a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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In the Shadow of Gotham (2009)
Stefanie Pintoff

The first victim in this murder mystery is a female math grad student at Columbia University in the year 1905. I'm sure many of the fans of this Edgar Award winning first-novel would mention the historical details of the turn-of-the-century New York setting and the focus on criminology as its strong points. Indeed, those are reasons to read this book, but its academic setting and its exploration of how others might feel about a very successful female mathematician are also potential sources of interest.

Sarah Wingate was supposed to have made some important progress on (maybe even proved?!?) the Riemann Hypothesis before being killed. The investigators speculate that animosity from some of the other students could have played a role in the murder, and some of the supporting characters even display some of this sexism. In addition, we learn that Sarah was romantically involved with an older mathematician at Princeton, and the investigators speculate that if this were known there would be those who would assume that her discoveries were not her own. For a reader like myself, the mathematics and glimpses of academia (including the fields of psychology and chemistry in addition to mathematics) are interesting in themselves. However, as it turns out, these things do not play a big role in the grisly murders.

(quoted from In the Shadow of Gotham)

Gifted in math, Sarah had just begun her fourth year in Columbia's graduate program in mathematics, having finished her undergraduate degree at Barnard. She was apparently doing well in her work, and had even published tow papers -- the primary criterion for succeeding in academic work. According to Abigail, Sarah had seemed content and happy and while certainly she had experienced the usual difficulties on would expect a woman to encounter in graduate education -- especially in a man's field such as mathematics -- Sarah had never complained.

(quoted from In the Shadow of Gotham)

There was a modern Hammond typewriter at the desk, next to which was a notebook. On its cover, Sarah Wingate had written her name, as well as a title -- THE RIEMANN HYPOTHESIS. Inside, line after line was filled with mathematical symbols and equations that resembled mere gibberish.

Contributed by Jeanne Clelland

The novel is set in New York in the early 20th century, where the murder victim is a female graduate student in mathematics at Columbia. Her work in mathematics is described briefly as part of the murder investigation.

Mathematics or no, the book was an enjoyable read. I guessed who the murderer was fairly early on, but not his/her motive, so there were still enjoyable twists at the end. (The next novel in the series, "A Curtain Falls," involves no mathematics but is also an entertaining mystery novel.)

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Works Similar to In the Shadow of Gotham
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
  2. Murder, She Conjectured by Alex Kasman
  3. Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins
  4. Lewis (Episode: Reputation) by Russell Lewis (Story) / Stephen Churchett (Screenplay)
  5. Murder by Mathematics by Hector Hawton
  6. Flowers Stained with Moonlight by Catherine Shaw
  7. The Four-Color Puzzle: Falling Off the Map by Lior Samson
  8. The Devotion of Suspect X [YĆ“gisha X no kenshin] by Keigo Higashino
  9. The Distant Dead by Heather Young
  10. A Killer Theorem by Colin Adams
Ratings for In the Shadow of Gotham:
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:
4/5 (1 votes)

MotifAcademia, Proving Theorems, Female Mathematicians,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,

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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)