of the most original premises I have ever encountered in the "thriller" genre. What if a killer philosophically justified his murders in advance, and what if modern science, on some level, supported those justifications?
I don't want to give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Kerr's Earth of the...
Published on June 14 2001 by J. N. Mohlman

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical
Book Review by C. Douglas Baker
London 2013. Genetic typing has allowed the British government to identify men with a predisposition to serial killing. Now, someone is going around murdering all the men on the list! Thus is the setting for Kerr's A Philosophical Investigation.
As a science fiction work, Kerr has painted a very believable future with a...
Published on July 7 2004 by C. Baker


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, but not Berline Noir, July 10 2010
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This review is from: A Philosophical Investigation (Paperback)
This is really not a very good novel from a normally very good author. The philosophical asides barely work toward the procedural solving of the crime, and manage to get only confuse issues, including the author. I would skip it and try one of his other crime novels, which are pretty good versions of Hammett or Chandler but in German from just before and just after WWII.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical, July 7 2004
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Book Review by C. Douglas Baker
London 2013. Genetic typing has allowed the British government to identify men with a predisposition to serial killing. Now, someone is going around murdering all the men on the list! Thus is the setting for Kerr's A Philosophical Investigation.
As a science fiction work, Kerr has painted a very believable future with a variety of insights on the day-to-day ramifications of modern technology. Gene typing allowing the government to identify potential serial killers could be used for nefarious purposes by an over zealous government. In this case Kerr avoids the "big brother" syndrome, instead showing that the existence of this information becomes dangerous, despite the government's humane intentions. An example of the everyday affect of new technology: a female detective gets a call in the middle of the night from a colleague, answering her picta-phone without thinking she inadvertently exposes herself and the caller makes a lecherous comment about her (...). Homosexuals now use a new, thicker condom less likely to break. Overuse of "reality approximation devices" (virtual reality), is likened to the overuse of LSD; many who overuse such devices begin to lose touch with reality. None of these tidbits are at all central to the story, but along with other small insights, build up a believable future environment.
Readers will recognize many of the developments in 2013 London, both technologically and socially. [NOTE THESE CULTURAL VIEWPOINTS BELOW ARE EXPRESSED BY CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK, THEY ARE NOT VIEWPOINT OF THIS REVIEWER.] Women continue to advance in social equality. Cynically Kerr depicts governmental organizations, such as police forces, as being forced to accept women equally. One British Minister is a black female but a former Olympic sprinter with good looks, which no doubt immensely helped her rise to this position. Again a pessimistic, although realistic, depiction of the social advancement of women. While the women may not always be looked upon as equals by their male colleagues, they continue to prove themselves the equal of men in most cases, and in some tasks they are deemed even better.
Unfortunately, as a mystery novel, A Philosophical Investigation does not come off as well. Kerr could have done much more to add to the suspense of the novel. The culprit is found out early on and the conclusion seems preordained from that point forward. The tracking and catching of the killer is mildly entertaining at times but for the most part is mundane.
The real strength of this book lies in its setting and the creation of a recognizable 2013. Kerr's understanding of the ramifications of technological advances allows him to depict the use of technology in a realistic, day-to-day fashion that is not common in the science fiction genre. The plot and story itself are less satisfying but there is enough of interest here to entertain the casual reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different take on the mystery/thriller genre, June 14 2001
By 
J. N. Mohlman (Barrington, RI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In "A Philosophical Investigation" Philip Kerr comes up with one of the most original premises I have ever encountered in the "thriller" genre. What if a killer philosophically justified his murders in advance, and what if modern science, on some level, supported those justifications?
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!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Did not like this one, Jan. 7 2014
By 
Toni Osborne "The Way I See It" (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Philosophical Investigation (Paperback)
Philip Kerr wrote this thriller in 1992 and has staged a futuristic vision to his most original idea. He has mixed cyber punkish techno language with a serial killer detective mystery and added strong philosophical, psychological and sociological terms for depth. One could say in those years this complex science fiction techno-thriller was highly thoughtful. Today’s reader will probably see the denouement with a deferent light and perspective.

