Most helpful positive review
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A GREAT STORY - Don't worry about the fractals
on January 3, 2003
Seldom do you feel like a book has been specifically written for you, especially when it is a first novel by an unheralded author published by Muddy Gap Press in Boulder, CO. However, in my quest for mysteries by new authors I was intrigued by the uniformly glowing reviews for THE FRACTAL MURDERS, and after the first two paragraphs I knew that I was hooked.
This is hopefully the first in a series of Pepper Keane mysteries, a former prosecutor turned PI as he deals with his existential anxieties by reading Heidegger, listening to country music and Credence Clearwater, running and working out at his brother's gym, and hanging out with two great dogs in his mountain Colorado home, and hoping for enough interesting cases to support himself. And a mathematical and business angle to boot, two things with which I am familiar enough to increase my appreciation of the story but not essential to your enjoyment. ( The author's explanations are very clear and concise and a detailed understanding is not at all crucial to the story line.)
Doctor Jane Smymers, a professor at the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado learns of the recent apparently unrelated deaths of three specialists in fractal mathematics, and her knowledge of statistics convinces her that the provbabilty of these being random events is extremely small. She involves the FBI but is dissatisfied with their decision to close the case, having found no relationship between the individuals, the modes of death being very dissimilar, and the geographic locations being widespread (East Coast, West Coast, and midwestern college campuses). Despite his reservations, Jane convinces Pepper to conduct a preliminary investigation of his own, and his interest is heightened by the fact that one of the FBI agents on the case is someone whose history is a source of great aggravation to Pepper.
The author is a former JAG lawyer and now a municipal court judge in Boulder, so he knows the law, the FBI, and the area, and captures the essence of them all. He never writes down to the reader, and we get to feel that Pepper is someone who we would enjoy getting to know. (A western version of Robert Parker's Spenser with more existential angst.) And, as you may guess, Pepper becomes increasingly attracted to Jane and this plot line adds another dimension to the story.
A few examples of some of the great lines,
"A girlfriend once told me that I spent too much time thinking about things. I'd thought about that a lot over the years."
"How was Wall Walla?" asked Scott. "It's the city so beautiful they named it twice."
"This trip has been a real education," Scott said. "First I find out that there's a National Forest in Nebraska. Now I learn that there are black squirrels in Kansas." "I think that the politically correct term is 'squirrels of color'."
And one last thing, you'll have to read the book to discover how to communicate in E-Prime. A true delight, a real education , and a good mystery all in the same book..It was so involving that I had to keep reading it to find out how it ended, but I was enjoying it so much I was disappointed when I was done that I would have to wait for the next volume. Definitely as highly recommended as anything that I have read in the last year, even if your interests are not as closely aligned with the subject matter as mine. If you like clever wordplay, fun characters, and mystery, you'll like this book.