The Square Root of Murder


Review from Library Journal:

Dr. Sophie Knowles is a fortysomething math professor teaching summer session at a small Cape Cod women's college. Her close-knit academic community is suffering through a sweltering summer heat wave when, out of the blue, a much-­despised chemistry professor is poisoned in his lab. Wanting to help the graduate student who's been fingered as the killer, Dr. Knowles begins her amateur investigation. Along the way, she learns about the darker side of academia. The ensemble cast includes the requisite wacky best friend (who owns a bead shop) and the action boyfriend (an emergency medical responder), making this a comfortable read with forays outside the science building. It takes time and math to find out why murder was the final grade for Dr. Appleton in this leisurely paced cozy.
VERDICT: Veteran series author Camille Minichino, also known as Margaret Grace, introduces an engaging new protagonist with a fresh venue for her fans. - Arts & Entertainment

By Lynn Farris

The Square Root of Murder” is the first book in the Professor Sophie Knowles Mystery series. This is a new series from writer Camille Minichino who has published eight novels in the Periodic Table series under her real name.  She also has written five Miniature Mystery series under the name of Margaret Grace.

I’m not sure that Camille Minichino sleeps, but she seems to be doing a great many other things.  She earned her Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University and is currently on the faculty of Golden Gate University, San Francisco.  Camille is on the staff of world famous Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Additionally, she serves on the boards of the California Writers Club and NorCal Sisters in Crime. She's a member of NorCal Mystery Writers of America and SF Romance Writers of America.

In “The Square Root of Murder” the main character is Sophie Knowles, an Associate Professor of Math at the fictional Henley College in Massachusetts.   Professor Knowles has a sideline of writing puzzles for publications.  She loves puzzles, the harder the better.  So when Dr. Keith Appleton is found murdered and the chief suspect is her assistant Rachel, Sophie steps in to assist in solving the murder. 

Each of Camille’s series gives the reader a little glimpse into her personality. In this series, she draws upon her teaching experience in creating the character of Professor Knowles.  Camille states, "Sophie is fun to write since she has the same love of numbers that I do." But I want to assure readers that even if you hate math, you will enjoy this series.  Camille, like Professor Knowles, has made a career out of being able to explain complex math and science in terms that everyone can understand.  Plus the book really isn’t about math, it is a whodunit. 

One of the most critical aspects of any series is a great set of characters.  The main characters in this series have unusual jobs that I enjoyed reading about.  While teaching math may seem somewhat mundane, the puzzle design sideline for Professor Knowles I found fascinating.  The end of the book even offers some math and word play puzzles.  Professor Knowles’ boyfriend, Bruce, works as a medivac helicopter pilot.  Ariana, her best friend owns a craft store specializing in beads and jewelry making.  Bruce and Ariana serve as the ying and yang of her life.  Bruce keeps her safe and loved, while Ariana pushes her to explore her creative side and the world outside of the college.  All are robust and complex characters. 

One of the most complex characters in the book is the victim, Dr. Keith Appleton, who seems at first to be an evil character who has created a large supply of suspects who had good motives to want him dead. In fact Professor Knowles indicates that he was “known not fondly as Apep, the Egyptian god of darkness and chaos, the destroyer of dreams.”  However, as the story progresses, Professor Knowles is surprised to discover that Dr. Appleton had his admirers for his good works as well. 

The other very strong aspect of the book was the plot.  It is not surprising that someone that loves puzzles would create a challenging mystery puzzle for her readers to solve.  I confess, I didn’t figure it out, but the clues were there from the start, I just didn’t pick up on them.   

I strongly recommend “The Square Root of Murder”.  It offers readers the familiarity of a cozy mystery with some interesting new twists.

Five Stars out of Five. 

Genre Reviews

The Square Root of Murder is a cozy mystery. The setup was one where any character could have done the murder, and Sophie was able to spot pertinent clues as fast as the reader. I didn't spend much time guessing whodunit, but, at one point, I did think (without much conviction), "Huh, I bet such-and-such did it." Turns out, I was right. So it is guessable.

