a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Moment of Madness (2002)
Una-Mary Parker

When her father, a brilliant but somewhat twisted mathematical statistician, dies unexpectedly, a woman is forced by his will to distribute valuable jewels to all of the women with whom he has cheated on her mother. In the process, she learns much about her father and herself.

At the beginning, the father's mathematical genius and the daughter's opinion of this are nicely summed up in this description:

(quoted from Moment of Madness)

Professor Miles Scott-Forbes's entry in Who's Who was impressive. Born in 1927, the only son of Colin and Mary Scott Forbes of Ripon, Yorkshire, it covered several inches as it listed his achievements in his illustrious career as a professor of mathematical statistics. Educated at Harrow and Queen's College, Oxford, he'd become a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford before becoming a lecurer on a worldwide scale. Hnours were heaped upon him from Princeton to Jiaotong University, Xi'an. He had also published several books on higher mathematics and statistical science, which were not required reading for university students.

None could doubt his genius. In the scholastic world his was a revered name, spoken with awe. His grasp of mathematical statistics was phenomenal, but in the eyes of Lucinda his priorities were summed up in just one line in Who's Who, one small line among the dozens that spelled out his brillliant achievements.

M. 1958, Anne Judith Wells, two s one d.

However, I would not recommend that fans of mathematical fiction seek out this book (difficult to obtain, at least in the US) simply because the father is described as a mathematician. In fact, the rest of the book has practically no connection to mathematics. So, I will be giving this a relatively low rating for "mathematical content". (Again, this is not an insult to the author, only an acknowledgement of the fact that math plays only a very small role in the book.)

Still, I am adding this work to my database since it makes use of a common (and, in my opinion, unfair) stereotype of mathematicians. He is shown to be not only a cruel man, who ignored his daughter and cheated on his loving wife, not just an anti-social misfit who mistreats his house guests, but (as the title implies) practically insane.

Again, this has little to do with the rest of the book (aside from the fact that it lays the groundwork for the cruel task he sets for his daughter). However, it is for this exact reason that the author could have chosen to make him a cruel and crazy man in any profession. The book would not have been significantly different had he been the manager of an appliance store or a chemist (either in the American or British sense of that word). However, I fear, it has gotten to the point that authors automatically choose to make a character a mathematician when he is to be cold and evil, much as they used to make them Jewish when they were to be greedy.

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Works Similar to Moment of Madness
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Art Student's War by Brad Leithauser
  2. Miscalculations by Elizabeth Mansfield
  3. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  4. Cryptology by Leonard Michaels
  5. Nachman Burning by Leonard Michaels
  6. Belonging to Karovsky by Kathryn Schwille
  7. The Arnold Proof by Jessica Francis Kane
  8. Reality Conditions by Alex Kasman
  9. Mozart and the Whale by Petter Næss (Director)
  10. Long Division by Michael Redhill
Ratings for Moment of Madness:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Insanity, Romance,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)