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Fatal Equilibrium Mass Market Paperback – July 12, 1986

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"As a low-cost way to learn some economics, it achieves a delightful equilibrium." The Wall Street Journal

From the Inside Flap

At Harvard, tenure decisions are a matter of life -- or death.

For Dennis Gossen, the economics department whiz kid currently being considered for tenure, it's definitely death. When he's turned down by the high-and-mighty Promotion and Tenure Committee, Gossen commits suicide.

A Question of Cost Accounting...

Or does he? It's hard to imagine why a young man with a brilliant scholarly future -- at Harvard or not -- would come up with an equation in which the opportunity cost of killing himself (a high price, considering his potential earnings) would be outweighed by the emotional cost of failing to receive tenure.

... Or Utility?

Then two members of the P and T Committee are murdered, and it becomes clear to Professor Henry Spearman of the Economics Department that the killer must be on the committee. But which of his illustrious colleagues would have significantly increased his -- or her -- utility (i.e., happiness) by murdering a faculty member or two? Or three?
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett; Reprint edition (July 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345331583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345331588
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book as it was assigned by co-author Ken Elzinga for his Econ 201 class at the University of Virginia. This book is very good. Short but still interesting, it has tons of economics in it. If you love econ you'll chuckle as you read, seeing all the places where the very principles you have learned about are spotlighted. If you're interested in econ you should definitely pick up this fun, quick and informative read.
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Fatal Equilibrium reminded me of early science fiction (written by scientists about scientists for an audience of other scientists). This book is definitely written by an economist about economists. If you're part of that clique, it's a great book.
Not everyone will consider it light reading, though. If you don't have at least one econ class somewhere in your background, some significant parts of the book (and the plot) will go over your head. There were sections that felt like they were cut-and-pasted right from the author's lecture notes. I kept hoping that the book would be more like Larry Niven's work - grounded in theory, but first and foremost, a gripping story with compelling characters. I'd rather absorb my knowledge along the way than be lectured to.
I enjoyed it and I'll read it again.
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Of the three books to date in this series, I find the first to be the most interesting and closely plotted. Be prepared for the insertion of economic analyses in the most unexpected places; but if you like your mysteries to be more mental and less bone-crunching, vulgarity-spewing mayhem, the Henry Spearman series is a set of entertaining reads for an evening or two.
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This book was assigned to me for my Econ 201 class at UVa (virginia), and lo and behold, the author's real name is the professor for this class. Would this mean that one could say he is manipulating the market, and causing an immediate surge in demand during the otherwise weak sales-periods? Or is he simply using his power to dictate the syllabus to earn royalties? Cynicism aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I am a big fan of economics, and felt it was intriguing enough to read. The book manages to deftly intertwine many econ concepts and definitions throughout it, which is always useful for the beginning economist.
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This is a mystery with all the features of a classic mystery. Since the protagonist is an economist (and it was written by a professor of economics who really knows the material) the motivation is given based on economics theory. The book is scattered with examples of economics thoughts, largely in context (though if you think about it as a book rather than being absorbed by the story you realize the author designed the story to have a place to put the economics). The economics theory is interesting in its own right and short enough pieces that it isn't irritating. Don't let the economics shorts distract you from the fact that this is a full blown mystery!

Enjoy the mystery and the science.
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This mystery was not that much of a mystery, per se, since several clues made the trend of the book rather straightforward. Nevertheless, intellectually, the book is pretty interesting. There are multiple facets, related to economics, but the focus for the book is a kind of "trial" of classical economics, symbolized by the character trying to obtain tenure, before the viewpoints of the spectrum of social sciences, also symbolized by various people on the faculty of Harvard University, which, in itself, was a symbol of "ultimate" current prestige. The various points of view conflict and interact to create the "fatal equilibrium" of the title. I thought the book was a lot of fun, and a little intellectual feast as well.
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Authors Breit and Stevens have written a so-so murder mystery with an angle -- If the reader knows economics he might catch the clue that gives away the I.D. of the culprit.

The story mostly takes place in a university setting and ends aboard a luxury ocean liner. The reader gets a pretty good picture of university politics at work along with instruction in basic economics.

The named Author, "Marshall Jevons" is a pseudonyms used by Briet and Stevens who in real life are professors of economics. The pseudonym is formed out of the surnames of two famous economists out of the past -- Alfred Marshall and W. Stanley Jevons.

Fatal Equilibrium is fun reading. As a mystery it is better than some and inferior to others. Your reviewer liked it. But I must add a caveat: My avocation is economics. That is why I bought the book and another by the same "authors." I think that the economics 'lessons' the book is salted with will not get in the way of a non-economist's enjoyment.
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From a Econ student perspective I had to read this for my Econ class but loved the book! It also helped me understand some of my Econ terms better as well. I can't wait to read Murder at the Margin by the same author. Even though it's for extra credit this author rocks! The 1st chapter had me hooked!
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