a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|This is a murder mystery co-written by an emeritus math professor and a retired crime scene investigator. The victim was an egotistical and (almost unbelievably) unpleasant mathematics department chair who seems to have resolved a famous (fictional) conjecture:
The book then contains an image of the handwritten conclusion to the proof (using contradiction to prove one of three cases), stained with the victim's blood.
Certainly, the authors have qualifications to get the mathematical and forensic details right. In fact, I would say that the passages which convey general information about academia and criminology are the best thing about the book. When it elaborates on the steps an investigator takes to avoid contaminating a crime scene (right down to how difficult it is for a large man to put on the booties) or on how a really great math professor would respond to questions from his students so as to draw the answer out of them rather than simply give it to them, the reader can really feel that he/she is learning from an expert. If you think you might be interested in those sorts of details (and the fact that one never knows what might be a clue to solving the mystery makes it even easier to pay attention), then I can strongly recommend this book.
The writing itself is uneven. Of course, the mystery genre is not known for its beautiful prose. The fact that everything is described rather bluntly does give the book a sort of "hard-boiled pulp detective novel" feeling. (At the end, it feels a bit more like an old "Encyclopedia Brown" mystery, as the narrator begins communicating directly with the readers, asking whether we had reached the same conclusions as "our heroes".) However, even given the low expectations set by the genre, some sections of the book really seem like they would benefit from some serious editing.
And, then, there is the mystery itself. I am glad that, as the cover promised, this was a mystery that the reader could solve using clues that were presented in the book itself. (I always feel cheated when the solution of the mystery depends on a fact not revealed until the end!) And, as with any good mystery, there is a good assortment of suspects with reasonable motives. However, the main clue is one that appears early in the book and was a bit too obvious to me. So, I knew who the killer was long before the narrator, which made much of the intervening investigation seem like a waste of time. Moreover, I found a few of the coincidences (e.g. a false lead that would seem to have suggested another killer and an IT guy who just happened to have had a job at another relevant institution before, ...) to be a bit too hard to believe.
In conclusion, I would say that this book is not bad. If you are looking for a pleasant read, with lots of interesting characters, and especially a relatively realistic and detailed portrayal of the jobs of a police officer and a math professor, then this book may be worth your time. If, on the other hand, you want either a great work of literature or a very clever and challenging enigma of a murder mystery that all fits together in the end, then (in my humble opinion), you may want to look elsewhere.
|More information about this work can be found at .|
|(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)