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The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez
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The Oxford Murders (original 2003; edition 2006)

by Guillermo Martinez, Sonia Soto (Translator)

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1,025578,270 (3.13)72
seasonsoflove's review
I should preface this by stating that math has always been my nemesis, due to a completely inept math teacher in grade school who left me with minimal knowledge of the basics, and thus ensured me floundering throughout high school math.

This left me with some reservations about picking up a mystery centered around mathematics, but Martinez is a much more capable teacher, and a great writer. The mathematics sections are easy to follow regardless of background knowledge, and the mystery is really intriguing and well plotted.

An Argentinian mathematics student arrives in Oxford to continue his studies, only to find that within days of his arrival, the elderly woman running his boarding house has been murdered, and a mysterious note foretelling the death has been left for a famous mathematician. The student is drawn into helping to solve the murders, and must attempt to decipher the mysterious symbols the murderer continues to leave, before the killings begin again. ( )
  seasonsoflove | May 26, 2012 |
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Oxford - Hort des Wissens und der Bildung. Selbst Serienmörder hinterlassen hier nicht einfach nur ihre Toten, sondern in diesem Fall auch Nachrichten mit kryptischen Zeichen, die gezielt Seldom, einem berühmten Mathematiker, zugespielt werden. Nichts scheint die Toten miteinander zu verbinden, außer diesen Nachrichten und der Tatsache, dass alle bereits wesentlich länger lebten als ihnen die Medizin vorhergesagt hatte. Gemeinsam mit Seldom macht sich der argentinische Mathematikgaststudent, der das erste Opfer fand, bei dem er zur Untermiete lebte, auf die Suche nach dem Täter.
Entsprechend ihrer Profession verläuft die Suche nach streng mathematisch-philosophisch-logischen Gesichtspunkten unter Heranziehung u.a. der Thesen Gödels und Wittgenstein. Doch keine Angst: Auch für mathematisch Nicht-Vorbelastete ist dies alles gut nachvollziehbar und so manche/r wird entdecken, dass Mathematik alles andere ist als nur graue Theorie.
Spannend, überraschend und auch noch lehrreich - so muss ein Rätselkrimi sein!
PS: Wer in einem Lesekreis des Krimis Lösung gemeinsam errätseln will, sollte bis Kapitel 24 lesen. Im 25. wird die ganze Wahrheit offengelegt. ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
Every once in a while I like to listen to an audio book in Spanish to help me stay current. They are somewhat hard for me to find, but I found this and so I listened to it. The narrator's voice was somewhat annoying, but, as they say, beggars can't be choosers. ( )
  piersanti | Sep 28, 2014 |
Another highly enjoyable read, demolished in a long day waiting for replies from e-mails. The ending had some loose clues that I never figured out (the badger? the thumb?) but overall, very well done. Enough maths to make it interesting without being incomprehensible. I'm not sure I'd read more but it was a fun read.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Very enjoyable. I especially liked the Argentine view of England. It would have been even better if the translator had written it with an accent. Perhaps the best would be an audio reading with an Argentinian accent. I tried to do it in my head but kept slipping back into rather banal english. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
I read this several years ago. I remember thinking that the math problem was trivial, and being much more interested in the Assyrian frieze, and also that either due to the writing style or the translator, it was very wooden and not worth reading again. Checking about on-line, I find that people either liked it or didn't based on the math, that everyone agrees about the writing style, and that apparently no one else cares about the Assyrian frieze. Also, people didn't like the movie. Still, it's set in Oxford, and gets points for best use of math. And also, the Assyrian frieze. ( )
1 vote teckelvik | Apr 7, 2014 |
We saw the 2008 movie of this (John Hurt, Julie Cox, Elijah Wood, Leonor Watling) a while ago, and were charmed by it even though the "mystery" part of it didn't seem to make much sense. The book, despite some continuity problems, is a lot more coherent. The landlady of an Argentinian student mathematician in Oxford for his PhD is murdered; he and a distinguished mathematician who was an old family friend of the dead woman assist an astonishingly well educated copper in the quest for this killing and the series of "almost imperceptible murders" that follows. The joy of the book lies not so much in the mystery plot, although that's (despite aforementioned qualms) fair enough, as in the frequent digressions as the central characters discuss (sometimes cod) mathematical philosophy; my favourite part of this was the consideration that more than one mathematical series might be defined by the same first three terms. In case that might sound forbidding, it isn't. This is great entertainment; I can imagine, though, that the publisher's efforts on the cover to make it seem like just another murder mystery must have led to some mightily puzzled commuters . . .

