8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2013
"The Three body problem" sets itself the difficult task of making an epistolary novel interesting, and succeeds only up to a point. The narrator, Vanessa, tells the story by means of letters to her twin sister Dora. Vanessa is a teacher of small children, who becomes an amateur detective. The eponymous problem is the "n-body problem", which deals with the prediction of the motion of a group of celestial objects that interact with each other gravitationally (acknowledgments to Wikipedia!) and Shaw tries to make this a sort of metaphor for the triple murder that Vanessa eventually solves. This device of using scientific or philosophical theories to illuminate or give structure to a narrative is a trick successfully pulled off by Tom Stoppard, but not always so happily by other writers, and here the relationship between celestial objects doesn't throw any extra light on the story.Vanessa's supposedly guiless and rather gushing conversation is unfortunately full of Americanisms, which compounds the unlikeliness of the whole fiction, a scenario of a single, and not wealthy, lady of the 1890s having unhampered access to university society and foreign travel and, least likely of all, the conversational respect of academic males. It's a likeable attempt at an unusual sort of detective story, but with the epistolry structure Shaw has caused herself unnecessary difficulties.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2014
Very quick read if you skip all the maths explanations. which are unnecessary and add nothing to the story unless you, like the author, are a mathematician. Oh to travel without passport control and customs queues. I might read another if I find one in a charity shop