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Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton | [Philip Kerr]

Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton

Skillfully weaving history with mystery, Philip Kerr sets this thrilling story in the 1696 Tower of London, where Sir Isaac Newton, warden of the Royal Mint (a post he actually held), and his apprentice Christopher Ellis (also a real person) track down a counterfeiting ring and, as the body count increases, a murderer. "An illuminating, often crackling exploration into the mysteries of science, mathematics, religion, and human nature," raves Booklist in a starred review.
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Publisher's Summary

In 1696, young Christopher Ellis is sent to the Tower of London, but not as a prisoner. Though Ellis is notoriously hotheaded and was caught fighting an illegal duel, he arrives at the Tower as assistant to the renowned scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Newton has accepted an appointment from the King of England and Parliament to investigate and prosecute counterfeiters whose false coins threaten to bring down the shaky, war-weakened economy. Ellis may lack Newton's scholarly mind, but he is quick with a pistol and proves himself to be an invaluable sidekick and devoted apprentice to Newton.

While Newton and Ellis investigate a counterfeiting ring, they come upon a mysterious coded message on the body of a man killed in the Lion Tower. Despite Newton's formidable intellect, he is unable to decipher the cryptic message or any of the others he and Ellis find as the body count increases within the Tower complex. As they are drawn into a wild pursuit of the counterfeiters that takes them from the madhouse of Bedlam to the squalid confines of Newgate prison and back to the Tower itself, Newton and Ellis discover that the counterfeiting is only a small part of a larger, more dangerous plot, one that threatens much more than the collapse of the economy.

©2002 Philip Kerr; (P)2002 Books On Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"An illuminating, often crackling exploration into the mysteries of science, mathematics, religion, and human nature." (Booklist, Starred Review)
"The ever-versatile Kerr...weaves a rich tapestry of interesting characters and period details. Highly recommended." (Library Journal)
"A most gripping and well-appointed entertainment." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (138 )
5 star
 (35)
4 star
 (48)
3 star
 (35)
2 star
 (12)
1 star
 (8)
Overall
4.0 (50 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (48 )
5 star
 (26)
4 star
 (17)
3 star
 (2)
2 star
 (1)
1 star
 (2)
Performance
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  •  
    Jim OxfordUnited Kingdom 07-21-04
    Jim OxfordUnited Kingdom 07-21-04 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A cracking Yarn not a biography!"

    Previous people reviewing this seemed to have wanted to learn more about Sir Issac Newton. This is a FICTIONAL account of Newton's time at the tower mint, hence not the place to learn the whys and where fors of Newton's life. What you do get is a lively, detailed and enjoyable piece of mystery fiction, with believable well thought out characters and an engaging sense of the period in which it is set (including the coarse language and occasional bawdy sex). I initially feared the author was shoe-horning newton into a sherlock Holmes persona, but this quickly passed and the CHARACTER took on his own shape. If this is not what you want then there are several good biographies in print at the moment, which will save you having to seperate plot device from fact.

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Greg Cherry Valley, US, Canada 03-02-04
    Greg Cherry Valley, US, Canada 03-02-04 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "A great rival to Sherlock Holmes"

    Fascinating development of the story line. A book that was hard to turn off. Excellent narrator - one of the most talented I've heard.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nan Buckingham, VA, United States 10-02-03
    Nan Buckingham, VA, United States 10-02-03 Member Since 2001

    I am a commercial artist working in my studio in central Virginia. Audible keeps me company and extends my painting hours.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    112
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    "A most enjoyable experience!"

    I confess that historical fiction has always appealed to me, and "Dark Matter" brought the character of Sir Issac Newton to life.
    My knowledge of the period was scant, so I belive I learned quite a bit from the author's account of the politics of the day. Using the device of the clerk to tell the story made it possible to inject humor and romance into the life of a serious intellectual who had little of either. Without the ill-fated liason between Miss Barton and her "Tom", and the adventures of Mr.Ellis as he went about his master's bidding, the tale might have become incredibly tiresome. This is, of course, not a book for everyone.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carl801 Madison, Alabama United States 08-21-09
    carl801 Madison, Alabama United States 08-21-09 Member Since 2004

    Old soldier

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Newton Noire"

    I listened to this novel for two reasons: First, I thoroughly enjoyed Kerr's stories about Bernie Gunther, the Sam Spade of Nazi Germany. And second, John Lee has to be my favorite narrator. His performance here is pitch perfect.

    The title "Dark Matter" was well chosen. But beware: this is detective noire set in 17th century London. If you're looking to understand the historical Isaac Newton, look elsewhere. Kerr's Newton seems altogether more modern in may ways than is my understanding of the man.

    That said, I like a murder myster with a twist. And that's what you get here.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig Williamsport, MD, United States 07-01-10
    Craig Williamsport, MD, United States 07-01-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    48
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    "It's fiction!"

    This is not a book to read if you want to learn anything in depth about Newton,although there are points of his persona which are accurate enough. That said, it is a great story. Kerr keeps the action going while filling in the characters as he goes. The feel of the late 17th-early 18th centuries is palpable. Kerr's Newton is no Holmes, nor is he intended to be, but the same subtle arrogance is a part of the character. The historical references, people, and situations all add to a well told tale. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is possible, but it's fiction! A good listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    richard/sharon great falls, va, United States 10-20-11
    richard/sharon great falls, va, United States 10-20-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unusal plot device."

    I enjoyed this book's premise. Dealing with the true story of Sir Isaac Newton's role as the head of the Royal Mint- Mr. Kerr wove Newton's religious, political and scientific persona into an interesting mystery plot accompanied by a diverting young side kick named Ellis. There are many truths in this novel but it is fiction. I found the sexual scenes mostly amusing and thought they probably fit in with the crude backsteet London of that time. 3 stars are for the ending which went on too long for my taste. It should have been wrapped up at least 2 chapters earlier. Love Philip Kerr. Read Bernie Gunther books. Love, love John Lee - He is good at everything he does (audibly that is).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Abigail arlington, VA, United States 03-06-11
    Abigail arlington, VA, United States 03-06-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not his best but not bad"

    I don't mind the artistic license Kerr takes with Newton (who reads almost exactly like Sherlock Holmes) but the novel comes off a bit unpolished. I just feel there's something lacking. The attempts to use accurate language are sometimes impressive and other times seem forced and ludicrous making for an unwieldy read at times. The endless theological debates wore on and quite got on my nerves after a while. I am generally interested in warring theological perspectives throughout history but Kerr goes on and on with all the pedantry of Sherlock Holmes. I don't care about Newton's supposed Arianism. Maybe it is just that the book seems long after a rather early climax. It isn't a bad read but it could use some editing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Britton, MI, USA 08-09-09
    Chris Britton, MI, USA 08-09-09 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This review continued on disk 4..."

    Would have been 4 stars for excellent narration of a pretty good story, but the CD instructions and repeated lines were distracting...this is the first time I have run into this on Audible.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Mt. Pleasant, SC, United States 09-22-03
    Robert Mt. Pleasant, SC, United States 09-22-03 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Could not finish"

    I could not even finish this one, it would not hold my interest. I found my mind wandering and forgetting where the story line was while driving. I am sorry I wasted a credit on it.

    20 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MickeyMarie Narnia 08-17-12
    MickeyMarie Narnia 08-17-12 Member Since 2003

    I read so I can write

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellant Historical Fiction"

    Kerr has done a good job of historical research and combined it with talented story writing. The addition of stunning narration by John Lee makes the book very enjoyable.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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