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The Library Paradox Hardcover – 23 Mar 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Allison & Busby (23 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749082933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749082932
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,861,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'What an excellent concept Shaw had for her novel... An original and fascinating story' Chicago Tribune"

About the Author

Catherine Shaw is an academic and a mathematician. The Library Paradox is her third novel.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. S. Partridge on 13 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I don't normally like murder mysteries set in other historical periods. However the first few pages seemed good so I gave it a go. Overall I enjoyed it with a few reservations. I disliked the long passages of theory for example, pages on mathematical theory-it wasn't necessary to understand them to follow the plot. Also lots about the Hassidic sect of Judaism. In both cases a bit of knowledge was very interesting but the author went too far. (Which of them is the subject she studies I wonder)I also question whether young unmarried women of the time would have been allowed to share a flat together in the way 2 of the characters do.
Still it kept me interested to the end and I will look out for her other books.
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By Mrs. C. Boorer on 8 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
a treat to read 1 Mar. 2009
By Paula Burch - Published on
Format: Paperback
I just read Catherine Shaw's The Library Paradox and enjoyed it mightily all the way through. I found the plot to move quickly without dragging. The case is presented as a logic problem, with an intriguing venture into the world of Hasidic Jews in 1896 London. A reference to Sherlock Holmes indicates that he is real and not fictional to the characters of this fictional book.

The publishers, Felony & Mayhem, recommend this book as being most enjoyable for fans of Anne Perry and of Jacqueline Winspear's "Maisie Dobbs" series. It's true in my case. I will be looking closely at other recommendations by this publisher. I am eager to read more by Catherine Shaw.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A mathematical paradox turned into a historical mystery 1 Oct. 2010
By Michelle Boytim - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is set in London in the late 1800's. It focuses on a amateur female detective, Vanessa Duncan, now married with 2 small children. I didn't realize when I got it that it was part of a series, and is actually the third book. Nonetheless, it was easy to follow the actual mystery. A professor, who lived in an apartment above the library, was murdered in his study. Witnesses outside heard a struggle and the shot, but found no one inside. Vanessa must find out who might have murdered the man, who was an ardent anti-Semitic. Was it the mysterious elderly Hasidic man, or someone else. Vanessa is aided by a former pupil and her friends, who are Jewish and give her an inside look into the London Jewish community. The Library Paradox is presented which was an actual logical puzzle proposed by Bertrand Russell. In the end, I figured out the outcome, but the reasoning behind it was interesting. I may go back and get the earlier books in the series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good Historical Mystery 3 Dec. 2009
By antarctica_girl - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was a good read. I would compare it generally to 'Some Danger Involved' by Will Thomas, 'A Conspiracy of Paper' by David Liss, and 'The Alienist' by Caleb Carr. It is set in historical London and features amateur detective work to solve the crime. The main difference with 'The Library Paradox' is the protagonist. She is a woman. The investigation in the book follows a slightly more behind-the-scenes approach than the other three books I mentioned due to societal norms- one that the protagonist is good at circumventing, but not necessarily "against". She is a typical woman of privilege of her times- one that tends to wind up in the role of detective through fate more than any will of her own. She is, however, very good at this hobby of hers and solving the crime with her throughout the book (it is written as a sort-of diary and we get to read her inner thoughts and tangents about her own 'library paradox' theories) was the treat of the book.

Various Jewish cultures and the setting of London are all seen afresh through her eyes (as they are through the readers' from her perspective), which also adds an element of "observer" to the "detective" role of the protagonist, and this further adds to the element of solving the crime along with her. The foremost plot was also well-backed by international events from history highlighting the antisemitism which we now know will fallout in the two world wars.

One con is that I'm not a big fan of court-room scenes, but that's just me- and that's all I'll say.

I highly recommend this read for anyone who enjoys amateur armchair sleuthing and has just finished reading one too many of the predictable modern paperback mysteries (i.e. abnormal villains, unneeded romances, unbelievable- albeit 'shocking'- twists, and little satisfaction in the explanation of the motives)! Basically, if you want a little more character with your plot, this is the book!

And if you like this book, I also recommend:
Some Danger Involved: A Novel
A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
The Alienist: A Novel
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An intriguing blend of mystery, murder and mathematics. 8 Nov. 2008
By Rebecca Huston - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When the weather starts to turn cold, it seems like perfect time to start enjoying a well-written thriller or two. To me, one of the happiest ways to spend an afternoon is to bundle up on the sofa, have a pot of tea nearby and settle in with a book or two. A new line of mysteries has been appearing in my book catalogues lately, under the tagline of 'Felony and Mayhem,' and what titles I have read from the series have been pretty good. So far.

