I feel like this book was both better than I thought it was, but not quite as good as I expected. The former because my reading was more fractured than I'd like and the book never got a chance to really suck me in; it was always getting interrupted. The latter, because its novel-to-mystery ratio was higher than I'd have wished.
Isaac Severy was a brilliant mathematician whose last act before dying was writing a bombshell of an equation, which he hid away. Days after his death, his granddaughter receives a letter from him with his last wishes: to burn all his work save this equation, which she should delver to one trusted colleague and no one else. But first, she must find the equation using the clues left for her as she goes about fulfilling his final requests.
At the same time, the rest of the Severy family - blessed with brilliance and saddled with dysfunction - is left to pick up the pieces of their lives, re-orienting themselves after they lose their axis and another death unmoors them completely. Hazel's uncle, Philip, is receiving mysterious notes and visits from someone eager to meet up with him and discuss his father's work, someone who was harassing Isaac in his final days.
I ended up caring about most of the characters except Hazel herself. She was pretty unmoored from the start, and never felt like she had much resolve. For me this resulted in the impression that she never took any direction action to find the equation, so much as the clues threw themselves at her in desperation.
Speaking of clues, my biggest annoyance of all was that one of the clues was not only not discovered by Hazel, but the reader didn't got left out too. Both discover the solution after the fact, and it's a letdown.
These are minor grievances though, and I'm not sure I'd have felt the same way about these things had I been able to commit my time and attention to the book as it deserved. Perhaps more focus would have allowed me to connect more with Hazel and the story's mystery. Either way, it was an enjoyable read and kept me entertained, if not deeply invested.
It would seem odd to say that what feels refreshing about this murder mystery is starting it without knowing who the criminal is. You might wonder, isn't that the whole point of mysteries, to find out who did it? But in the other two Higashino books that I've read before, the murderer's identity is quite obvious from the beginning and the focus is on how they did the crime. That is not the case with this novel.
The story opens with a controversial plan for an undersea mining exploration at a struggling resort town, pitting some environmentalists against those who are pro-development. So when a resort guest is killed, at first I thought the murder would be related to the issue. But the crime turns out to be a lot more personal than that. I was totally clueless and couldn't guess what happened as the story goes to unexpected directions, uncovering secrets piled upon more secrets. What I liked most was how our Detective Galileo, Professor Yukawa, develops a bond with the little boy staying at the same resort with him and becomes a kind of science tutor slash life mentor for the kid.
Vern Rutsala was a major and completely overlooked American poet. Reed College, his alma mater said, "Vern made a virtue of obscurity." That may be true. Despite this collection being a finalist for the National Book Award (2005), Rutsala being a Guggenheim Fellow (1982) and more, he didn't even get an obituary in the NYTimes and apparently wasn't widely known outside the Pacific Northwest. I came to his poetry years ago, and recently while culling my shelves, I pulled down the poetry books and prepared to part with quite a few. I paused for a second at this one, then stopped, sat on the floor and just started reading.
I bought The Moment's Equation in 2005 and was reminded of it in 2014 when Rutsala won the C.E.S. Wood Distinguished Writer Award from the Oregon Book Awards.* He died two weeks after winning and I finally got around to reading this collection. I find these days that reading poems all in a row finds me less appreciative, so I savor them like really good truffles - one at a time. (Pro-tip: This is why it's impossible to cull poetry shelves - they always taste good when you open the lid.) I'd planned to read a poem a day from this book starting nine days ago. Clearly that didn't work.
What a beautiful, wise, often funny, other times heart-wrenching, and much-too-short collection of poems. I favor prose-y poems, and these qualify for the most part. They center, as most of his poetry does, on the beauty of normal stuff, or as he put it in another collection, "...the eloquence / of vacant furniture..."
Needless to say, this is going back on the shelf. (OK, fine, you got me! I admit - I only got rid of a couple duplicates.)
* It was fairly special to get the C.E.S. Wood Distinguished Writer Award. It's not given every year. Before 2014, it had last been bestowed in 2008.
A few more links:
The Attraction Equation by Kadie Scott is the Second Book in the "Love Undercover" Series. This is the story of Max Carter and Gina Castillo. I have read the previous book but feel this can easily be a standalone book. Max is a FBI agent that looks into white color criminals and totally focused on his career. Permanent relationships aren't in the cards for him right now and likes the one night stands and the women who know not to hang around. But since his best friend Drew met Cassie (First Book) and his family staying on him about dating he just had enough. So when he was at his family's house for Thanksgiving Dinner and his mother had three non family women over trying to fix him up he announced that he had a girlfriend. Now his mother wants him to bring the said girlfriend to Christmas Dinner.
Gina is house sitting and taking over her friends lease while she is overseas for a few months. Gina's brother has been wanting a dog and Gina happens to stop by an animal shelter just looking around finds the perfect dog. But her friends apartment building doesn't allow pets so Gina is trying to keep him hidden for the month until Christmas when she can give her younger brother, Meto the dog. But on while trying to sneak him out one night to take him on a bathroom break she gets caught by the stuff up neighbor Max her friend warned her about.
Max soon comes to an arrangement that he will keep her secret if she helps him out with the 'girlfriend' issue.
This was a fun, sweet romance that you won't want to put down.