The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is Nova Jacobs debut novel.
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy Synopsis:
A Novel in Clues
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.
(Touchstone – Simon and Schuster, 2018)
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Literature, Detective
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When I picked up Nova Jacobs’ The Last Equation of Isaac Severy I was after a palate cleanser. In that respect, the eccentric Severy clan and Hazel’s quest to carry out her beloved grandfather’s wishes did not disappoint.
Right from the word go, Jacobs sets the darkly comic tone.
On the morning he was to die, the old man woke early and set about making breakfast.
And then the opening to Hazel’s quizzical, black-sheep narrative…
The Resurrection Cemetery sounded to Hazel Severy more like a threat than a place of peace and final repose, but as far as she could tell, it was shaping up to be a lovely service.
In a similar feel to the delightfully quirky Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, the clues to solving this puzzle are hidden in plain sight. As such, while the investigative journey is engaging, the answers when revealed are not entirely shocking to an astute reader. What did come as a pleasant surprise was the depth and sensitivity with which Jacobs also explores darker, more weighty, societal issues within this framework.
I found Jacobs’ writing style a pleasure to read, astute and perceptive without ever being showy. Multiple narrative viewpoints illuminate family ties and character insecurities, and the literary references, codes and anagrams are a treat for book lovers.
In this novel, the author has lots of fun with academic stereotypes but ultimately shows the languages of mathematics (and experts in that field) are far more creative, nuanced and accessible than many think.
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a highly entertaining read with unexpected depth. I look forward to reading more from this talented author.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5 — Overall 4.25
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This review counts towards my participation in the 2018 New Release Challenge.
About the Author, Nova Jacobs
Nova Jacobs holds an MFA from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and is a recipient of the Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Jeremy. The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is her first novel.