a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Who Killed the Duke of Densmore? (1994)
Claude Berge
Highly Rated!

The murder mystery in the title took place many years ago and the only witnesses are a group of women who each visited the crime scene for a single stretch of time. They each remember whom they met there (each other, that is) but not when they were there. This provides the perfect setting for a beautiful application of a theorem of mathematics (in particular, Hajos' theorem on which graphs can be "interval graphs") to a murder mystery. You see, the theorem says that if you have a set of intervals, and you make a graph with a single vertex representing each interval and an edge connecting the vertices if the intervals intersect, then the graph must have certain properties. By graphing the testimony of the witnesses and applying the theorem, the detective and his friend Professor Turner-Smith are able to solve the mystery!

The French Oulipo group (their name being an acronym for "Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle" or "Workshop for Potential Literature") was founded with the idea of letting mathematics influence literature. Moreover, they have been creating works based on their manifesto ever since the 1970's. So, you might think that they would have created a lot of mathematical fiction for me to put here on this page. However, so far, the only works I have found suitable are this one, first published in Bibliotheque Oulipienne No. 67 (1994) and the fantasy novel The Princess Hoppy.... You see, they have since expanded their original goal to include all sorts of writing with unnatural restrictions. Moreover, even when they purport to be writing mathematically oriented literature, what they often wind up with is bizarre nonsensical essays that sound vaguely mathematical. (For instance, an attempt at translating Hilbert's axiomatization of geometry to literature.) However, I have not read it all! So, if you know of any good Oulipienne stories that I ought to have listed here, please let me know!

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Works Similar to Who Killed the Duke of Densmore?
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Songs My Mother Never Taught Me by Selçuk Altun
  2. La formule de Stokes, roman by Michèle Audin
  3. The Princess Hoppy or the Tale of Labrador by Jacques Roubaud
  4. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  6. Pythagorean Crimes by Tefcros Michaelides
  7. Continuums by Robert Carr
  8. Conned Again, Watson! Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math and Probability by Colin Bruce
  9. NUMB3RS by Nick Falacci / Cheryl Heuton
  10. The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez
Ratings for Who Killed the Duke of Densmore?:
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:
4.67/5 (6 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.33/5 (6 votes)

TopicReal Mathematics,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)