Rousseau's Ghost

A Novel

By Terence Ball

Subjects: Fiction
Paperback : 9780791439340, 216 pages, September 1999
Hardcover : 9780791439333, 216 pages, September 1998

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Set primarily in Paris and Oxford, this fast-paced mystery novel links a long-missing manuscript from a famous eighteenth-century philosopher with a dark secret to a late twentieth-century murder of a prominent Princeton professor.


A long-missing manuscript from a famous eighteenth-century philosopher with a dark secret, the late twentieth-century murder in Paris of a prominent Princeton professor—and the connection between the two—form the core of this fast-paced mystery novel. Set primarily in Paris and Oxford, Rousseau's Ghost weaves a riveting tale of scholarly intrigue and murder.

An urgent but cryptic request from Professor Ted Porter summons his old friend and former Rhodes Scholar Jack Davis to Paris. Once there Jack finds his friend dead, apparently electrocuted by a faulty laptop computer. The Parisian police rule the death an accident and close the case. But Jack well knew his friend's deep aversion to modern technology, and to computers in particular, and believes the computer was not Ted's and his death no accident.

Unable to convince the police, Jack begins his own investigation, aided by Danielle, a beautiful young French woman who claims to have been Ted's research assistant and sometime lover. Sifting through Ted's notes and an unfinished manuscript titled Rousseau's Ghost, he finds a mysterious entry: "Inst Pol??!!" Not knowing what this might mean, he travels to Oxford to see his old tutor, who surmises that Ted's shorthand query refers to the Institutions Politiques, a manuscript on which Rousseau worked in the 1750s but later abandoned and burned, except for the small section we now know as the Social Contract. Could the rest of the manuscript have survived? Could Ted have found it? If so, was he murdered for his discovery? Could Jack and Danielle be next?

Terence Ball is Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University. He is the author of many books including most recently Reappraising Political Theory; coauthor of Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal; and coeditor of Thomas Jefferson: Political Writings. He is also the editor of the SUNY Press book Idioms of Inquiry: Critique and Renewal in Political Science.


"Synthesizing echoes of Poe and state-of-the-art Internet issues, an unlikely plot achieves a tone of lucid, camp humanity in the fiction debut of political scientist Ball (Reappraising Political Theory). . ..the novel has a winning integrity. " — Publishers Weekly