Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz

review by Maryom

When Detective Sergeant Leonard Corell is sent along to investigate a suicide, he finds the task more interesting than he'd expected - for the deceased was Alan Turing, mathematical genius and convicted homosexual. Digging a little into the dead man's past, Corell finds himself increasingly fascinated by this eccentric character, torn between growing admiration for Turing's work and disgust at his sexual orientation.What starts as a routine task becomes a personal mission - but Turing's activities were being watched closely by the security services, and Corell soon finds that he too has attracted their attention.

Both David Lagercrantz and Alan Turing are in the news at the moment; the author for having been chosen to continue Stieg Larsson's Lizbeth Salander Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and the mathematician for The Imitation Game, the recent film about his life and work starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Fall of Man in Wilmslow brings them together.

 At the time of his death in 1954, Turing's war-time work at Bletchley Park would still have been a secret; now it's fairly common knowledge.   So what Corell painstakingly uncovers, are facts most of us are vaguely aware of.
Corell himself wasn't a character I took to. He's hampered to a great extent by the homophobic attitudes of the time - this is after all the 1950s when society generally was less tolerant - but he also carries a chip on his shoulder, a general attitude that he's superior to his surroundings and colleagues and that life and family have let him down. Continuing his investigation into Turing's past allows him to connect with university professors and discuss theoretical mathematics, leading him to re-evaluate what he's doing with his life - but it does feel rather far fetched that he instantly understands concepts that distinguished mathematicians have been struggling with! Unlike Corell, I found the whole exploration of imaginary numbers or the application of logic conundrums to Mathematics to be a little dull - and at times the forward momentum of the plot foundered on these digressions. I think if you've a liking for such things you'll find the book a lot more enjoyable than I did.

 Maryom's review - 3 stars 
Publisher - Maclehose Press/Quercus Books

Genre -  adult, translated fiction,

Translated from the Swedish by George Goulding

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