“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.