Summary and book reviews of The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen

The Fractal Murders

A Pepper Keane Mystery

by Mark Cohen

The Fractal Murders
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  • First Published:
    May 2004, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2005, 368 pages

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Book Summary

Three specialists in fractal geometry are dead.  Private eye, Pepper Keane, must find the link and stop the murders before his favorite math professor, Jayne Smyers, becomes the next victim.

Three victims, three different states, and three apparently unrelated cases. But when Boulder, Colorado, math professor Jayne Smyers discovers each victim had been an expert in the mathematical field known as fractal geometry, she knows their deaths can't be coincidences.

That's where Pepper Keane comes in. Hired by Jayne after federal agents fail to link the three deaths, he's a former Marine JAG turned private eye, with an encyclopedic knowledge of rock and roll and a trace of existential angst.

From Hawaii to Harvard, Pepper begins a fast-paced journey in search of proof that all the deaths were indeed murders-and were almost certainly committed by the same person. As the evidence mounts, Pepper fears that his favorite math professor may be the next target. But he's failed to do the math completely. As he crosses America in search of clues, he's become the newest expert in the field of fractals. And that makes him more than qualified to die.

An intriguing brainteaser, a fast-paced mystery, and a novel that is at once funny, sexy, and suspenseful, The Fractal Murders proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a pattern to everything. Especially murder.

1

I was having a bad day. I had gotten behind Ma and Pa Kettle on the road down the mountain, and by the time I was able to pass them I was almost to Boulder. I blew past them, then blew my nose. I'd been fighting the Sinus Infection from Hell for a week. We were in the middle of round six and it was ahead on points.

The visitors' lots were full, so I parked my aging F-150 in a faculty lot. I ejected my Creedence tape, placed my "U.S. Government- Official Business" sign above the dash, and set out for the math building. I no longer worked for the government, but I'd paid enough taxes during my legal career to consider myself an honorary employee.

I had spent seven years at the university, but that was long ago and I'd taken great pains to avoid math classes. Now I was a private eye in search of a math professor. Unable to find anything resembling a campus map, I finally asked for directions. The first kid wasn't much help. But for the safety pin fastened ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A fun thriller in a style similar to Robert B Parker, although it does have some weaknesses. On the plus side is an interesting plot - experts in fractal geometry are being killed off at an alarming rate and our hero Pepper Keane is investigating - which gives him, and therefore the reader, the opportunity to learn about fractal geometry... On the downside...this is a 'guy' book. Pepper Keane is an ex-JAG* and ex-boxer, and staying fit is an important part of his life - but I'm not particularly interested in reading about every detail of his exercise regime ... [and] the female characters are a little one-dimensional...However, very few writers are gifted enough to write a great first novel and Cohen definitely has potential for the future, and in the meantime The Fractal Murders has much to commend it.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Cohen has a gift for making fractals...not only accessible but exciting. And his hunt for the killer...crackles with mounting tension.....Only the gratuitous final twist, which demonstrates mainly that the author's capable of a final twist, spoils the workmanlike geometry.

Booklist - Conne Fletcher

Keane has a past that fleshes out his motivation, a wry wit, and an enemy who does everything to keep him permanently clueless. A consistently absorbing first novel.

Midwest Book Review

An intensely entertaining book that is simply delicious to read.

Publishers Weekly

A surprising premise and an extraordinary theme equal an accomplished debut.

Author Blurb Benoit B. Mandelbrot, Sterling Professor of Mathematical Sciences, Yale University, and founder of fractal geometry
A lively, fast paced, and surprising story woven around my trading time theorem. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to have fun with this.

Author Blurb Stephen White, author of The Best Revenge
This one definitely adds up. The Fractal Murders is witty, smart, and inventive, and Mark Cohen is a terrific new voice on the mystery scene.

Reader Reviews

Melissa B.

It is a good 'read'.
A book about geometry teachers being murdered. I am a geometry teacher and couldn't resist taking this book to the beach this summer. I enjoyed the mystery and learned some easier ways to explain fractals to my students at the same time.

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Beyond the Book

The Judge Advocate General's Corps are naval lawyers.  The JAGs were established within the Department of the Navy in 1967 at which time these specialized military lawyers became a distinct professional group within the Navy, similar to physicians and chaplains.

Mark Cohen served as a JAG for 20 years. His next book, Bluetick Revenge has just been published.

The Fractal Murders is one of those relatively rare self-publishing success stories.  Mark Cohen worked with three agents who failed to find a publisher for it, so in 2002 he published it himself.  Two years later he'd sold a few thousand books and got plenty of word of mouth coverage - at which point Mysterious Press, a division of Warner Books, ...

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