The translation is generally very good, although every now and there's a glaring mistranslation (because literal Spanish rather than colloquial English) of a single word. I blame the copyeditor for not picking these few instances up. ( )
3 vote JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
This is an intellectual vanity piece on the part of the author, a South American mathematician who features himself by another name in this mystery about serial murder. There are some academically interesting passages about serial logic, a couple red herrings, and a reasonable conclusion but not enough in the story arc itself to direct the reader to the same conclusion. Jonathan Davis reads the text carefully and does a nice Scottish accent for one of the major characters, but makes no effort whatsoever for any of the British characters. Overall, TOM is a rather dull, cerebral story. BTW, the solution to the “M-Heart-8” puzzle is as easy as “1-2-3” ( )
1 vote Tanya-dogearedcopy | Apr 4, 2013 |
An interesting mystery with a classic twist, a pinch of mathematics and a first person POV that is quite engaging. The murder mystery deeply set in the mathematic world is intriguing even for people who don't know anything about logics and series and theorems. The math angle is not a turn off and doesn't obliterate all of the narrative. Just enough to peak your curiosity if you are so incline. I am definitely gonna hunt down the Buzzati's story from chapter 8. The plot : a serial killer announces his crimes to a world renown mathematician and plays a game of cat and mouse with the professor and a foreign student who narrates the story. It's a good story and an enjoyable read. Yes, I had to go look for the solution for the logical series on the Net. : ) ( )
  writerlibrarian | Apr 4, 2013 |
An Argentinian mathematics graduate student arrives in Oxford only to have his landlady murdered a short time later. There is a note left for Arthur Seldom, a renowned logic and mathematical expert who authored a book with a chapter on serial killers, indicating that the murder is the first in a series of mathematical murders. The key for investigators is to find the pattern. Other murders soon follow. I was a bit disappointed in the book as the mystery was fairly simplistic and easy to solve. There were some advanced mathematical theorems discussed in the course of the book. Characterization was not a particularly strong suit either. It was a pleasant way to spend a few hours, but I had hoped for a more challenging mystery. ( )
1 vote thornton37814 | Mar 24, 2013 |
Es un libro que trata el caso de un asesino en serie que maneja las matemáticas como su modo de asesinato. La trama nos mantiene dentro del libro, hasta lograr descubrir quien es realmente el asesino y saber como hizo para escapar de las autoridades y pasar desapercibido. ( )
  lauraperezchaparro | Feb 13, 2013 |
Someone mentioned the author on Library Thing and so off I went in search of a copy thinking it would be along the lines of The Da Vinci Code, but alas not. At less than two hundred pages, it was anemic compared to Brown’s work. But for a small book, and one that was translated to boot, it was not an extremely quick read, and really did encompass some interesting character tics. The discussion among the key characters in their mathematical language piqued my interest -- perhaps that arena might be worth exploring. ( )
1 vote debavp | Jul 4, 2012 |
I should preface this by stating that math has always been my nemesis, due to a completely inept math teacher in grade school who left me with minimal knowledge of the basics, and thus ensured me floundering throughout high school math.

This left me with some reservations about picking up a mystery centered around mathematics, but Martinez is a much more capable teacher, and a great writer. The mathematics sections are easy to follow regardless of background knowledge, and the mystery is really intriguing and well plotted.

An Argentinian mathematics student arrives in Oxford to continue his studies, only to find that within days of his arrival, the elderly woman running his boarding house has been murdered, and a mysterious note foretelling the death has been left for a famous mathematician. The student is drawn into helping to solve the murders, and must attempt to decipher the mysterious symbols the murderer continues to leave, before the killings begin again. ( )
  seasonsoflove | May 26, 2012 |
Not long after his arrival in Oxford, a Argentinian graduate mathematics student discovers his elderly landlady's murdered body. The murder doesn't appear to be an isolated event. An Oxford mathematics professor arrived at the scene at the same time as the mathematics student, explaining that he had received an anonymous note about the murder. The note included a mathematical symbol and it claimed it was the first in a series. More deaths follow, each one with a new symbol to add to the series. How quickly can the mathematicians solve the code to catch the killer and prevent more deaths?

When I learned fairly early in the book that the mathematics professor had written a book in which he discusses crime in mathematical terms, I thought the plot might develop like an episode of Numbers. Although there are complex mathematical theories and philosophical discussions sprinkled throughout the book, the plot is actually very simple for a mystery novel. I was generous with my rating because I liked the main characters and the Oxford setting. Other readers may find it difficult to overlook the weak mystery and underdeveloped secondary characters. ( )
2 vote cbl_tn | May 14, 2012 |
A series of crimes: / are they related, and are / they indeed all crimes?

With its history, architecture and unique atmosphere Oxford is a great setting for novels, films and TV series, and has appeared in works as diverse as Alice in Wonderland, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials sequence and Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series. I'd have high hopes for any novel with Oxford in the title, anticipating it would have that particular mix associated with the city, blended with classy writing.

