THE OXFORD MURDERS by Guillermo Martínez


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An elegant, fashionable, award-winning novel mixes murder with modern mathematical theory.

A nameless, 22-year-old Argentinean mathematician plays Dr. Watson to mathematical genius Arthur Seldom’s Sherlock Holmes in contemporary Oxford, England. Martínez (Regarding Roderer, 1994, etc.), a mathematical scientist himself, takes an offbeat approach to the place and the killings, adding intellectual spin to his renderings of both. Each of the “imperceptible murders” that takes place involves an acquaintance of Seldom or else occurs in close proximity to him, and each is preceded by a message and a symbol taken from the Pythagorean doctrine. The unnamed narrator—whose landlady, Mrs Eagleton, is victim number one, her symbol a circle—helps Seldom investigate the mysteries, while moving through well known locations such as Blenheim Palace and the Radcliffe Hospital, which here take on foreign, vaguely surreal and sinister aspects. Female interest is supplied by a lusty, tennis-playing nurse and Mrs. Eagleton’s miserable but alluring granddaughter Beth, with Martínez smoothly melding the intrigue and sex with introductions to loftier intellectual concepts such as Fermat’s Last Theorem. A second death takes place in the hospital and the third, spectacularly, at an outdoor concert. Bizarrely, all three victims seem to have been living on borrowed time. But the pattern of violence changes, culminating in a macabre bus crash that kills ten Down Syndrome children, and seems to have been engineered by the bus’s driver, now dead himself, in order to generate lung transplant material for his dying daughter. Was he the serial killer, or is it possible there were two murderers and some nifty connective footwork supplied by a third party? The narrator is left to muse on what constitutes the perfect crime, and also to contemplate his own random influence on events in a story that fuses murder, numbers, beautiful minds, sects and old mysteries.

Soft-spoken, smart and satisfying.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 2005
ISBN: 1-59692-150-1
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2005


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