A scholarly dispute over the nature of the universe erupts in kidnapping and murder in this gripping, high-toned philosophical thriller.
Ever since they were in school together, studying physics under the tutelage of the improbably nicknamed Little Red Riding Hood, Sebastian and Oskar have held fundamentally different views of the world. Oskar, now a big-shot physicist in Geneva who preaches the single-answer theory that holds that things are as they are and not otherwise, is chasing the Nobel Prize through his labors to unite quantum physics with the general theory of relativity. Sebastian, an experimental nanotechnologist at the University of Freiburg, is a proponent of the Many-Worlds Interpretation in which the Big Bang engendered countless parallel universes where things can both be and not be the case at the same time. When Sebastian married Maike, an artists' agent and gallery owner, Oskar made no secret of his verdict that Sebastian was settling for a consolation prize. Now that their son Liam is ten years old, he sneers that everything on earth that matters to Sebastian bears his surname. The day after Sebastian accepts Oskar's challenge to debate their positions on a live TV program broadcast from Mainz, he's driving Liam to camp when his car disappears with his sleeping son inside. By the time the empty car is returned, Sebastian has received a ransom demand that names a horrific price. Even after he complies with the kidnappers' demand and feels that the catastrophe has passed, his life enters a precipitous free fall that tangles his fate with that of dour murder-squad detective Rita Skura and her old mentor, Detective Chief Superintendent Schilf, who's teetering on the edge of death and love.
Though genre purists will find Zeh's (Eagles and Angels, 2003) bold use of coincidence nothing short of monstrous, readers who can surrender to her radical rewriting of the rules of detective fiction and the physical universe will find it revelatory.