MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Calculus of Murder (1986)
Erik Rosenthal
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
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Contributed by Fusun Akman, Coastal Carolina University

"The hero is a part-time instructor and researcher at Berkeley and moonlights as a PI. He solves his cases using calculus. The narrative is excellent, humorous, and believable."

Actually, I just finished reading this book last night. I agree with most of Fusun's comments, but actually the connection between the mystery and the calculus is almost non-existent. There is a lot of discussion of mathematics (his research on bounded operators on Hilbert space, Fermat's Last Theorem, Godel's Theorem, etc.) which is completely unrelated to the case. At only one point in the story, he uses some really elementary computation (the solution to the differential equation dx/dt=cx) to determine something about the case (the absorption rate of arsenic into the body) which he later verifies by asking a toxicologist anyway.

One strange thing for me about reading this book is that it wasn't sufficiently different from my own life that I could really enjoy reading it. There is a lot about trying to get a job as a professor of mathematics, a lot about dealing with calculus students during office hours and some instances of people reacting poorly when they hear that he is a mathematician ("Yuchhh...I hate math.") I get enough of those things in my own life!
(See also "Advanced Calculus of Murder" by the same author.)

Contributed by Rebecca

This book is an excellent murder mystery. The details fit together well, and at the end it leaves you thinking either "wow, I never would have thought it!" or "Ha! I was right!" depending on your outlook. In the middle of the book there are about 3 cases going on at once, and you can see many connections that the author doesn't point out, which can be frustrating because you'll be thinking "this is too confusing...unless I'm right about this fitting here, then it'll work" and at the end you realise you were right. Well, it's satisfying. However, if you want a book with complex math equations used to solve a murder, you won't get it. There is very little math in the book, and most of it is not used in the mystery.

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(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.)

Works Similar to Calculus of Murder
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Advanced Calculus of Murder by Erik Rosenthal
  2. The Elusive Chauffeur by David H. Brown
  3. NUMB3RS by Nick Falacci / Cheryl Heuton
  4. Maths à mort by Margot Bruyère
  5. The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez
  6. The Three Body Problem by Catherine Shaw
  7. The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen
  8. The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw
  9. After Math by Miriam Webster
  10. The Mask of Zeus by Desmond Cory
Ratings for Calculus of Murder:
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:
2.2/5 (5 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3.8/5 (5 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreMystery,
MotifAcademia, Gödel,
TopicAnalysis/Calculus/Differential,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)