32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Henley College in Massachusetts is quite a place and Dr. Sophie Knowles teaches math there. She also makes math puzzles and brain teasers for several publications. Her students love her. She also has a hunky boyfriend who is a helicopter pilot for a medical evacuation and transfer group, MAstar.
A tradition at the Math/Sciences Building, Benjamin Franklin Hall, is to celebrate birthdays of famous scholars with the students. Something terrible happens at the latest party that changes everything for several party attendees. Dr. Keith Appleton, without a doubt the most disliked member of faculty at Henley, is found dead in his office.
All the evidence points to Sophie's assistant Rachel, as the prime suspect, for several reasons including the fact that he refused to recommend her for medical school. Sophie knows there is absolutely no possibility or probability that Rachel could have killed the professor. Sophie decides to do a little investigating of her own trying to factor out just who the actual killer is, while being careful not to get herself subtracted completely out of the equation.
This is a wonderful debut to a really smart new series. The setting is intriguing, the plot complex but not over the top and the characters span the gambit. These are characters that I am sure to fall in love with as the series continues.
Ada Madison knows her subject matter very well. She has a Ph. D. in a Physics and a BA in Mathematics. She is also a fantastic storyteller so even those of us who did not excel in math or science still feel at home with this story. She has published other series, under different aliases and her Web Page tells you all about them, plus even has puzzles too.
This is my first experience with this author but will be working some of her other works into my reading schedule. I also will be anxiously awaiting the next edition to the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries. They are off to a marvelous start.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2011
Ada Madison is Camille Minichino's third swing at an author title -- and the result is a hit! The Square Root of Murder is her best book yet, no matter how the author bills herself.
Perhaps its her familiarity with the world of academia and the suburban Boston setting or her experience developing cozy mysteries that intrigue, amuse and delight, but "Square Root" provides a great way to begin sampling this author or renewing a previous acquaintance.
The plot is well-covered in previous reviews. The characters are well-developed and interesting, covering the gamut of personality types to be expected at a small New England college facing change. To me, the college itself is the most intriguing character in the book and I look forward to renewing my acquaintance in what I hope will be a soon-to-follow second installment in this series.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2011
Great new characters from Camille Minichino writing as Ada Madison. Bad behavior from dysfunctional university administrations, faculties, students and their families will give this thoughtful puzzle-solving math professor many opportunities for sleuthing adventures. Hurry up with the next one!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
At Henley College in Massachusetts, Professor Sophie Knowles is a student favorite as she makes math easy to understand. She also, under a pseudonym, publishes puzzles and brain teasers in various publications. In her microscopic spare time, she does craftwork in the form of beading at her friend Ariana's store. The one description she never thought would apply to her is amateur sleuth, but that is what happens when the college's most unpopular professor, who is disliked by students and teachers alike, is murdered.
The police are looking at Sophie's assistant Rachel as their prime suspect. Keith Appleton was giving Rachel a hard time with her thesis and she was heard saying terrible things about him. The cops find a report on yellow paper that Rachel wrote all marked in red saying sarcastic things about her research. Sophie believes Rachel is innocent so she sets out to prove her assertion. However, she soon realizes that Rachel and three other students lied about what they knew about the crime scene. Sophie keeps digging, but almost digs her owngrave.
Although an amateur sleuth placing herself in peril being a sub-genre recurring scenario, and a puzzle solver lead has been done by Parnell Hall (see The Puzzle Lady series); Ada Madison provides a fresh entertaining whodunit due to the college setting and the fortyish mathematician. Sophie is an intelligent person who works her investigation using the same skills she applies to math problems and puzzle making. The heroine lives a full life with her significant other, has good friends and a job she loves; and though her days are jammed, she makes time to search for the killer in this enjoyable new academic mystery series.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2011
It's a cozy mystery and this means atmosphere, cleverness, and no more than a modicum of violence. It was a pleasure to read the incidental mentions of things mathematical. There was no meaningless and artificial juxtaposition of terminology. Where mathematics is mentioned, the lingo is accurate. Told in the first person, the narrator is self-effacing, leaving it to us to judge whether she is clever or not. She seems to think that she muddles through to the solution, but then, even Sherlock Holmes used to get upset with himself having missed what he thought should have been obvious. (I read the book on Amazon Kindle.)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Math professor Sophie Knowles is teaching summer school on the small campus of Henley College in Massachusetts. While on the job, Sophie uses math games and activities to help students better understand math. A true devotee of mathematics, Sophie's idea of relaxing is devising puzzles and brainteasers for publication.
