The Last Equation of Isaac Severy

In a quest to finally catch up on my Book of the Month TBR pile, I settled in to read the book I selected back in March 2018 when it was billed as an adult version of the Westing Game and while I’m not sure the descriptor is perfect, I really enjoyed this book. There’s a lot of talk of math, which as an English major made me a little nervous at first, but eventually I learned what did and didn’t mattered and got addicted to figuring out how all of the characters and plot lines intertwined.

Isaac Severy is dead, but he’s left something behind that everyone is looking for: one last equation on chaos theory. There is a cast of characters assembled who are all connected to the Severy family in various ways and who ultimately get intwined in the hunt for the equation. There is our main character, Hazel, who was adopted into the Severy family as a child and is dealing with some failures of her own, and her brother, Gregory, who was also adopted into the family (though they are related by blood) and works as a police officer. Isaac left behind several children, including Philip, a mathematician himself, and Tom, a drug-addicted prisoner, and Paige, a reclusive mathematician working on her own book. Philip is married to Jane and they have three children, including Sybil, an artist, and one precocious grandchild, Drew. Paige has a son that no one knew was a boy named Alex(is). And there’s Isaac’s wife, Lily, who has dementia and is in a home. That’s a lot to take in, right? Wait until you add in the other mathematicians, a pretty PhD candidate, an elusive P.Booth Lyons who works on “government-scholar relations” and a hotel room full of information if only Hazel can figure out how to unlock it all. What was Isaac’s last equation? And why did he trust Hazel to make sure it is delivered properly and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands? And what is going on with the family? Who is lying, who is cheating, who is losing their mind, and who is going to die?

This book is actually a bit darker than I thought it was going to be. There’s death, there’s subterfuge, there’s math. Luckily you really don’t NEED to understand the math to enjoy this book, because I think the author, Nova Jacobs, knows that no one reading novels is an expert in chaos theory. But I did enjoy the book. By about halfway through, I no longer cared about the equation and was way more interested in the intersecting relationships. There are alternating third person POVs, where you focus on what Hazel or Gregory or Philip or Isaac is doing, and I really enjoyed what that does for the narrative.

On to the next BOTM pick and glad I finally read this one!

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