Detective Fiction

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Read: A Deadly Indifference

This third novel by Marshall Jevons, that is the economists William Breit and Kenneth G. Elzinga, is the book that actually got me hooked to this series. This was the book that was recommended to me last year. Yet, since I like to read a series of books in their order I read Murder at the Margin and Fatal Equilibrium first. There was no need to do so. The three books are independent and to read and enjoy any one of them does not require the knowledge of any of the other two.

A Deadly Indifference is in my opinion the best of the three novels. The story is tantalizing, well written and structured. The authors first build up the background, introduce all protagonists, and than already well into the novel describe a truly shocking event: the unveiling of a murder. Though the culprit is rather nicely identified by the application of economic principles the mystery is not over yet as there is another twist.

The description of economic principles that is intertwined in all thee Jevons’ novels seems here less blunt – and it was never really blunt to start with in the other two novels – and seems more easy to follow, more easy to connect to what is actually happening, and more credible.

If you want to read any of the economic detective / mystery novels start with this one. It is a pity that we cannot expect a fourth installment.

Read: The Fatal Equilibrium

Not long ago I read the first of currently three economic detective stories by Marshall Jevons an alias for two economists William Breit and Kenneth G. Elizinga. So during my daily trips to my new office – I have a 20 minute train ride – I read the duo’s second economic detective story. Fatal Equilibrium is set at Harvard where the promotion and tenure committee has to decide whom to ax and whom to promote and give tenure. Using the scientific works of an assistant professor at the economics department several simple economic principles are conveyed in the most unobtrusive manner. En passant some more controversial economic methods and approaches to topics where other social sciences may disagree with the economist’s stance are discussed. The way I see it this book is considerably better suited for introducing first year students or other laymen interested in economics to the science and insights of economics than the first novel. And in my opinion, the writing has improved, too.

Of course, there is a murder. Actually, more than one. And the prime suspect, who is even found guilty by a jury, is not the culprit as the economic detective Professor Spearman accidentally discovers. And of course, his discovery is prompted by a simple economic principle.

Read: Murder at the Margin

During last year’s December reunion at my old boss’ and professor’s place he recommended a little novel to me. Some detective fiction where the protagonist is an economist who solves the crime using economic principles. He got the book himself as a gift and obviously liked it. I bought the first book of the trilogy and got the two other ones as a gift myself for my birthday.

Murder at the Margin written by Marshall Jevons, an alias for the two economists William Breit and Kenneth G. Elizinga, can and indeed did already serve as complementary reading to courses in the principles of economics. The novel is written in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot: A crime, some obvious but innocent suspects, some nice reasoning, here based on economic principles, and finally the unveiling of the killer.

It’s a brief novel (just about 200 pages), it’s slowly paced and violence is only experienced indirectly. There is no gore, there is no blood. Yet, there are murder victims and therefore a crime to solve. And since I liked those Miss Marple movies (Yes, the movies. The Dame Margaret Rutherford movies. I have not gotten to read any of Agatha Christie’s novels so far.) I liked this novel.

I really enjoyed it. And I believe first year economics students might enjoy this book as well. It certainly is not as dry as many textbooks and still can teach a few economic principles to the reader.