Sophie's assistant Rachel is trying to get accepted to medical school, but doesn't stand a chance without a recommendation from her advisor. Unfortunately, Rachel's advisor is the unpopular professor Dr. Keith Appleton who has said he will not give her the needed recommendation. Rachel is understandably furious, but while she isn't the only person that has issues with the professor, circumstances put her at the top of the suspect list when Dr. Appleton is murdered. Sophie is convinced Rachel is innocent and is determined to solve the murder based on facts and logic, the way she would one of her math problems.
"The Square Root of Murder" is a well-written mystery with an interesting setting and appealing characters. I enjoyed getting a glimpse at life as a professor, both the good (getting the chance to help young people succeed in college) and the bad (academic politics). Sophie is a unique and engaging main character. She is extremely intelligent, caring, and compassionate, even when in the course of the investigation she learns sensitive secrets about another character that hasn't always treated her fairly.
The primary supporting characters are also likeable. Sophie's best friend Ariana Volens owns a bead shop and is all about intuition and more mystical things like reading a person's aura in contrast to Sophie's practical, logical way of dealing with things. Ariana is constantly trying to get Sophie to loosen up and enjoy things like beading and meeting new people, when Sophie would be satisfied staying home and working on a puzzle. However, Ariana's encouragements are obviously done out of caring and she's not pushy or bossy. Their personalities complement each other, and the two friends make a good pair.
Sophie's boyfriend Bruce Granville is a medevac helicopter pilot and is likeable, but somewhat of an unknown. While I don't feel I really get to know this character, what I see is that he is a brave, kind person who truly cares about Sophie. If he remains involved with Sophie in future books, his character will need to be further developed in order to make the series even better.
I love the way "The Square Root of Murder" is constructed. Nothing is random in this cleverly plotted book. Different aspects of the characters and events that occur throughout the book are all important pieces of the puzzle which come together in the satisfying conclusion. While the summer session comes to a close at the end of the book, I am looking forward to another "term" with Professor Knowles in the classroom and on another case!
The author's new series will appeal to fans of the academic mysteries written by Amanda Cross or Maggie Barbieri. Ava Madison is a pen name for author Camille Minichino. The entertaining and intelligent writing style will appeal to those enjoy Minichino's physics related mysteries or the cozies written under her other pen name, Margaret Grace.
This review was originally written for The Season for Romance E-Zine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2011
The lead character is a woman with a doctorate in mathematics, creating a setting that is unusual for academic mysteries, which tend to be about English departments (as that usually is the author's field). There is a wonderfully drawn pain-in-the-ear administrator that anyone with academic experience will recognize. Readers also will learn some things about medevac helicopters; I always appreciate mysteries that teach while they entertain. I want to meet the lead character again and so have ordered the next book (not yet out). I will willingly overlook the unlikelihood that a small college such as the one at which Prof. Knowles teaches is the site of multiple murders, a necessary device to continue the series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Have you ever gone through the books on your kindle and found some that you had no memory of buying? This was one for me. Amazon shows that I purchased it three years ago and I'm guessing that it was either free or on sale at the time. The title was interesting so I started reading it with no idea what it was.
I can understand why I would have picked this book. It has elements that I enjoy enormously- a cozy mystery, intelligent, mature protagonist, New England college setting. Plus the heroine is a math and puzzle freak like me. I should have loved it but... not so much.
There were a number of things throughout the book that I found very irritating. All of the characters seemed flat, almost caricatures. The prose was frequently awkward and situations unrealistic (You drop by a friend's store and then, without explanation, suddenly start cleaning it like Merry Maids?) Some short passages that are good examples of prose/dialogue problems:
I called my boyfriend and invited him on a date. "Unless you're completely exhausted," I added. He flexed his muscles. "Not me," he said. "And anyway, I'm moving in until this situation is resolved, remember?" I took that as a date. (He flexed his muscles on the phone?)
"I hoped you'd see it that way."
"That doesn't mean I don't agree with her."
