a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Zero Clue (1952)
Rex Stout
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

Nero Wolfe can't stand Leo Heller, a mathematician who uses operations research to solve mysteries and seems to be superseding Wolfe's own reputation. But then Heller is murdered by one of his clients. He managed to leave a cryptic message that Wolfe eventually decodes, partly with the help of Lancelot Hogben MATHEMATICS FOR THE MILLION. (Of nonmathematical interest is the background story of a terror bombing of a hospital with over 300 lives lost. Such horrors were pretty much unthinkable in the US in the 50s.)

This story appears in the (out-of-print) book Three Men Out (published in 1954) and was originally serialized in American Magazine as "Scared to Death" begining in 1952.

SPOILER WARNING: I do undertand why "Mr. Emba" who wrote the above review did not want to say anything that would give away the solution of the mystery. There may well be someone reading this now who wants to read the story and figure it out for themselves. However, I would also like this Website to serve a resource and someone may be looking for a story which uses a particular mathematical idea. So, if you don't mind getting a very big clue, please follow this link for just a bit more information about the mathematical content of the story.

More information about this work can be found at
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to The Zero Clue
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Child's Play by Isaac Asimov
  2. Ten by Isaac Asimov
  3. Zéro, ou les Cinq vies d'Aemer by Denis Guedj
  4. Progress by Alex Kasman
  5. Death of a Doxy by Rex Stout
  6. Percentage Player by Leslie Charteris
  7. And Be a Villain by Rex Stout
  8. The Square Cube Law by Fletcher Pratt
  9. Mathematical Doom by Paul Ernst
  10. The Symbolic Logic of Murder by John Reese
Ratings for The Zero Clue:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

MediumShort Stories,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)