However, I was underwhelmed when I first read this novel a few years ago, and remain underwhelmed now on a second reading. I thought that a more favourable second opinion might result from revisiting the evidence but now have found even more inconsistencies and implausibilities to go with the plentiful red herrings, such as why the narrator decides to go public with the murder details when one of the protagonists is dead but with no mention of the continued existence of the murderer (who will surely now be prosecuted if still alive). And the description of an open-air concert at Blenheim Palace wassurreal and not one I found convincing.

The unnamed narrator (who is obviously a fictionalised version of the author) is a strangely blank character, devoid of real personality. He goes through the motions of feelings, it seems to me, but despite having an affair with one character and being a confidant of sorts to another, he doesn't really make any believable connections. Is it to do with being an outsider, both an Argentinian and a PhD student (though strangely with no teaching commitments)? Or has his academic preoccupation with mathematics buffered him from feelings of empathy with his colleagues and murder victims?

Don't get me wrong, there are sections where the plot pulls you along and a handful of mildly interesting mathematical discussions (though I'm not sure that specialists need to spell out basics to each other in conversation). But, along with the narrator, I felt really disengaged most of the time. The tennis episodes which cropped up every so often (along with the curious badger road-victim motif) were very apt as a metaphor, as the clues and speculations were batted to and fro: but ultimately The Oxford Murders felt like a pre-match warm-up rather than a game with a satisfying and convincing result. And not only did this not seem to me to be a fault one could blame on the translation, there was little, apart from a few topographical references, that really anchored this to Oxford as opposed to any provincial town with a university.

http://calmgrove.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/murders/ ( )
  ed.pendragon | Mar 27, 2012 |
The plot centers around a string of murders connected by messages containing a series of enigmatic symbols. Eminent Oxford mathematician Arthur Seldom is at the center of the crimes, but is the murderer trying to engage him, impress him, avenge himself upon him, or maybe destroy him?

The story is narrated in the first person by an Argentinian exchange student on a maths grant; however, don't bother getting excited about him as a character because nothing he says, thinks, or does imbues him with any qualities either foreign, exotic, or engaging. Honestly, his sole function seems to be asking Seldom to explain how he arrived at his latest brilliant deduction. Even Dr. Watson managed this with more style.

The author devotes large sections of the text to wide-ranging philosophical and mathematical explorations of life, fate, patterns, reality, and illusion. I found these explorations to be well-written, accessible, and thought-provoking, though I'm grateful I brought some background knowledge to the party as Martinez is no Dan Brown - there's not a lot of coddling here. (Brush off your Godel and Escher if you've got them; reintroduce yourself to Heisenberg's uncertainty, and refamiliarize yourself with Schroedinger's feline before beginning.) True, little of this turns out actually to be relevant to the mystery, but it was entertaining enough that I was willing to forgive the author these excesses.

What I'm decidedly less willing to forgive is a plot that was unnecessarily obscure and complex, sloppy, lacking in excitement or suspense, and disturbingly soulless. There's simply no reason for some of the elaborate red herrings the author strews across the path, and no excuse for leaving some of the "clues" (ex: the missing blanket, the apathetic cellist, the married man) unexplained; little excitement (forget suspense) to be derived from hundreds of pages of dialog punctuated by three of the of the dullest murders ever captured in prose; and a disturbing lack of compassion in everyone's reaction to the final act of violence in the story.

Add the nondescript narrator, an unimaginative supporting cast, several strained metaphors (the grossest being a dead badger in the middle of the road), some extremely dubious explanations that seem to require a belief in supernatural forces (or at least a vengeful fate), and a denoument that feels rushed and contrived, and you get a murder mystery where the real mystery is whether others are going to be as willing as I was to stick this out to the end. ( )
2 vote Dorritt | Feb 16, 2012 |
Good whodunit story. ( )
  Poprockz | Nov 25, 2011 |
An interesting murder mystery set in Oxford and written by an Argentinean maths professor. A serial killer at work in Oxford leaves notes announcing the time and place of each murder where professor of logic Arthur Seldom will find them. Each note also includes a mathematical symbol as if the murderer is taunting him, so with the blessing of the police, Seldom and an Argentinean graduate student who was lodging with the first victim, take up the murderer's challenge and attempt to solve the problem of predicting what the next symbol will be and what the series means. Although I had some ideas about the murderer's identity, I didn’t guess the true motive for the crimes.