Two negative words, like multiplying two negative numbers, gave a positive. Too bad. I'd counted on Bruce's support as I continued to work out the scenario for xxxx's murder. (OK, we get it. You're a math geek)
"I mentally rolled up the imaginary sleeves of my sleeveless knit top. Not a problem; I'd taught a whole course in imaginary numbers last year." (imaginary sleeves/imaginary numbers. Uh huh)
Worst of all, there were major logic fails that are unforgivable in a mystery. It's difficult to talk about them without including spoilers. A minor non-spoiler example: I don't think every character needs to behave in a perfectly logical way- people don't. But if you were very worried about something that could be resolved by spending a couple of dollars on reverse look up, wouldn't you do it? (Not to mention possibly solving a murder while you're at it)
This wasn't the worst mystery I've ever read by any means and I don't want to go so far as to say I didn't like it at all. I did finish it and the author included a few very simple puzzles at the end. Basically, just another book in crying need of a strong editor.
Normally I'm obsessive about reading every book in a series. If it were a freebie, I might pick up a later book to see if they get any better, but other than that I have no interest in pursuing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2014
There’s not much to say really because this is a cozy mystery and they kind of always follow the same rules, you know. Still, it was an interesting spin with a maths professor headlining this particular series. The mystery wasn’t much of a mystery once I figured out who did it but I was curious to see how Sophie would solve it and react. So… The plot didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and it was really quite obvious once some particular keywords were said at 48% (I totally called it) but I was fine with that. Not so much with Sophie, who was obnoxious and way too pushy for her own good (or rather the police’s good, because frankly I would’ve charged her with obstruction of justice).
I don’t really understand Sophie’s motivation to ~investigate~ (if you want to call it that) other than trying to clear her friend’s name (who she is certain is innocent because she’s a nice girl… except that everyone hated the victim so literally anyone could’ve just snapped and done the deed). She doesn’t really have any skills other than saying she’s good at puzzles and considering that she feels oh so qualified it’s kind of a letdown that it takes her so long to figure it all out. (Of course we must understand that literally everyone is simply too nice to do it…)
While I didn’t have to force myself through the book (I really did want to know if I was right when I called the killer), I was still sort of disappointed by the end of it. The victim is this supposed bad person that everyone hates but then we hear from three people that that’s not true and that the victim considered Sophie to be their best friend (uhm… what?). Add to that the fact that the victim has some sort of blackmail material on some particular people and I’m just left confused because those things are never cleared up. Like why? Why? W h y? I don’t understand the victim’s motivation any more than I understand baseball. In fact, the victim is killed because they were blackmailing other people BUT I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY WERE EVEN BLACKMAILING THEM WITH. THERE IS ZERO INFORMATION GIVEN. And on top of that some of that blackmail material is just absolutely ridiculous and in my opinion has no bearing whatsoever on the blackmail victim’s life/career/existence, and yet it’s made an issue. Like, sorry, the 1800s called, they want their opinions back.
As for the characterisation in general, the characters were all really flat and mostly identified by one signifier. The main character is a mathsy person who is aces at puzzles (or so she says…), so she’s ALWAYS doing puzzles. Like, walking from her living room to the bathroom there are three puzzles on the way that she just happens to fill out… as you do. She’s described as wearing lots of summery flowery dresses (if I remember correctly) but she doesn’t sound anything like she would do that. All I saw was a pressed middle-aged woman in a suit, tbh.
It’s just lists of facts for the characters but it doesn’t really come together. Then there’s absolutely over the top names that may be not over the top if you’re American, but I thought it was unnecessary that there was a dude called Virgil and a lady called Elteen. I actually had to google the latter because I was almost sure that that couldn’t be a name. (I’ve now learned that names in America are not as complicated and regulated as they are in Germany.) Generally it just felt very orchestrated which was more exasperating than entertaining.
And that brings me to the things that did entertain me. (And I swear they did, even though it sounds differently below.) Because I was hella entertained by the “what?!” moments. For one thing, Sophie doesn’t know how phones work. In the 2010s. Riiight. Even my tech-illiterate dad knows how his fancy smartphone works.
"“Not a chance,” I said. Message received, I noticed, as the girls dropped their shoulders and sighed. Maybe it was all the texting we did these days that enabled this kind of shorthand communication even without the benefit of an electronic device."
