MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Locked House of Pythagoras [P. no Misshitsu] (1999)
Soji Shimada
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A locked-room mystery which I found disorienting, needlessly complex and a bit incomprehensible, with very stilted writing, a know-it-all kid detective who has a magical god’s eye-view of everything, and a murder mystery which made little sense.

A couple is murdered in a two-storey house with square rooms built around a right-angled triangle. One of the deceased was a renowned painter, Tomitaro Tsuchida, and the other his mistress. The painter was judging some local art submissions for the mayor’s prize, and the number of submissions fit exactly the floor space of the Pythagorean rooms (*roll eyes*) . The story shows a diagram of the rooms to illustrate. As the annoying kid detective tells the senior detectives during one of the points of explanation:

(quoted from The Locked House of Pythagoras [P. no Misshitsu])

“No, that wouldn’t have happened. That’s where the Pythagorean Theorem comes in.”

“What’s that?”

“You should have learned this in middle school. With any right-angled triangle, the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares of the other two sides.”

“Huh?” Muraki said, so Hashimoto took out his notebook and drew a picture. He drew a

right triangle, and three squares that bordered the edges of the triangle.

“Like this?”

“Yes,” Kiyoshi said.

“The sum of the squares of the two smaller sides is equal to the square of the large one.”

“Is that possible with a triangle of any size?”

“If it’s a right triangle, definitely.”

“This is very interesting,” said Hashimoto.

“It’s a very old theorem developed by the ancient Greeks. A mathematician named Pythagoras discovered this,” Kiyoshi said.

“Amazing.”

“This house is built using the Pythagorean concept. The sum of the areas of the two studios upstairs is equal to the area of the guest room downstairs.”

Seems like the author wanted to somehow shoe-horn a mathematical theorem into a plot. Anyway, all points of problem are quickly explained, the murder identified and everyone goes home admiring the brilliance of the annoying kid. QED.

Published under the original title “P. no Misshitsu” in “Mephisto” literary magazine of genre fiction in September 1999. An English translation by Yuko Shimada appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, August 2013. English version in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine August 2013

(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 Locked House of Pythagoras [P. no Misshitsu]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Crimes and Math Demeanors by Leith Hathout
  2. Murder, She Conjectured by Alex Kasman
  3. Death and the Compass (La Muerte y La Brujula) by Jorge Luis Borges
  4. The Math Code by Alex Kasman
  5. The One Best Bet [Flashlight] by Samuel Hopkins Adams
  6. Who Killed the Duke of Densmore? by Claude Berge
  7. Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. The Case of the Murdered Mathematician by Julia Barnes / Kathy Ivey
  9. One Under the Eight by Catherine Aird
  10. Summa Mathematica by Sean Doolittle
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Categories:
GenreMystery,
MotifProdigies,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)