a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Mathematics professor John Dobie gets caught up in a truly mind-boggling
mystery when one of his former students, his wife's best friend, and then
his own wife wind up dead, and the police consider him to be a prime
This is the first, my personal favorite, of the three "Professor Dobie Mysteries" written by British author Desmond Cory. (See also "The Mask of Zeus" and "The Dobie Paradox".) It is also the one that tries to most closely tie Dobie's mathematical abilities to the solution of the mystery...unfortunately, it does so in a rather misguided way.
The mathematics in the story is a confused blend of chaos theory, set theory, probability and mathematical logic. The author either has a very weird idea of these subjects, or attempted to use poetic license to blend them into a nonsensical hodge-podge. For example, when he is trying to solve the mystery, he enters all of the facts he knows into a computer and explains to a friend:
He later claims that an equivalent way to describe it is to say that they are "expressing a finite set series in terms of a unified field theory." Yeah, right!
There really is no need for the mathematics to be used, since the solution to the mystery in the end just depends upon ordinary human motives and behaviors. However, we are supposed to believe that the mathematical analysis tells Dobie things like that another murder is imminent (of course, this is only told to high probability since the "butterfly effect" keeps him from saying anything with certainty).
I was bothered by this poor imitation of mathematics, by the book's claim that mathematicians are terrible cooks -- I'm personally offended by that one ; ) -- and sometimes frustrated by Dobie's inability to carry on a normal conversation (which is, I'm sure, intended as comic relief). But, all in all, this is a pretty good mystery novel that keeps you turning the pages to see what happens and occasionally gives you a reason to laugh out loud.
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com.|
|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)