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.