Try an audiobook on us

The Three Body Problem

A Cambridge Mystery
Narrated by: Liz Hollis
Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)
Regular price: £27.39
£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

Cambridge University, 1888. The world of Miss Vanessa Duncan, a young schoolmistress, is shattered when a Fellow of Mathematics, Mr Akers, is found dead with a violent blow to the back of his head.

Discussing the murder, she learns of a competition set by the King of Sweden on the "n-body" problem, an as-yet unsolved puzzle set by Sir Isaac Newton. It is thought that Akers was working towards a solution to win the prestigious prize.

Another death occurs and Vanessa's new love becomes a suspect. Convinced of his innocence, Vanessa sets about to clear his name.

©2004 Catherine Shaw (P)2007 Oakhill Publishing

Critic reviews

"Mathematics becomes an unlikely catalyst for romance, murder and intrigue" (Library Journal)
"Shaw's debut manages to emerge as an original and fascinating story." (Chicago Tribune)

More from the same

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    4
  • 4 Stars
    5
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3
  • 4 Stars
    2
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    3
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Anachronistic and implausible

Two Cambridge mathematics dons wish to dine together in 1888. Where do they go? To the Irish Pub. Need I say more?

None of the many dons seems to have college rooms, they never go to Hall and all in all the picture of Cambridge academic life is completely wrong even for modern times, let alone 120 years ago. There are also many things which simply aren't anywhere in Victorian England. The mystery has a clever mathematical foundation, but isn't intriguing enough to sustain interest in an audiobook given the distance created by the implausibiltiy of the setting.

The author makes it worse by presenting the novel solely in the form of letters from the heroine to her twin sister. She therefore remembers in detail everything said, no matter how complex, though she manages to live for a year in Cambridge without knowing that there were two Cambridge colleges for women at that date. (This is really clumsy writing. It would have been perfectly possible to mention it as something the heroine already knows.)

The author is apparently an academic mathematician, though where I know not. Things such as drinking whisky before eating, looking in 'store' windows and so forth suggest a North American. If so, the tone of voice in which the heroine speaks is actually pretty good. If not, should have done better. You might manage to skip through it all in print format. Only attempt the audiobook if you don't know or don't care about period authenticity. I gave up on it after two hours' worth.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • St Neots, Cambs, United Kingdom
  • 27-07-09

PERFECT SUMMER LISTENING!

Entertaining 1880s' academic mystery told by Vanessa Duncan, an engagingly naive but tenacious young schoolmistress, whose growing friendship with the shy mathematics fellow in the flat upstairs is rudely interrupted by his involvement in the murders of three colleagues - innocent involvement in her view, definitely guilty involvement in the eyes of the police. Her race to save him from the gallows takes her 'halfway across Europe', as they used to say in the best Victorian adventure tales. And like the best Victorians, Vanessa is a born letter-writer, rattling off voluminous nightly descriptions of the day's doings to her stay-at-home sister. Are these word-perfect recollections impossibly detailed? Yes, of course they are: that's part of the author's gentle guying of past literary conventions. Is her portrait of life in Victorian Cambridge wholly accurate? I doubt it, but as I wasn't there, I couldn't care less: it's perfectly convincing on its own terms, which are those of a light-hearted romantic mystery.
Audio is a great medium for stories told in letters - given the right reader. Liz Hollis is certainly that, her warm voice making Vanessa a very sympathetic heroine and also conjuring up a host of other characters of varying age, sex, class and nationality. All in all, great fun!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A very different book

This is a book I feel may only appeal to a mathematical brain. It is a very good "Who Done It" and makes one very aware that so called facts can be interpreted in a number of different ways. When this happens in a court of law to the detriment of an innocent person it can of course be disastrous. As this does sometimes happen today it is good to see this shown in a very easily understood form. The author needs congratulating. I am looking forward to her next book now.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anthony
  • 27-10-09

Much more than a Whodunnit!

This is a premier listen. And it is far more that a whodunnit set in 1888. This is a wonderful story of a young woman establishing herself in a period long before it was fashionable (or easy) for a woman to be independent. The story is told through a series of letters to Vanessa's twin sister and while the central point is the resolution of three murders the story has a wider appeal, dealing with Vanessa's life, her circumstances and her romantic involvement with the accused. A wonderful story and Liz Hollis' narration was inspired!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

*Offer available from 22nd May 2019 10:00 GMT until 28th May 2019 at 11:59PM GMT. This offer is not available to existing Audible members. Offer applies only to an Audible monthly membership sold by audible.co.uk (http://audible.co.uk/). For the first 4 months of your Audible membership, you will be charged the discounted price of £3.99/month. After the first 4 months, your Audible membership will continue at the then current full price (currently £7.99/month.) until cancelled. Cancel anytime by visiting the Account Details page. Offer limited to one per customer and account, may not be combined with other offers, is non-transferable and may not be resold. Audible reserves the right to modify or cancel the offer at any time. If you violate any of these terms, the offer will be invalid.