Just days after mathematician and family patriarch Isaac Severy dies of an apparent suicide, his adopted granddaughter Hazel, owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore, receives a letter from him by mail. In it, Isaac alludes to a secretive organization that is after his final bombshell equation, and he charges Hazel with safely delivering it to a trusted colleague. But first, she must find where the equation is hidden.
While in Los Angeles for Isaac’s funeral, Hazel realizes she’s not the only one searching for his life’s work, and that the equation’s implications have potentially disastrous consequences for the extended Severy family, a group of dysfunctional geniuses unmoored by the sudden death of their patriarch.
As agents of an enigmatic company shadow Isaac’s favorite son—a theoretical physicist—and a long-lost cousin mysteriously reappears in Los Angeles, the equation slips further from Hazel’s grasp. She must unravel a series of maddening clues hidden by Isaac inside one of her favorite novels, drawing her ever closer to his mathematical treasure. But when her efforts fall short, she is forced to enlist the help of those with questionable motives.
Author: Nova Jacobs
“Hazel didn’t take her eyes from the man as he continued his recitation, but her hand had wandered to her right pocket. She slid her fingers inside, over the crispness of the envelope, and before she knew it, she was running a fingernail along the lip until she could feel a thin sheet of paper within. Almost without thinking, she had broken the seal, and now there seemed to be no retreating from Isaac’s letter.”
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy was a masterfully done mystery. Somehow a relatively light read despite the dark subject matter, the book was really enjoyable and kept me guessing throughout. Jacobs’ clues are perfect—some you pick up on right away and others are harder to spot—and I felt like I caught on exactly when she wanted me to.
Hazel, who was adopted as a Severy along with her brother when they were young, is one of the only family members not brilliantly gifted in mathematics. Yet Isaac, an award-winning and truly genius mathematician, has chosen her. The day before he died, he mailed her a letter that matter-of-factly stated his upcoming demise and provided clues and a call to action: secretly destroy what’s in room 137 and give my last equation to my trusted friend.
At first, she’s overwhelmed and confused, but once she grabs hold of the first clue, she is thrown into the scavenger hunt head-first. Her other family members are quirky and—sometimes—mysterious. A long-lost cousin, who also happens to be a mathematician, appears and wants to help. But is that a good idea? After all, Isaac told her to share his note with absolutely no one.
Hazel’s story is woven together with that of her brother, Gregory (a police officer), and her uncle, Philip (Isaac’s son and a brilliant mathematician himself). Together, their thoughts and actions paint a complex picture of the few weeks over which the story takes place.
I loved how human all of the Severys were, and I really started to fall in love with their family. I was also a big fan of the fact that Hazel didn’t magically jump from clue to clue, picking apart the mystery on her own. So many mystery novels unfold that way, but it’s a little unrealistic. Instead, Hazel had many moments of confusion, things that luckily fell into place just right, a ton of self-doubt, a little bit of help, and just the right amount of curiosity.
I blazed through this one and enjoyed every second. I highly recommend as a fun, engaging, and intriguing weekend read!