Details about the various jobs (professor, emergency worker, beading store owner, detective) and the setting were woven into the story and brought the story alive in my imagination. The characters were interesting and dealt with realistic problems. The one thing that kind of confused me was that Sophie, who's analytical and works math puzzles to calm down, had such a vivid imagination that she was almost paranoid. Granted, she realized when her response was foolish, but that didn't stop her from acting on her paranoid feelings. However, she acted more logically as the story progressed, so I felt comfortable with her by the end.

Since the characters didn't seem religious, I'm assuming the minor use of "God" (usually in the phrase--written out--of OMG) was swearing. The was one use of borderline bad language and one use of fake bad language. There were no sex scenes. (There was one instance where kissing or more was probably being implied.) Overall, I'm recommend this well-written, enjoyable novel.

Dollycas's Thoughts

This is a wonderful debut to a really smart new series. The setting is intriguing, the plot complex but not over the top and the characters span the gambit. These are characters that I am sure to fall in love with as the series continues.

Ada Madison knows her subject matter very well. She has a Ph. D. in a Physics and a BA in Mathematics. She is also a fantastic storyteller so even those of us who did not excel in math or science still feel at home with this story. She has published other series, under different aliases and her Web Page tells you all about them, plus even has puzzles too.

This is my first experience with this author but will be working some of her other works into my reading schedule. I also will be anxiously awaiting the next edition to the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries. They are off to a marvelous start.

Dru's book musings

We are introduced to Dr. Sophie Knowles, a mathematics professor at a local college and some of her associates including Dr. Keith, a despised professor and Sophie's assistant, Rachel Wheeler. The relationship between Keith and Rachel was not a good one and when Keith's body is discovered, Rachel becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Believing that Rachel is innocent, Sophie systematically gathers clues that will reveal the killer's identity. This is a good debut series. This was a good mystery with a well-thought out plot that was hard to put down from the first paragraph to the conclusion. I like the steady and comfortable tone of the story and the interesting conversations that gave me more insights into this wonderful cast of characters that inhabit Sophie's circle of friends. Also included are bonus brain teasers that were fun to do. This enjoyable series is a welcome addition to the cozy mystery genre.

By: JAY STRAFFORD | Richmond Times-Dispatch

In academia, the molding of young minds is of top importance, debates are conducted with civility and insight, and professors work cooperatively and pleasantly with one another. Or not. In "The Square Root of Murder" (292 pages, Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99), the first in Ada Madison's projected series, death is wearing the academic robes.

Sophie Knowles, an associate professor of mathematics, embodies the best of the profession. But she's human, and she's not above disliking some of her colleagues.

Trouble is, one of them, Keith Appleton, an associate professor of chemistry, is found poisoned in his office while a party was being held on Sophie's floor of the office building. And Keith was the thesis adviser to her assistant, Rachel Wheeler, and had been giving Rachel a hard time. When marked-up pages from a draft are found scattered in Keith's office, Rachel is the cops' prime suspect.

A clever puzzle, "The Square Root of Murder" is well-plotted, and the reader will want to see more of Sophie. Madison has found the right equation for success in this entertaining series debut.

By: MARY LIGNOR | Once Upon A Romance Review

Dr. Sophie Knowles is a math teacher at Henley College in Massachusetts. She is also the creator of math puzzles and brain teasers for several magazines. Her students are crazy about her and, on top of that she has a helicopter pilot boyfriend who is a real Adonis. As we start this tale, Sophie is teaching summer school. In Massachusetts, this is not a fun job as the heat and humidity in Massachusetts in the summer will take your breath away and you have to fight to get it back.

There is a tradition at Benjamin Franklin Hall in the Math/Science Department, and that is to celebrate the birthdays of famous scholars with the students. Unfortunately, at the latest party Dr. Keith Appleton who is without a doubt the most hated professor on the campus is found dead. Evidence points to Sophie's assistant Rachel, as the prime suspect. Dr. Appleton refused to recommend Rachel for medical school and, several other reasons. But, Sophie refuses to even consider that Rachel is a killer. So, Sophie decides to do a little investigating of her own trying to find out just who the killer actually is while being careful to stay out of the killers path.

This is a debut series, called A Professor Sophie Knowles Mystery and this reader is looking forward to more. The author knows her characters, being a PhD herself and is a wonderful story teller to boot.