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Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton

3.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 5 hours and 54 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Abridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 6 Dec. 2002
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002SQD7MC

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Jan. 2003
Format: Hardcover
A mystery which should keep even the most jaded reader intrigued and involved, Dark Matter begins like a typical Sherlock Holmes mystery, with Sir Isaac Newton interviewing Christopher Ellis to work as his assistant as Warden of the Royal Mint, and deducing all manner of personal information from clues he notices on Ellis's person.
But here the similarities end. The murders which Newton and Ellis soon investigate are part of a much broader picture of intrigue than anything in the Sherlock Holmes series, here involving the recoinage of England's silver and gold, battles against smugglers and counterfeiters, the enmity and warfare between England and France, the continuing hatred between Catholics and Protestants in both countries, the missing treasure of the Knights Templar, and alchemy, astronomy, scientific study, and even the ciphers developed a hundred years earlier by Rene Descartes.
Newton remains throughout the novel as a somewhat mysterious character, formal, scholarly, honest, and industrious, but personally remote, even from his niece, with whom he lives. Ellis, on the other hand, quickly engages the reader with his innate charm and physicality--he's an ebullient 20-year-old, as much at home in bars and brothels as he is in the lab or the Mint.
As this surprisingly compatible team investigates several grotesquely staged murders, while battling the political status quo at the Tower of London, where the Mint is located, the reader is taken on a wide-ranging and colorful tour of the city from its royal houses to its bawdy houses, its churches to its opium dens, and its bookshops to its prisons.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is historical fact that Sir Isaac Newton held senior positions at the royal mint from the late 1690s, and with his assistant Christopher Ellis he was involved in detecting and prosecuting numerous offences during a turbulent period in which Britain replaced its money.

Philip Kerr has taken this Newton and his assistant, and turned them into Holmes and Watson, placing them at the centre of a serious intrigue involving financial crimes, political battles and religious atrocities.

It's a brilliant period piece which explains a great deal I didn't understand about Restoration Europe. Like his other historical novels Kerr has also carefully used the language of the time, writing in a style reminiscent of Newton's contemporaries such as Pepys, but always readily understandable.

Some of the period detail is quite gruesome, and can be little uncomfortable. This is not a book for the young or seriously squeamish. However the content is appropriate given the quite dark nature of the story.

I haven't enjoyed all of Kerr's more recent works. For example "The Shot", which was a similar kind of period piece, was just too complicated. I have no such complaints about "Dark Matter" - a brilliant historical thriller.
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By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
Someone recommended Philip Kerr to me for his Bernie Gunther series set in Berlin, which I have yet to read, but based on my enjoyment of this, a standalone novel about Sir Isaac Newton and his time at the Royal Mint, I shall be reading a lot more of Kerr.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable, historical thriller, well researched, well written and full of wonderful twists, turns and macabre little touches that keep you guessing right up until the end. Set in the reign of William of Orange it deals with Newton's appointment to the mint during the recoinage of the monetary system. Initially about the forging of golden sovereigns the plot soon thickens to involve religious controversy, political unrest and alchemy. Set within the bounds of the Tower of London this is a story rich in fascinating historical detail, folklore, mythology and what can probably be called, local colour.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I honestly don't really know what to think of this book. One would say that it has all the necessary ingredients of a great read: an original premise in Isaac Newton (who really did work for the Royal Mint) stumbling on a plot of counterfeiters with links to alchemy, Huguenots, and even the Templars. The tale is told by his assistant Christopher Ellis 30 years later after Newton has died.

And yet, and yet... somehow this story never really gripped me as I expected it to. Is it because of the language? Maybe so, because I found it to be written almost as if it wasn't only about Newton but also BY Newton, with everything described in a very detached, almost scientific way which doesn't help to get one involved in the story.

So however eagerly I read the book (somehow always expecting it to start living up to my expectations) I finished it with mixed feelings (because it never really did).
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Format: Hardcover
"Dark Matter", by Philip Kerr is primarily based upon the person of Sir Isaac Newton, and includes moments with the likes of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Pepys, and Christopher Ellis, all of who lived during late 17th Century London. The book is well written and if the final twenty pages were representative of the entire book, it would have been brilliant.
Sir Newton is hardly a historical enigma, so why Mr. Kerr chose to portray him as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous character Sherlock Holmes is not only a mystery, it makes little sense. For the Sir Newton of this historical novel bears little resemblance to the Newton that history has recorded and many biographers have documented. And Christopher Wallis bears even less resemblance to the famous Dr. Watson. The novel did not need to lean so heavily upon these other characters to work, and I have no idea why an author of Kerr's talent decided to use them.
The background players that give the story its excellent ending are The Knights Templar, and I kept hoping they would play a larger role in the book, for they essentially were the consummation at the book's close. For when the book collects itself and defines itself, it is Christianity and the faith that upholds it that are the real story in this novel. The Knights were a fascinating historical group and they deserved more prominence in the tale.
I enjoyed the book but only to a point as I have read biographies of Sir Newton. Kerr's portrayal is so far from the historical personage that it was hard to forget who the real man was, and accept this version of Newton as super sleuth. Newton was a brilliant detective of matters scientific; portraying him as a 17th Century Holmes was too derivative and unworthy of the stature of Sir Newton.
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