Friday, August 14, 2009

The Library Paradox -- Catherine Shaw

The Library Paradox is a mystery novel featuring a turn-of-the-century detective heroine named Vanessa Weatherburn. Vanessa finds herself in London investigating the murder of an infamously anti-Semitic professor and has to take a crash course in both Hassidic Judaism and logic in order to solve it. The sleuthing aspects to the story are engaging -- the heavy-handed teachings on religion and mathematics are not. The 8 page section retelling the Biblical story of Esther, for example, comes across as patronizing: adult readers should already know the tale, or if they don't, a brief summary should suffice (and those wanting more are be perfectly capable of finding another resource). The tie-in to Bertrand Russell and his classic paradox makes for a great back cover enticement, but the verbal irony in the title and the significance of the paradox to the plot are never fully realized. Catherine Shaw had a fascinating concept for a mystery novel, but she's too interested in teaching her audience rather than entertaining them to make the book successful. [Note: very little can be found about Shaw online; apparently, the name is a pseudonym for a mathematics professor wishing to stay incognito. The most I could find out about her is at the bottom of the review linked here.]

Final Verdict: **

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