a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|In this installment of a series of mystery novels set on Martha's Vineyard, an electrician accidentally murders an employee who was blackmailing him and then is killed himself. Throughout most of the novel, the only reference to mathematics is the existence of a character in the background, recently retired from her job as a math professor at Northeastern University, who runs an interesting mathematical knitting circle. She is said to have taken the "equations" for interesting mathematical surfaces (Möbius strips, Klein bottles, and projective planes) and turned them into patterns so that the other women in the group can construct them out of yarn. Ignoring the fact that two of these surfaces cannot be embedded in 3-dimensional Euclidean space, this is a cute idea, and as I neared the end of the book I had begun to expect that there would be nothing else for me to discuss here.
As it turns out, there is a bit more I can say, but to do so necessarily involves giving away essential information about the final chapter. So, if you plan to read the book you should stop reading at this point for the sake of your own enjoyment. (If you have enjoyed other books by Riggs in this series, you might want to do so. However, I must admit, I cannot say that I would strongly recommend this book to anyone.)
----- spoiler warning ---- stop reading now if you don't want to know "whodunnit" -----
Okay, so here is how it turns out!
As a college student, the retired math professor was originally a physics major. She was forced to switch majors after she became obsessed with and began stalking one of her physics professors. Coincidentally, years later when she was a math professor, one of the math majors happened to be the son of the physics professor that she had loved. This student switched majors when this professor became obsessed with and started stalking him. In fact, he switched from being a math major to being an electrician. As an electrician on Martha's Vineyard, he was installing hidden cameras in the bathrooms of female clients, until one of his employees found out. This brings us back to the beginning of the story, where he kills that employee, and then the retired math professor kills him (with a knitting needle).
So, in summary, there are two murders in the story. One is committed by a former math major who records videos of women taking showers in their own homes, and the other is committed by a former math professor who (in addition to being humorless and a murderer) is prone to develop inappropriate obsessions for her professors and/or students. This bothers me to the extent that it reflects and reinforces a negative stereotype of people who do math.
Note: The mathematical content rating is not intended to be a mathematical accuracy rating. It measures how central mathematics is to the work, e.g. whether it is just marginal to the plot or whether it is really quite essential. Whether the math is misrepresented is important also, but that is a separate issue.
|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)