Bardot’s Comet

Bardot’s Comet

Does nature, nurture, numerology … or a comet determine one’s fate?

BARDOT’S COMET is a literary crime novel set in Australia in a period of intense social and scientific change: 1966-1969. Amid the rise of feminism and sexual liberation, the Vietnam War, the lunar landing, the global debate on science versus religion, and the arrival of the Murchison meteorites, a father seeks to understand his daughter’s brutal murder.

Leonardo Bari changed his daughter’s name after her mother died, a month after her birth in 1924. This simple act haunts him as he questions its impact on her life. Does the occult art of numerology form an integral part of the cosmic plan for one’s life? Can changing a name alter one’s destiny? Or is Bardot’s Comet the bringer of doom and death? Is Destiny, God, Bardot’s Comet, or Leonardo himself ultimately responsible for Prudence’s fate: her murder?

Leon’s journal is an introspective, self-doubting, paternalistic account of his daughter’s life, career, and relationships. The father-daughter mathematicians are a contrast in personalities. Leon is sensitive and old-fashioned while Prudence is tough and progressive. Theories of fate, destiny, and the search for universal truth embrace the aged Italian migrant’s view of the pivotal three years of his daughter’s life. His daughter’s controversial views of mysticism and feminine science receive both adulation and criticism. Her prize science student, Innes Cartwright, denounces science for the priesthood.

Boyish in youth, asexual in adulthood; in her forties, Prudence is unmarried and childless, but at the peak of success as an internationally acclaimed professor of mathematics. Society questions her sexuality and her choice of career over motherhood. Leon questions his choice not to re-marry and his ability to raise a daughter alone.

Leon’s basic fear is that he will lose her to an unsuitable man and yet, at her age, it seems wrong for an Italian not to be married. With traditional concepts of love and marriage, he yearns for his daughter to marry Fabian Rossi, her debonair Italian manager. Prudence, however, invests her emotions in inaccessible relationships: a long-distance relationship with Michael McShane, the itinerant brooding Irish writer; a relationship with the reserved Oswald Danes, a farmer and childhood friend; and a flirtatious relationship with Cyril Silverman, a young, bi-sexual music lecturer and activist.

Fabian accompanies Prudence on a three-month promotional tour of Europe and America but this, to Leon’s frustration, seems to add tension to their relationship. Believing that Prudence wants commitment, Oswald proposes as man lands on the moon in 1969. She rejects his proposal. Prudence visits Michael’s home in England and he then follows her to Australia. Cyril increasingly distances himself from her as his gay lover, Darren, becomes violently jealous. As his jealousy spirals out of control, Darren is incarcerated for assault and subsequently suicides in prison.

On September 28, 1969, the thirty-fifth birthday of Brigitte Bardot, and the day a disintegrating comet crashes to Earth near Murchison in southwestern Australia, Professor Prudence Bari is brutally murdered. The Police Commissioner investigates the crime. After Leon’s natural death, he finds his journal and reads an account of the years leading to his daughter’s murder. To set the record straight, the Police Commissioner adds his commentaries to the journal, and the truth is revealed.

On 28 September 1969, the day a comet strikes southern Australia, Prudence is savagely murdered. Was her fate pre-destined? Was it a heinous hate crime; murdered out of anger, jealousy, or for her controversial ideologies? The Commissioner of Police seeks to find the truth while Leon seeks solace with an unlikely soul-mate.

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