a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|This book is probably the least believable thing I've ever read, but lots of fun!
Quiribus Brown is a 7 1/2 foot tall man who was raised by his father on a farm in Indiana. His father was a math professor before becoming a widower and they moved to the farm, so the only thing he teaches Quiribus about is mathematics - all of mathematics from the most elementary to the most advanced branches of the discipline. As the book opens, Brown is in Chicago looking for a murder mystery to solve using mathematics since his father's will requires him to do so in order to receive his inheritance. By coincidence, a mathematician has been murdered in Chicago that very day. Despite being shot in the forehead at close range by his murderer, he is still alive when the police arrive but is unable to speak or write in English because of the damage caused by the bullet. Instead, he writes mathematical clues to the identity of his murderer on a portable blackboard, using a piece of chalk that was taped into his hand by the police.
And, I assure you that from then on the coincidences become even more unbelievable!
Some remarks make it clear that the author is not an expert in mathematics himself -- such as mistakenly referring to the common factor "a" in the expression "ab+ac" as a "common denominator". Some of the mathematical oddities may simply be a consequence of the author's unusual style -- e.g. the odd but essential fact that the murder victim was best known for his opposition to the use of Greek letters in mathematical writing. However, Harry Stephen Keeler, who was well known in the 1940s and 1950s but mostly forgotten today, clearly knew some mathematics. He is unfortunately obsessed with the idea that mathematics is full of things that don't make sense (such as "proofs" that 1=2, higher dimensional geometry and imaginary numbers, which he mistakenly attributes to Einstein), but he does know something. A quote from this book even appeared in the Mathematical Gazette (Vol. 34, No. 307 Feb., 1950, p. 18). It is therefore likely to be of interest to fans of mathematical fiction that all of his books have recently been republished by Ramble House.
Among the mathematical highlights in the book are an entire exam, a rather eccentric one, written by the murder victim.
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)