From Publishers Weekly
Math and murder mingle in this intriguingly cerebral mystery. When an Argentine math student at Oxford discovers the smothered body of his landlady, conventional wisdom points to a family member with the most prosaic of motives. But then renowned logician Arthur Seldom, author of a book on the mathematics of serial killers, tells of a strange note left in his mailbox indicating the murder is the first of a series linked by a mysterious pattern. More bodies pile up, apparently of natural causes, but each paired with a message bearing a new arcane symbol. Arthur and his student ponder whether the deaths are innocent or the subtle, "imperceptible" homicides of a madman seeking to match wits with the great logician, and they rack their brains to decipher a pattern behind the signs before another corpse turns up. Martinez, a novelist and math Ph.D., writes with a restrained, elegant style sprinkled with brief disquisitions on Gödel's theorem, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and Wittgenstein's paradox, which demonstrates "the impossibility of establishing an unambiguous rule." None of that helps very much in solving the crimes, but it makes an intriguing context for the author's exploration of a fundamental mystery theme;how we impose meaningful patterns on the confusing evidence of reality and are in turn misled and blinded by those patterns. The result is a stylish, intellectually meaty whodunit. (Oct. 17)
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A young Argentinean mathematics specialist studying in Oxford finds lodging with an old woman who worked on the Enigma Code during World War II. The lodger returns home one afternoon to find two surprises: his hero, a mathematics don who has written an acclaimed book on logical series, is on the doorstep, and, when they enter, they find the old woman murdered in her wheelchair. The Oxford don, we learn, has received a note hinting at the murder and calling it "the first of the series." He fears that the killer may be testing him, thanks to a chapter in his book on serial murders. The notes, with coded messages, keep arriving as more murders are committed. Although the novel is eminently logical in its explanation of sequences and assigned meanings, the way that the police share details of their investigation with the young math student is completely illogical. This should be read for atmosphere and fascinating applications of logical sequences to crime-scene investigation--an extreme extension of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians
. Connie FletcherCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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