Published by Touchstone on March 6th 2018
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.
While in Los Angeles for Isaac’s funeral, Hazel realizes she’s not the only one searching for his life’s work, and that the equation’s implications have potentially disastrous consequences for the extended Severy family, a group of dysfunctional geniuses unmoored by the sudden death of their patriarch.
As agents of an enigmatic company shadow Isaac’s favorite son—a theoretical physicist—and a long-lost cousin mysteriously reappears in Los Angeles, the equation slips further from Hazel’s grasp. She must unravel a series of maddening clues hidden by Isaac inside one of her favorite novels, drawing her ever closer to his mathematical treasure. But when her efforts fall short, she is forced to enlist the help of those with questionable motives.
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a delightfully fresh literary mystery. It was just the thing to get me out of a the little slump I’d been in. I wasn’t in the mood for something terribly heavy or terribly morbid. I’m always up for quirky characters. No matter that the quirkiest character was deceased prior to Chapter One. (Of an apparent suicide. In a hot tub. With a string of Christmas lights.)
Hazel, adopted granddaughter of Isaac Severy, famed mathematician, receives a cryptic letter upon his death. It’s written by Isaac and in it he asks that she complete a series of tasks. She must tell no one. She must decipher a series of clues in oder to fulfill her grandfather’s last wishes. It’s not going to be an easy task. Hazel is not as scientifically-minded as her grandfather. Hazel has no idea why she has been chosen to complete these tasks. More importantly, she has no idea why her grandfather wants this particular set of tasks to be completed in the first place.
As we follow Hazel on her journey to carry out Isaac’s last wishes, we learn more about how Hazel and her brother came to be part of the Severy family. They are an eclectic and somewhat dysfuctional bunch. All of the members of Isaac’s family were carefully and fully developed. Each had a particular set of flaws and weaknesses. In most cases, these were balanced with a set of more likable traits. I really enjoyed the family drama aspect of this book; both the parts that were central to the plot and those that were not. Nova Jacobs did a remarkable job of balancing the whimsy and lightness of this book with serious issues many families face.
There was a subplot that was as intriguing as the plot. The author did a fabulous job of keeping both going at just the right pace. The farther I read into the book, the harder it was to walk away from.
As one might expect, there was a fair amount of math-y language throughout the book. String theory this and chaos theory that. If I’m honest, that was all blah, blah, blah to me but I fully appreciated what it meant to Isaac, his family, and his colleagues. I thought it added a unique twist. We read about all manner of professions and hobbies, why not mathematics?
Overall, I found The Last Equation of Isaac Severy to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. As a debut, it’s even more impressive. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what Nova Jacobs has in store for us in the future.
Many thanks to Touchstone for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.