The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this literary mystery about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, left behind a dangerous equation for her to track down—and protect—before others can get their hands on it.
Just days after mathematician and family patriarch Isaac Severy dies of an apparent suicide, his adopted granddaughter Hazel, owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore, receives a letter from him by mail. In it, Isaac alludes to a secretive organization that is after his final bombshell equation, and he charges Hazel with safely delivering it to a trusted colleague. But first, she must find where the equation is hidden.
This description is what got me to purchase this book purely on spec. It sounded right up my alley – mystery, bookseller, geniuses, plus the term ‘hugely entertaining’ didn’t hurt. And unlike many times where I buy things and don’t read them for years, I decided to put this on my summer list and I’m glad I did. The Severy family is made up of an awkward group of people some of whom are math geniuses and some of whom are not. Two of them, Gregory and Hazel, were fostered by a seriously disturbed member of the family, but then adopted by the head of the family, Isaac, and his wife. The family gathers in Los Angeles for the funeral of Isaac, who apparently inexplicably killed himself. Why? Or did someone kill him and make it look like suicide? Shortly after his death, his granddaughter Hazel receives a letter from him asking her to destroy his work and take a dangerous equation to his colleague, John Raspanti. Hazel has no idea how to go about this at first, but ideas come to her even though she’s no mathematical genius.
The narration moves among several members of the family and is lively and entertaining as promised. In addition to Hazel’s mission, we follow her Uncle Phillip’s midlife crisis and her brother’s strange path. It is not unlike the particles they study, illuminating a bit at a time everything that lead to this situation. It’s a bit grimmer than I expected, but I really enjoyed reading it. I find myself without much to say and I’m not sure why. I realize this isn’t terribly helpful in a review. At one point, Hazel mentions some of her favorite authors she read as a child which included Ellen Raskin who was one of my favorites. This is something like an Ellen Raskin novel for grown ups. That’s probably some of the highest praise I can give.