a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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An Instance of the Fingerpost (1999)
Iain Pears
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

A murder mystery set in Oxford in the 1660's. Mathematician John Wallis plays a major role as a character in the book (and Newton a small role). See the review at MAA online.

Contributed by Julian Havil

A very fine piece of 'faction', with 2 real and 2 imaginary characters it is quite the best of Pear's works (including the later Scipio). A great read.

Contributed by

re An instance of the fingerpost: I cannot really speak to its mathematical quality but it is an enormous pleasure to read (if crying can be accounted pleasure), and seriously well-written.

I have only given it 4 on your scale, always a slightly invidious procedure (and I spent years as as a statistician in market and social research); but I want some day to re-read it, and I suspect it would only go up rather than down.However, now I think about it, I think I tend to give novels (Watt / Our Mutual Friend / Tom Jones / Middlemarch) 4 against 5 for poetry and plays (well obviously not all of them).

Thank you for the other books on this interesting list, most of which are new to me.

It is probably supererogatory to point out that the button below this box says 'Submit Query', but I think, unless you are not a person, that you can probably tell that this isn't one. [Note: I think that the results of an HTML form may technically be considered a "query" in computer science lingo regardless of whether the words contained therein are interrogatory. -Alex]

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Works Similar to An Instance of the Fingerpost
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton by Philip Kerr
  2. An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson
  3. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  4. Arcadia by Iain Pears
  5. The Three Body Problem by Catherine Shaw
  6. Flowers Stained with Moonlight by Catherine Shaw
  7. The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King
  8. The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw
  9. Murder in the Great Church by Tefcros Michaelides
  10. Spherical Mirrors, plane murders by Tefcros Michaelides
Ratings for An Instance of the Fingerpost:
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:
1.69/5 (10 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (11 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction, Mystery,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Newton,

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Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)