Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Square Root of Murder by Ada Madison

If Dr. Sophie Knowles wasn't such a nice person, and a mentor to so many math students, I'd be more upset with the character in the new mystery series by Ada Madison. Sophie violates one of my cardinal rules for amateur sleuths. She keeps secrets from the police. But, I like Sophie and the other characters in The Square Root of Murder, so I'll forgive her, this time.

In her mid-forties, Sophie teaches math at Henley College, a women's college about to turn coed, in Massachusetts. She loves math and her students, In her spare time, she publishes puzzles and brainteasers, and does beading at a shop owned by her best friend. She also spends as much time as she can with Bruce Granville, the pilot of a medevac helicopter. There are a few flies in Dr. Knowles' ointment. The dean doesn't seem to like her. And, she has frequent disagreements with Dr. Keith Appleton, a chemistry professor. But, then, everyone except the dean seems to have problems with Keith, from Rachel, a post-graduate assistant, to the science undergrads, to Sophie's friend, physics professor Dr. Hal Bartholomew. But who hated him enough to kill him during the party celebrating Hal's promotion?

When Rachel is called in for questioning, Sophie tries to convince a friend, homicide detective Virgil Mitchell, that Rachel couldn't have killed the professor. When her defense of the student fails, Knowles decides to use her analytical skills to narrow down the possibilities, and find a killer. When Sophie sneaks files out of Keith's office, and they subsequently disappear, it seems the killer has learned about Dr. Knowles extracurricular sleuthing activities. There might just be a second dead professor from Henley College.

As I mentioned, some of Sophie's methods bother me. I don't approve of the amateur sleuth who sets out on their own to find a killer, and fails to turn clues over to the police, particularly when one of the investigators is a friend. However, when she lines up enough information, Dr. Knowles does reveal her timeline to the police, along with her list of sources. But, I like Sophie. I like her depth of feeling for her students and friends. She has a terrific relationship with her boyfriend, and, despite her secrets, a good relationship with Virgil. So, after The Square Root of Murder, I'm willing to give Dr. Sophie Knowles a second chance to prove how smart she really is. I'm looking forward to the next puzzle in Sophie's life.

Ada Madison's (Camille Minichino) website is www.minichino.com

The Square Root of Murder by Ada Madison. Berkley Prime Crime. ©2011. ISBN 9780425242193 (paperback), 292p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

9 comments:

Liz V. said...

Have enjoyed Camille's periodic table mysteries and now have two more series--Sophie's and the miniatures mysteries-- to check out.

Share your disappointment about keeping back info and lifting evidence. Maybe it's lack of confidence since Sophie's new to this.

Lesa said...

Liz,

I'm with you. I really enjoyed Camille's other series. I like Sophie so much. I hope she does a better job sharing with the police in the future books.

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks so much, Lesa. You can always be counted on for an honest post and I'm grateful for that!

I wish I could assure you and LIz that Sophie will behave from now on. Maybe it's my own lack of skill, but I find it hard to have her be the risk-taking person she's supposed to be and still follow all the rules.

It's a common complaint about amateur sleuths -- funny no one complains when a cop goes rogue and gets evidence or solves a case in any way he can!

In any case your post has inspired me to take on this topic this week on my own blog, so thanks for that, too.

Finally, it was great to see you in person in Santa Fe earlier this year! Please come to Sacramento next spring!

Theresa de Valence said...

Hi Lesa,

WHY do you disapprove of amateurs hiding their discoveries from the cops?

Thanks,
Theresa

Lesa said...

You have a point, Camille. And, I didn't complain when Michael Harvey's private detective kept information from Homeland Security, but, then, Homeland Security was a little doubtful in that book, and the cops were quite honest, and capable, in your book. Perhaps that's the problem a lot of us have - the cops aren't given a chance. But, then, it is a mystery featuring an amateur sleuth, and we're supposed to suspend disbelief.

Thank you! It was wonderful to finally meet you. As much as I enjoyed Left Coast Crime, I don't think I'll be going anywhere in 2012.

Lesa said...

Theresa,

At least in this case, these were hardworking, honest cops, who were not trying to railroad anyone, and Ada's (Camille's) sleuth was even a friend of one of them. She was hoping he would share information with her. Why wouldn't she be honest with him?

Camille Minichino said...

I'm going to put in a plug for my blog here, where I discuss all this further (Lesa can always trash it!)

To me, an amateur sleuth takes chances, or she would be too much like us and why bother reading. She doesn't really break the law, she's just driven in a way I would never be, and that's what makes her (and amateur sleuths) interesting, as long as they're not TSTL!


see http://minichino.com/wordpress/?p=1078

Lesa said...

Camille,

I'm glad you linked to your blog. I'm certainly not going to trash it because I was glad you commented, and expressed your opinion. Thanks for sharing it! I hope my readers go over and read it!

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