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Murder at the Margin (A Henry Spearman Mystery) Paperback – July 12, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0691000985 ISBN-10: 0691000980 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: A Henry Spearman Mystery
  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 2nd edition (July 12, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691000980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691000985
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard economist Henry Spearman finds his Caribbean vacation interrupted by murder in this 1978 mystery novel.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Writing pseudonymously, [William Breit and Kenneth Elzinga] have created Henry Spearman, a Harvard economist (actually a "Chicago' economist affiliated with Harvard), who utilizes the economic way of thinking literally to figure out "whodunit.' If there is a more painless way to learn economic principles, scientists must have recently discovered how to implant them in ice cream."--John R. Haring, Jr., Wall Street Journal

"This is a tight little mystery that should hold the interest of any student who enjoys detective stories. At the same time, it contains some basic economic lessons, presented in a way that the first-year student will have no difficulty understanding. . . . Its style is crisp and entertaining, and its cast of characters will delight any mystery lover. . . . What gives Murder at the Margin its sparkle are the shrewd observations about academic life and the authors' ability to transform statements of economic law into deft character analysis."--Sarah Gallagher and George Dawson, Journal of Economic Education

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Donald J. Boudreaux on July 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
I know of no more enjoyable way of learning sound economics than by reading Marshall Jevons's murder mysteries. Jevons's deep understanding of economics is evident throughout, and his ability to weave economics into engaging plots is stunning. Read these books and enjoy!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ken Jennings on January 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book as a intersemester assignment for my AP Economics class. Interesting to say the least, it went well with my microeconomics intuition. Nice interesting story, although I already suspected who was the murderer way before our protagonist Henry Spearman mentions.

The interesting twist is in the end when I realized there was a BIGGER picture I didn't suspect. Overall, its a great murder mystery that takes economics to a whole new level.

The fusion of economics and criminology is just impressive in this witty satiric tale although there are high traces of clique stereotypes from the era the book was probably written (racial tensions) the book operates solely on economic reasoning. For those Sherlock Holmes out there looking for a good "utility," of their time this book will be worth your opportunity cost. I managed to stay awake to read the whole book through -- something meritable since I usually fall asleep reading my economics textbook.

If you want to enjoy economics fused with a Sherlock Holmes character, definitely check this book out. I highly recommend it especially for Microeconomics students.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
The premise that an economist is capable of solving a murder mystery by using economic analysis appears at first glance to be absurd. However, this story is one where that concept is made thoroughly believable. The hero, modeled after economist Milton Friedman, analyzes all aspects of behavior in terms of maximum return on expenditure. And when people appear to be violating that principle, he is led down a dangerous path that allows him to find the killer(s).
Written by two economists, this book can also be used as a supplemental text in introductory economics. It is a refreshing way to study economics and mathematics without appearing to do so.

Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Zagnorch on August 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book was required reading as part of my Microeconomics course. Although it's not quite on the level of Agatha Christie or Ellery Queen- the plot and story is relatively simple and easy to follow- it does show how one can see the basic laws of economics at work in just about every facet of day-to-day life.
Using opportunity cost, the laws of supply & demand, interdependent utility functions, and even the prisoner's dilemma to get to the bottom of the case, Harvard economics professor Henry Spearman tracks down the killer/killers of two high-society tourists at the Cinnamon Bay resort on the Caribbean island of St. John.
Interestingly enough, the foreword & afterword of the book both go into the economic possibilities of writing and publishing a mystery novel featuring an economist as the protagonist! Apparently, the possibilities looked good, since there's two follow-up Henry Spearman mystery novels out there, both of which I'm planning to take a look at once I get some free time in. Of course, I'll have to calculate the opportunity costs of other forms of recreation, the utility I receive from reading the other novels, etc. I have a feeling I'll receive a handsome profit out of the deal...
All told, "Murder at the Margin", if not exactly a great murder mystery, is a fairly interesting primer on the practical uses of economics, and makes for surprisingly quick reading!
'Late
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael JR Jose on March 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
OK, this is a murder mystery of sorts. The grammar and punctuation are acceptable, but the prose is just bad, and I don't mean wicked. Quite staccato in fact. Uneven: QED. Prone to violent fluxions of diction: triskaidekaphobia (you read Greek?), and fresh fish just flopping on the dock of the bay. Get used to it.

THE GENERAL IDEA
An economics prof. goes on a Caribbean paradise holiday and solves a murder mystery by the use of basic economic principles. You can usefully learn something on said topics, but you have to bear with it until chapter 11 as it is just scene-setting till then.

THE PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMICS
1. The superiority of the unplanned economy (high efficiency of free trade between individuals). Adam Smith meets Bastiat at the dockside. This is one of the better patches of descriptive writing, quite vivid in the mind's eye. (Chap. 11). [This is the same as the theory of 'spontaneous order' in Michael Polanyi's books. And very similar to Arthur Koestler's theory of holons in 'The Ghost in the Machine'.]
2. Utility trade-off. Value of a reliable supply of frozen fish to a restaurant versus an intermittent supply of fresh wet fish just caught. (Chap. 11)
3. The economics of the `common pool' and legal ownership of property. (Chap. 11)
4. Definition of economics according to Alfred Marshall [too vague for my liking, try Robbins definition in `Basic Economics' by Thomas Sowell]. (Chap. 12). (No, I am not going to quote them, look it up for yourself, it's good for the soul. And TS deserves the sales.)
5. Explanation of Game Theory via the `Prisoner's Dilemma'. (Chap. 14)
6. Risk and reward in the behaviour of scavenging birds. The bolder birds get more scraps but at a greater risk. [Ethology meets economics.] (Chap. 16)
7.
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