Ian Stewart has produced a captivating book of puzzles, peculiar facts, miscellaneous items of interest, with an occasional piece of significant and meaningful mathematics. This book can be enjoyed by both the serious student of mathematics as well as a more casual observer and is accessible to all.
Stewart introduces all his problems to us through two characters: Hemlock Soames and his sidekick, Dr. John Watsup. Soames, a private detective, is a contemporary of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Soames’ lodgings are at 222B Baker Street, directly across the street from the more famous Holmes.
I found that I was familiar with many of the puzzles and facts presented in this book. However, the humorous and unique used to present problems, facts, and data made them fresh and inviting for me. Teachers of mathematics will find many problems that they will be able to use in their classes to help promote critical thinking and demonstrate the beauty of mathematics.
Much of the humor in this book and the names of the problems will be more appreciated by those who are familiar with the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For example “The Hound of the Baskervilles” solved by Sherlock Holmes becomes “The Hound of the Basketballs” solved by Hemlock Soames. Those familiar with the British comedy “Keeping up Appearances” will appreciate the sentence: “Basquet not Basket,” said Lady Hyacinth with a sniff, making the word sound French.
I found myself amused, delighted, and rewarded as I read this book. I also liked this book because it did not require that I read it “all at one time.” I felt as though I could read this book for a while and then set it aside, return weeks (or even months) later and continue without missing a thing.
Tom French has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mathematics from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He has 35 years of engineering and business experience with Lockheed Martin. He was part of the design team that first implemented medium-scale and large-scale integrated circuits into computers. He was the program manager for several large product innovations and was one of the leaders who implemented the technology revolution in the banking system in the Russian Federation. Tom has taught mathematics and computers in numerous schools, colleges and universities. In addition, he has taught mathematics at the high school level.