MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Elusive Chauffeur (2008)
David H. Brown
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This mystery novel appears to have been conceived as a means for the author to "spread the word" about two things that are important to him: mathematics and his Christian faith. In it, a private detective with a Ph.D. in mathematics is hired to find a vanished chauffeur who may have killed his former employer.

I honestly believe that for each work of fiction written there are some readers who would love it, and I'm sure there are some people who would like this one as well. From my point of view, however, it fails in every way. It does not succeed either as a novel (the writing is simply amateurish and difficult to enjoy), as mathematical fiction (a few elementary facts, such as the algorithm for determining whether an integer is divisible by 3 and that the constancy of the ratio of the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle, are tossed around but not in a particularly inspiring way), or as a mystery novel (as the detective literally depends upon the answering of his prayers, a deus ex machina not really suitable for the mystery genre).

If it succeeds at anything, it would probably be as a form of evangelism, though it would only be effective for a rare reader who has not yet heard the basic tenets of the Christian faith but can be convinced to believe in them by a work of fiction. From my perspective, the author exaggerates many claims, turning the book into a sort of "propaganda", and a person reading the book for enlightenment as well as entertainment ought to seek additional information. However, this is not really the right forum for me to address questions of religion. Let me illustrate what I mean, however, with two mathematical examples. While on his first date with a young Christian woman who also happens to love math, the mathematical detective gets into a discussion about evidence to support the belief in Christianity. One of the claims brought up in this discussion is that the Bible mentions the fact that the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle is constant. It would be interesting, though not necessarily miraculous, if the Bible did mention this theorem of elementary geometry. However, in fact, it only describes the dimensions of one particular object in the temple in Jerusalem, and according to those dimensions the distance around the object was 3 times the distance across it. It is not clear from this whether the ancient Israelites had a concept of an ideal circle (which the handmade object presumably was not an example of) or had any knowledge that the ratio would be constant regardless of the size of the circle. In the same conversation, an analogy is made between the axioms of mathematics and religious faith. This analogy, which I have seen in other places as well, never really works for me. Religious beliefs are about what is true, and cannot really be changed on a whim. In contrast, axioms are just rules for an abstract mathematical "game", not statements of belief. After one plays with the consequences of one set of axioms one can switch to another set to see what would follow from them without rejecting the first set as being false. (For example, the same geometers can prove theorems assuming the axioms of Euclidean geometry and axioms of Riemannian geometry without worrying if either of those axiom sets is "true". I do not know of anyone who treats religious beliefs in a similar manner.)

Not many copies of the book seem to be available, but if you are the sort of reader who would enjoy this mix of mystery, religion and mathematics, please try to obtain a copy and post a review here. I would love to be able to include some positive comments about the book from site visitors.

According to the back cover, the author lived his entire life in Western New York (where most of the action in the book takes place), taught mathematics at Niagara County Community College and adult Sunday school classes at the Free Methodist Church. This book was published by Tate Publishing & Enterprises in 2008.

(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 The Elusive Chauffeur
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Calculus of Murder by Erik Rosenthal
  2. Advanced Calculus of Murder by Erik Rosenthal
  3. False Witness by Randy D. Singer
  4. The Shiloh Project by David R. Beaucage
  5. Touch-Me-Not by Cynthia Riggs
  6. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
  7. The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen
  8. Out of the Sun: A Novel by Robert Goddard
  9. The Wright 3 by Blue Balliet
  10. Irrational Numbers by Robert Spiller
Ratings for The Elusive Chauffeur:
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:
3/5 (2 votes)
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Literary Quality:
2.5/5 (2 votes)
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Categories:
GenreMystery,
MotifReligion,
TopicReal Mathematics,
MediumNovels,

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Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)