01 April 2009

The Oxford Murders

In comparison with The Book of Murder, The Oxford Murders also by Guillermo Martinez is a literary gem. Everything seems to fall nicely together at the end and it shows that it's the work which probably had been in the author's mind for quite some time.

The story is simple: the main character is an Argentine exchange student who needs to study in Oxford for some time under the supervision of an Oxford professor. He studies mathematics, probably likened to the author himself who has a Ph.D. in mathematics. One day he finds out that his old landlady is brutally smothered to death. He witnesses the scene alongside famed mathematician Arthur Seldom. From then on, there occurs a series of murders that somehow can be linked to this murder, as the criminal intellectually leaves some signs at the crime scenes which puzzle both the student and the police.

There're possible criminals, such as (1) Beth, the landlady's granddaughter who dislikes taking care of the old lady, (2) Lorna, the student's lover who is an avid reader of crime fiction, (3) the father of a child who needs a lung transplant, and (4) Podorov, a bitter Russian student whose work was stolen. There're also some good symbols, including a dead badger which nobody dares to clear from the road for fear of bad luck.

The reason I like it is that there is a series of twists that happen in the novel until the last page. I thought I could figure out the ending yet the author's always one step ahead, already having taken into account what we thought. I found this ingenious and reminded me of Borges's 'Death and the Compass', a short story from Martinez's compatriot.

For those of you who are a fan of Eco's The Name of the Rose, you just can't miss this great work!

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