Dr. Sophie Knowles teaches math at Henley College in Massachusetts, but when a colleague turns up dead, it’s up to her to find the killer before someone else gets subtracted.
— Goodreads Description
(That’s a terrible pun and this is coming from a person who keeps making terrible puns herself.)
I read this book for May’s Pick-For-Me because I have all these cozies on my tbr and I never actuall read them. It wasn’t too shabby! Well done, Ren, your choices are getting better! (Though I should add that while it wasn’t too shabby, it also wasn’t too good. I was mostly entertained by all the wtf moments that were flung at me. It was really quite hilarious.)
There’s not much to say really because this is a cozy mystery and they kind of always follow the same rules, you know. Still, it was an interesting spin with a maths professor headlining this particular series. The mystery wasn’t much of a mystery once I figured out who did it but I was curious to see how Sophie would solve it and react. So… The plot didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and it was really quite obvious once some particular keywords were said at 48% (I totally called it) but I was fine with that. Not so much with Sophie, who was obnoxious and way too pushy for her own good (or rather the police’s good, because frankly I would’ve charged her with obstruction of justice).
I don’t really understand Sophie’s motivation to ~investigate~ (if you want to call it that) other than trying to clear her friend’s name (who she is certain is innocent because she’s a nice girl… except that everyone hated the victim so literally anyone could’ve just snapped and done the deed). She doesn’t really have any skills other than saying she’s good at puzzles and considering that she feels oh so qualified it’s kind of a letdown that it takes her so long to figure it all out. (Of course we must understand that literally everyone is simply too nice to do it…)
While I didn’t have to force myself through the book (I really did want to know if I was right when I called the killer), I was still sort of disappointed by the end of it. The victim is this supposed bad person that everyone hates but then we hear from three people that that’s not true and that the victim considered Sophie to be their best friend (uhm… what?). Add to that the fact that the victim has some sort of blackmail material on some particular people and I’m just left confused because those things are never cleared up. Like why? Why? W h y? I don’t understand the victim’s motivation any more than I understand baseball. In fact, the victim is killed because they were blackmailing other people BUT I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY WERE EVEN BLACKMAILING THEM WITH. THERE IS ZERO INFORMATION GIVEN. And on top of that some of that blackmail material is just absolutely ridiculous and in my opinion has no bearing whatsoever on the blackmail victim’s life/career/existence, and yet it’s made an issue. Like, sorry, the 1800s called, they want their opinions back.
As for the characterisation in general, the characters were all really flat and mostly identified by one signifier. The main character is a mathsy person who is aces at puzzles (or so she says…), so she’s ALWAYS doing puzzles. Like, walking from her living room to the bathroom there are three puzzles on the way that she just happens to fill out… as you do. She’s described as wearing lots of summery flowery dresses (if I remember correctly) but she doesn’t sound anything like she would do that. All I saw was a pressed middle-aged woman in a suit, tbh.
It’s just lists of facts for the characters but it doesn’t really come together. Then there’s absolutely over the top names that may be not over the top if you’re American, but I thought it was unnecessary that there was a dude called Virgil and a lady called Elteen. I actually had to google the latter because I was almost sure that that couldn’t be a name. (I’ve now learned that names in America are not as complicated and regulated as they are in Germany.) Generally it just felt very orchestrated which was more exasperating than entertaining.
And that brings me to the things that did entertain me. (And I swear they did, even though it sounds differently below.) Because I was hella entertained by the “what?!” moments. For one thing, Sophie doesn’t know how phones work. In the 2010s. Riiight. Even my tech-illiterate dad knows how his fancy smartphone works.
“Not a chance,” I said. Message received, I noticed, as the girls dropped their shoulders and sighed. Maybe it was all the texting we did these days that enabled this kind of shorthand communication even without the benefit of an electronic device.
That is possibly the most patronising and rude thing I’ve read lately about the current generation of teens and young adults. SO PATRONISING OMG GASP THEY UNDERSTOOD THREE WORDS WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO CLARIFY EVEN FURTHER THAT THERE WAS NO CHANCE OF THEM BEING LET INSIDE THE BUILDING WOW KIDS THESE DAYS THEY ARE SO WELL VERSED WITH SHORT SENTENCES IT MUST BE THE CURSE OF TEXTING THAT MAKES THEM REACT LIKE THIS. In other news, T9 is a thing of the past and I write run-on sentences on my phone like a pro. No need for ~shorthand communication~ here to save time.
I waited while the phone dialed. Or whatever these smartphones did.
I BET THEY DANCED THE POLKA BEFORE TRAVELLING TO MARS TO DO SOME WEIRD SMARTPHONE MAGIC SO YOU CAN TALK TO THE PERSON WHOSE NUMBER YOU’VE DIALLED. Or not dialled. Whatever these smartphones do…
Still, I hoped Bruce wouldn’t travel too far out of range of my cell.
THAT IS NOT HOW PHONES WORK YOU ARE THINKING OF IDK TIN CAN TELEPHONES. Sorry, when has there ever been a phone (and not some other technology) that relies on proximity to another phone? I’m flabbergasted, negl.
Speaking of how things do not work:
I’d read somewhere that cyanide had an almond smell, but that not everyone had the gene to detect the odor. Apparently I was one of those lucky ones who possessed the gene, and could smell cyanide even when there was none within miles.
THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. NOT EVEN REMOTELY. HOW DO YOU EVEN RATIONALISE THESE THOUGHTS??? Hint: Probably not at all because of course this comes from the person who thinks she is smarter than the police…
I wasn’t proud of the other reason either, that I thought I was smarter than the police—hadn’t I already proven otherwise, in several orders of magnitude?—and that I’d be able to see at a glance something they’d missed.
AND YET YOU KEEP POKING YOUR NOSE IN IT.
How clever of the police to ask Woody that question. They were so thorough, maybe I was wasting my time.
THEY ARE THE POLICE WHAT DID YOU EXPECT
I was thoroughly impressed and moved to hysterical giggles because Sophie’s actions are just so misguided and outright crazy. I’m just… how does a character like this even exist and manage to justify their actions to themselves. How? It’s just incredibly amusing to me.
Oh well. All that said and ranted over and raged about, I swear the book wasn’t bad. It was an okay read with some seriously misguided character opinions and thoughts. There weren’t really any puzzle-y bits in it (except for a handful after the end but they weren’t even challenging) and the whole math-related stuff was unnecessary because it didn’t show up at all, unless it was mentioned that by the way Sophie is a maths professor!!! In case you forgot!!! She also likes to create puzzles!! The mystery wasn’t too bad, even though I figured it out before the halfway point, but I guess what irks me is that in the end there is no real closure. I still don’t know why exactly the victim was a shitty person and I still don’t know why exactly they were killed. If you like cozy mysteries and if you don’t mind the things mentioned above, you should give this book a shot. (And even if you do mind, you might get a kick out of the ineptitude of people in their 40s who do not understand how phones work.)