The year is 2013, London has been chosen for a pilot project called “Lombraso”, the program is to identify and track male citizens who are genetically predisposed to be aggressively violent. The database has been an excellent tool to law enforcement. When a serial killer appears to be stalking and killing the individuals whose code names appears on the records. In this case, the killer’s code name is “Wittgenstein” named after the famous philosopher, his language and mind set both were highly influenced by the genius’ ideas….and were the root of most of his problems.

Detective Chief Inspector Isadora Jakowicz (Jake) is assigned to the case and the cat and mouse game begins…..and the inevitable showdown….. (I will spare you the many details).

The narrative unfolds from a dual perspective: Wittgenstein's, and the female police lieutenant, “Jake", assigned to catch him. Wittgenstein's portion is told from the first person as a diary of his assassinations and subsequent downfall; the detective's portion is told in a more traditional third-person perspective. Along the narrative are citations from works of Ludwig Wittgenstein and other philosophers. In my view, the frequent philosophical discussions were overplayed and for me this brain teasing game became a huge distraction. Unfortunately the plot mystery side was overshadowed by the weight of too many philosophical ideas and with this the story suffered and felt underdeveloped. This story may have been a fascinating one in 1992 but many years later it is just the run of the mill type.

With this said even if “A Philosophical Investigation” is far from being a favourite I am still one of Mr. Kerr’s biggest fans and will not hesitate to gradually read all of his books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written and Interesting., Oct. 20 2013
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This review is from: A Philosophical Investigation (Paperback)
An excellent unraveling of unresolved issues with our perception of justice; a great story that hides a resounding philosophy lesson.
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5.0 out of 5 stars metaphysical metamystery, April 1 2002
By 
Vince Leo (minneapolis, mn USA) - See all my reviews
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Solving the murder is the easy part of A Philosophical Investigation. FigurIng out which mystery Philip Kerr is actually trying to solve takes a little longer. Is it the brutal death of a woman or the metaphysics of reading?; a computer beak-in or the poetics of William Blake? Maybe Kerr's book is simply a complicated case of mistaken identity: an innovative treatise on moral philosophy disguised as a riveting feminist science-fiction detective novel.

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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too philosophical and lecturous, July 12 2001
The title shows the warning. If you look for a pure mistery or crime book, than this should not be your first choice. It is a nice plot, but with the two mixed stories, the flow of reading is always interrupted. For my personal taste also the philosophical/theoretical parts are too long and too lecturous. If I'm interested in philosophy, I will choose a philosophical book. Also the moralizing about the behaviour of men should not take this much room in the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing journey through a twisted mind, Dec 1 1999
This one is set a little ways into the future, about 20 years. A computer hacker in England breaks into a government file and discovers a list of persons inflicted with a rare brain disorder which identifies the individual as a potential serial killer. Imagine his shock when he discovers his name on the list. He takes it upon himself to track down these potential killers and... Well, that's all you'll get out of me. Don't miss this!
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4.0 out of 5 stars five stars for the concept, June 29 1999
By A Customer
It's the execution that received a paltry four stars. The idea is brilliant and disturbing: what are the logical consequences of discovering that a specific genetic trait, identifiable through mass testing of the population, correlates with (or causes) serial killing? Kerr imagines such a situation, and in this plausible near-future world one of the men with this trait decides to make a series of pre-emptive strikes on his cohorts.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Genuine real clever set charachters, gripping tale., Dec 28 1998
By A Customer
Genuine real clever set charachters, gripping tale, tasty philosophical backbone, aching and inevitable loneliness of the bad man, she hero is as real as alive, read it...
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A Philosophical Investigation
A Philosophical Investigation by Philip Kerr (Paperback - April 27 2010)
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