a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Mathematicians of Grizzly Drive (1988)
Josef Skvorecky

A detective story, in the "hard boiled" genre, featuring Eve Adam, a sexy nightclub performer who solves crimes in her free time. In this story, she visits a house where mathematicians gather to entertain themselves with roulette and cards. (One of the suspects is a mathematician named "Mr. Snake", ironic considering the heroine's name, as the story notes.) The clue to the kidnapping turns out to be an "equation".

As is common in mathematical fiction written by non-mathematicians the word "equation" here is misused. A formula is not an equation unless it has an equal sign in it! Usually, this is just a matter of terminology, but in this case it is a more serious problem. The mathematical expression that is the key involves absolute values, x's and y's. If one sets this equal to something, it corresponds to some geometric object, a set of lines in the xy-plane that can be graphed. Apparently, this is what the author intended us to imagine. However, without knowing what it is equal to (is it 1? is it 0? or is there an equal sign missing from somewhere in the middle of the expression?) I do not know what it is supposed to be. I tried several possibilities and did not find anything reasonable. Can any of you help me figure out what was intended?

I cannot strongly recommend this story. It is one of a collection of stories by this author, each of which intentionally violates one of the supposed "rules" of mystery fiction. (The rule this one breaks is "No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.".) However, this story leads me to wonder whether it would have been better to follow the rules in this case. The jokes are not terribly funny, the mystery not terribly mysterious, and the fact that the main character is a drop-dead beautiful singer from a communist country is not enough to make it interesting. Worst of all, it is full of completely unbelievable coincidences. For me, that completely spoils any "whodunnit".

In any case, I am grateful to Vijay Fafat for bringing this story, imperfect as it may be, to my attention.

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Works Similar to The Mathematicians of Grizzly Drive
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Murdered Mathematician by Harry Stephen Keeler
  2. The Math Code by Alex Kasman
  3. The Use of Geometry in the Modern Novel by Norman Clarke
  4. Probability Murder by Michael Flynn
  5. Dalrymple’s Equation by Paul Fairman
  6. The Visiting Professor by Robert Littell
  7. Bianca by Nanni Moretti (director and screenplay)
  8. Cardano and the Case of the Cubic by Jeff Adams
  9. 1 to 999 by Isaac Asimov
  10. A Frayed Knot by Felix Culp
Ratings for The Mathematicians of Grizzly Drive:
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:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
1/5 (1 votes)

GenreMystery, Humorous,
MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians, Romance,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Algebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,
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)