Published on *Bookreporter.com* (http://www.bookreporter.com)

A

dozen years ago, a graduate of the University of Buenos Aires

eagerly followed his scholarship money to Oxford to spend a year at

the Mathematical Institute. As luck would have it, he found rooms

to let in the home of widowed Mrs. Eagleton. All seemed to be going

well in the first few weeks of his residency, but then his landlady

turned up dead, murdered as she languished on her chaise lounge.

The young student was the unfortunate discoverer of Mrs. Eagleton's

body, along with the renowned logician Arthur Seldom, who showed up

on the doorstep just as the student was ringing Mrs. Eagleton's

doorbell. They summon the authorities.

Once the police arrive, Seldom recounts the delivery of a strange

note to his cubbyhole at the Institute, stating "The first of the

series" with a symbol and a time written on it. Seldom, naturally,

tries to puzzle it out, attempting to discern what the next symbol

might be if their dark suspicions are correct, for of course they

all fear that a serial killer has just begun his deadly work.

Before they are able to see the direction he may be going, another

body and note show up --- "The second of the series." Seldom

challenges the student to find the solution, even as he himself

seems to harbor an inkling as to the logical next symbol. But even

if they know the next in the series, how can they know to whom it

will relate?

Inspector Peterson happily enlists Seldom's aid, along with that of

the student. He asks, "Do you think this person is a

mathematician?"

Seldom replies, "No, not necessarily...it could be a symbol from

some esoteric cult, or ancient religion or something else entirely.

An astrologer might have seen a full moon or...." The possibilities

begin to seem innumerable, but as we know, with math involved, the

answer will almost certainly be provable.

Then, when a third note is found at a concert where one of the

performers dies on stage before a stunned audience, the police

become convinced they are dealing with a highly cunning and

exceptionally brilliant murderer. Inspector Peterson ratchets up

the pressure on Seldom to figure out the next probable sign before

the killer strikes again.

Unfortunately, they sit in numbed horror as the fourth in the

series brings the awful truth to light. With the murderer exposed,

they cannot help but wish that they had been able to stop it. But

even with the explanation finally out, there is another astounding

--- and surprising --- ending.

Written with an intelligent wit, THE OXFORD MURDERS adds up to a

small book with a big punch.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 14, 2011