That is possibly the most patronising and rude thing I’ve read lately about the current generation of teens and young adults. SO PATRONISING OMG GASP THEY UNDERSTOOD THREE WORDS WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO CLARIFY EVEN FURTHER THAT THERE WAS NO CHANCE OF THEM BEING LET INSIDE THE BUILDING WOW KIDS THESE DAYS THEY ARE SO WELL VERSED WITH SHORT SENTENCES IT MUST BE THE CURSE OF TEXTING THAT MAKES THEM REACT LIKE THIS. In other news, T9 is a thing of the past and I write run-on sentences on my phone like a pro. No need for ~shorthand communication~ here to save time.
"I waited while the phone dialed. Or whatever these smartphones did."
I BET THEY DANCED THE POLKA BEFORE TRAVELLING TO MARS TO DO SOME WEIRD SMARTPHONE MAGIC SO YOU CAN TALK TO THE PERSON WHOSE NUMBER YOU’VE DIALLED. Or not dialled. Whatever these smartphones do…
"Still, I hoped Bruce wouldn’t travel too far out of range of my cell."
THAT IS NOT HOW PHONES WORK YOU ARE THINKING OF IDK TIN CAN TELEPHONES. Sorry, when has there ever been a phone (and not some other technology) that relies on proximity to another phone? I’m flabbergasted, negl.
Speaking of how things do not work:
"I’d read somewhere that cyanide had an almond smell, but that not everyone had the gene to detect the odor. Apparently I was one of those lucky ones who possessed the gene, and could smell cyanide even when there was none within miles."
THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. NOT EVEN REMOTELY. HOW DO YOU EVEN RATIONALISE THESE THOUGHTS??? Hint: Probably not at all because of course this comes from the person who thinks she is smarter than the police…
"I wasn’t proud of the other reason either, that I thought I was smarter than the police—hadn’t I already proven otherwise, in several orders of magnitude?—and that I’d be able to see at a glance something they’d missed."
AND YET YOU KEEP POKING YOUR NOSE IN IT.
"How clever of the police to ask Woody that question. They were so thorough, maybe I was wasting my time."
THEY ARE THE POLICE WHAT DID YOU EXPECT
I was thoroughly impressed and moved to hysterical giggles because Sophie’s actions are just so misguided and outright crazy. I’m just… how does a character like this even exist and manage to justify their actions to themselves. How? It’s just incredibly amusing to me.
Oh well. All that said and ranted over and raged about, I swear the book wasn’t bad. It was an okay read with some seriously misguided character opinions and thoughts. There weren’t really any puzzle-y bits in it (except for a handful after the end but they weren’t even challenging) and the whole math-related stuff was unnecessary because it didn’t show up at all, unless it was mentioned that by the way Sophie is a maths professor!!! In case you forgot!!! She also likes to create puzzles!! The mystery wasn’t too bad, even though I figured it out before the halfway point, but I guess what irks me is that in the end there is no real closure. I still don’t know why exactly the victim was a s***ty person and I still don’t know why exactly they were killed. If you like cozy mysteries and if you don’t mind the things mentioned above, you should give this book a shot. (And even if you do mind, you might get a kick out of the ineptitude of people in their 40s who do not understand how phones work.)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"The Square Root of Murder" is a cozy mystery. The setup was one where any character could have done the murder, and Sophie was able to spot pertinent clues as fast as the reader. I didn't spend much time guessing whodunit, but, at one point, I did think (without much conviction), "Huh, I bet such-and-such did it." Turns out, I was right. So it is guessable.
Details about the various jobs (professor, emergency worker, beading store owner, detective) and the setting were woven into the story and brought the story alive in my imagination. The characters were interesting and dealt with realistic problems. The one thing that kind of confused me was that Sophie, who's analytical and works math puzzles to calm down, had such a vivid imagination that she was almost paranoid. Granted, she realized when her response was foolish, but that didn't stop her from acting on her paranoid feelings. However, she acted more logically as the story progressed, so I felt comfortable with her by the end.
Since the characters didn't seem religious, I'm assuming the minor use of "God" (usually in the phrase--written out--of OMG) was swearing. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'm recommend this well-written, enjoyable novel.
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.