Excerpt from The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Fractal Murders

A Pepper Keane Mystery

by Mark Cohen

The Fractal Murders
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2004, 320 pages
    Jul 2005, 368 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"Only by reputation," she said. She started to reach for a tissue, but caught herself. She would not cry. "I'd read some of their papers," she continued, "and seen their names in professional journals. You have to understand, these were some of the most brilliant people in the field. Professor Fontaine's textbook is the bible of fractal geometry."

"You never met them or spoke with them on the phone?" "No."

"Ever correspond with them?" "No."

I leaned back and laced my fingers together behind my head. "You said you had planned to ask five experts to critique your paper?"

"Yes." "And three are dead?" "Yes."

"Who were the other two?" "Norbert Solomon at LSU and Mimi Townsend at MIT." A math professor named Mimi? "Did they review it?"

"Yes." "Anyone else?" "I've asked several others to look at it. I still expect to present it this fall."

I closed my eyes for a moment to process what I'd learned. "How many people in this country would you say are experts in fractal geometry?"

"I think most major universities now offer at least one course in the subject." My years as a trial lawyer had so conditioned me that my first instinct was to rise and object to her answer as non-responsive.

But I didn't. She wasn't on the witness stand and I was no longer practicing law. I rephrased the question.

"Would it be correct to say that not everyone who teaches a basic course in fractal geometry is an expert?" "Yes, I suppose that's true."

I leaned forward. "How many people really know this stuff?" I asked. "How many people know it well enough to critique your paper or write a textbook?"

"Gosh," she said, "I don't know. Fifty?" "Okay," I said, "can you think of anything that distinguishes these three from the other forty-seven?"

"Well," she said, "Fontaine was certainly one of the best-known people in the field." "And the others?"

"They were all highly regarded." "Any other connection?" I asked.

She opened a folder on her desk and removed some papers.

"It may not be anything," she said, "but each of them attended or taught at Harvard." She handed me three biographies she'd apparently photocopied from some sort of who's who in mathematics. I studied them.

"It doesn't appear there was any overlap," I finally said. "Fontaine left Harvard while Carolyn Chang would've still been in high school."

She finished her coffee and poured more. "Yes, I noticed that." Her intellect recognized the significance of the fact, but her voice told me the Harvard connection concerned her.

"I'm sure many experts in fractal geometry spent time at Harvard," I said.

"I keep reminding myself of that, but it hasn't stopped me from having some sleepless nights." I suspected guzzling high-octane coffee late in the afternoon wasn't helping the problem, but I kept that to myself.

"Okay," I said, "each of these people taught fractal geometry, each was highly regarded, and each spent time at Harvard. Aside from those things, can you think of any other connection?"

"No," she sighed, "I've been racking my brain about that, but I just can't come up with anything."

I closed my eyes and massaged my temples. "So," I finally said, "three math professors are dead, two of whom you never met." "Yes."

"But you're willing to spend your own money to determine if there's a connection?"

"There is a connection," she shot back. "Besides, if I don't do it, who will?" I thought for a moment. The same logic had governed my actions more than once.

"How did you pick me?" I asked. "I was impressed by your ad. Law degree. Federal prosecutor. I didn't see any other investigators with those credentials." "It doesn't mean I'll find anything."

Copyright © 2004 by Mark Cohen

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    All Is Not Forgotten
    by Wendy Walker

    This is fast-paced psychological suspense/thriller at it's very best.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
by Kate Bolick

A bold, original, moving book that will inspire fanatical devotion and ignite debate.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!


Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!