That is, until I reached The Library Paradox, by Catherine Shaw.

Told through the eyes of Vanessa Weathrburn, in the form of her journal, this story combines quite a few elements and plotlines, with a mathematical puzzle at the center. A noted professor at King's College in London has been murdered. The body and weapon, however, were in the man's private study - and that was locked from the inside. So who murdered Ralston?

As the story unfolds, and Vanessa uncovers the man's associates and students, it appears that there were quite a few people who wouldn't have minded seeing Professor Ralston dead. For the professor had been assembling and writing about anti-Semitism, and being a very vocal one at that. Most of all, he appears to have been researching the canard of 'blood-libel' - the particularly disgusting notion that blood from Christian children was needed to bake the matzah consumed at Passover. Among his papers Vanessa finds a list of events that chronicled deaths of children, and the resulting violence against Jewish communities. At the bottom of the list, and underlined, is a recent murder - that of James Wilson, a young child who was found with his throat cut.

Two men from London's Jewish community were tried for the crime, with one of them being hanged, and the other sent to prison. Now the survivor is about to be released from prison, and Vanessa wonders if Ralston had anything to do with the sending of the Gad brothers to their fates. Along the way, she finds that Ralston may have been involved in another anti-Semitic case - this time in France, and that of Alfred Dreyfuss, an officer in the French army who was disgraced and imprisoned on Devil''s Island but maintains that he is innocent of treason and betraying his country.

To solve the murder, Vanessa has to thread her way through a London society that expects women to be quiet, and staying at home, not trying to find a killer. She also has to work her way through London's Jewish community, which views her with suspicion and fear that the outside world may turn on them for Professor Ralston's death.

I have very mixed emotions about this book. I enjoy a good historical mystery, and there is very little historical fiction out there that has Judaism as an essential plot to the story. And while Vanessa spends an awful lot of time mooning over being separated from her children during the story, and engaging in long conversations that eventually have nothing at the center of them, she's still an engaging and somewhat interesting character.

But there are some problems with this rather overburdened novel. In addition to the murder, the Dreyfuss case, and the theme of anti-Semitism, Shaw adds in a problem that is based on logic - the Library Paradox, where a dead man is apparently murdered in a room that can only be accessed from the inside. Yes, it's a puzzle to be found in mathematical puzzles, and was developed by Bertrand Russell. The problem in the novel is that once the reader gets through the first fifty or so pages, we know how Professor Ralston dies, if the reader is paying close enough attention. What made it worse was having to wade through the other two hundred and fifty pages of dense prose to find out that I was right. Not only that, but the story itself drags and plods along for nearly two hundred pages before the action starts to pick up and the meandering stops.

Another historical fact is that of Alfred Dreyfuss, a judicial case that captured attention worldwide, and spurred anti-Semitic hatred for decades. It's one of the uglier stories out of European history, and Shaw spends pages getting into such violence and unreason. So too with the blood-libel, and frankly, that made me sick at heart (and to my stomach) to read. While she does use Judaism somewhat effectively here, it would have been nice to see her use something else as a cornerstone of her story. The rhetoric used was inflammatory, and downright hateful, and I was ready to throw the book through the wall and give up on it then and there.

Sadly, if the author had less two dimensional characters, and had perhaps decided to keep the anti-Semitism down to a dull roar instead of a howling, I might have found this to be more enjoyable. I enjoy mathematical problems, and a book involving Jewish characters usually will capture my attention. But this mystery was predictable and over-wrought, and I doubt that I will pick up another novel by Catherine Shaw in the future.

This appears to be part of an ongoing series of mysteries: The Three Body Problem and Flowers Stained by Moonlight. Given that I wasn't too happy with this one, I doubt that I will bother with the other two books in the series. That's too bad, as it does look as though Shaw is familiar with the Victorian period, and especially with mathematical quandaries, but I found myself loosing interest in Vanessa and her story throughout the book.

At best, it's a three star read. It's average, and I only recommend it for those who really enjoy this sort of thing. Somewhat recommended.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
research 3 Aug. 2010
By pedrogtewkesbury - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately there are some problems with the period detail. In the late nineteenth century it would not have been possible to leave London by train after a morning meeting, travel to Princetown, make a visit to the prison and then be back in London on the same day in the evening 'but not very late'. It would be pretty impossible to do it even today.
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