NB I was sent this book as a review copy.

What a spectacular book! I am rather blown away by it. This is a graphic novel written about two bodies discovered by cops in an American city some time around the present day, and the forensic investigation which goes into solving the case, and somehow the authors have managed to make the whole book about number theory and combinatorics.

I have to admit that when I started reading the book I was worried that it was going to have the all-too-common flaw of starting off very simple and then suddenly getting way too complicated for the average reader, but they have managed to somehow avoid that remarkably well.

It is however a book that should be read with pen and paper, or preferably computer by one’s side. As I read through and mathematical claims were made, about prime factors of the integers and about cycle groups of permutations, I coded up each one to see if I was following along, and I would recommend this to be a good way to really follow the book. With some very simply coding, a lot of the results can be verified (particularly to do with the distributions which are claimed). For anyone studying discrete mathematics, in particular combinatorics and basic number theory, this would be a wonderful way to get into the subject.

It’s rather hard to explain just how they manage to turn a murder mystery into a popular exposition of pure mathematics, a description of the scientific method, a tour through the supervisor/student relationship and much more besides, but they do, and all with beautifully drawn illustrations.

It’s a faced-paced read, with the characters are all based on researchers from mathematical history and there are lots of interesting references peppered throughout. I was rather worried on reading it that these characters were not going to be explained, and that it would end up as a rather in joke for those who know who is who in the world of 19th and 20th century Western mathematics but at the back there is both a series of biographies of the characters, as well as a deeper exposition of some of the mathematics, and some of the themes running through the book.

Overall this is a truly stunning piece of work and I would love to show this to keen students who may find themselves off investigating these seemingly disparate but apparently parallel areas of mathematics which weave around each other in this wonderful book.

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