Unfortunately, the characterisation was very one-dimensional and there were a few blatant mistakes about the way things work in the UK. For one thing, desperate parents whose children need organ transplants do not get to plead in person with the bereaved parents of possible donors. But if you are interested in maths, or like mysteries that are driven by plot rather than character, you should enjoy it. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Apr 25, 2011 |
This was a bit of a disappointment to me.
I had read some favourable reviews, but the chacters didn't appeal to me, the math was way above my head (Wittgenstein, Godel's Theorem anyone?) and the romance (such as it was) felt oddly flat.
Actually I preferred the movie, but that must have been due to the images of Oxford, and the fact that quite some people I know were there as extra's.
All in all, not a waste of money and time, but I'm not going to re-read it! ( )
  shireling | Feb 27, 2011 |
Mystery, Murders, Motivations and Mathematics.This books has it all.The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez is not just a fascinating murder mystery but also a puzzle that captures the reader and keeps you feverishly turning pages until the end. The story is told from the perspective of an Argentinian mathematics graduate student who has just arrived at Oxford and is enjoying the novelty of English subtleties and a tendency toward reserved silence until this tranquil world is upset by a series of murders. The first murder is of his elderly landlady, Mrs. Eagleton. He discovers her body in her parlor while accompanied by the renowned logician Arthur Seldom. Seldom then reveals that he had received a message with the words, "the first of a series" and the address of Mrs. Eagleton with the time 3 p.m. written beneath. The paper also contained a symbol, a carefully drawn circle in black ink. The beginning of a logic puzzle, the solution to which may be the only clue to stopping the murders. ( )
1 vote EJStevens | Dec 28, 2010 |
I had to turn to the back flap of The Oxford Murders to look at Guillermo Martinez's bio and to confirm my suspicions -- namely, that "he earned a Ph.D. in mathematical science". What does that have to do with a murder mystery, you ask? Everything if it's this book.

Our unnamed narrator is a graduate student in mathematics who has come to Oxford from Argentina. His advisor suggests he takes a basement apartment in the home of a friend -- an older, partially-invalid woman. One day he approaches the front door and is joined on the doorstep by another man, Arthur Seldom, who is a famous mathematician. There is no answer to their knocking and so they enter the unlocked front door. This is where they find the owner of the house dead -- the first in a string of local murders that seem to be seeking Seldom's attention.

You might think that the reason that I knew the author had some sort of math background was because he made so many of his characters mathematicians but it's not that. The reason is that a good portion of the first half of this book consists of various discussions of mathematical theory. It's somewhat related to the plot but it was a tough bit to get through! However, once I got through the maths, the plot really got going and there was little besides story in the remainder of the book. I didn't love this one but didn't hate it either.

http://webereading.com/2010/09/rip-read-1-oxford-murders.html ( )
  klpm | Sep 9, 2010 |
Another book that I liked but didn’t love. I think I would have liked it more had I understood the math a little better. For the most part, it was simple and didn’t affect the plot to any degree that made it unintelligible. But there were a few longer sections about mathmatical theory where my brain melted out of my ear and sat in a puddle on the floor, begging me to Stop With The Numbers. The writing was a little dry, but that sort of made sense since the main characters were mathematicians. It clipped right along and, minus the theoretical math parts, was a quick and easy read. The characters were interesting and the mystery around the murders was well plotted. Had I been playing closer attention, I think I would have figured out whodunit. But I didn’t, which made the ending a nice surprise. It wrapped up my favorite way — it made sense, but it was still messy. I just love that.

Read my full review here: http://letseatgrandpa.com/2010/05/28/38-the-oxford-murders-by-guillermo-martinez... ( )
  letseatgrandpa | Jun 15, 2010 |
A young Argentinian math student gets drawn into a series of murders after his landlady is killed. I'm not sure I want to say more than that, since it will give too much away however, the inside flap of the book tell you everything that happens - except who the murderer is.

I'm not sure who recommended this one, but I couldn't put it down until I was done. It wasn't so much the events, really, although I enjoyed the plot. It was style and the fact that I really had no idea what would happen next. I found the math parts hard to follow, but I still raced through the book to the end. I'm not sure if the writer has any more books available in English, but I would like to read more by him. ( )
  cmbohn | Feb 21, 2010 |
Oxford Murders. Guillermo Martinez. 2005. In this scholarly mystery, 2 mathematicians work to solve a series of mysteries that seem to be based on a mathematical sequence. The math and logic were a little too much for me, but I enjoyed reading about Oxford. ( )
  judithrs | Jan 24, 2010 |
A whodonit featuring an Argentine grad student who finds his elderly landlady murdered in the parlor of her Oxford home. His mentor, the renowned Oxford logician Arthur Seldon receives an anonymous note bearing a circle and the words 'first of a series'. It would appear that someone is using deaths to illustrate a mathematical theorem. ( )
  marient | Jan 14, 2010 |
the very dense mathematical aspect of this book got in the way for me. The murder mystery aspect was poor. ( )
  brigidsmith | Aug 16, 2009 |
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