An Elegant Solution – Anne Atkins
This book is delightful. It's so very, very Cambridge. It richly evokes a world of punting and college architecture and porters and May Balls and the Assassins' Guild and Gardies and interesting conversations at odd hours of the day and night. I really liked both the main characters, and so much of it was familiar and relatable, like Charlotte saying Cambridge was the first place she really felt at home, and that she no longer stood out, and that some other freshers found this change difficult to adjust to but she liked it; or the bit about how the intense eight-week terms mean that romantic relationships develop as much in a few weeks as they would in a few years in an office; or Theo having spent his childhood being told off by adults who then got even angrier because they mistook his quiet expression of distress for nonchalant defiance.
Maths and cryptocurrency both play a major role in the story. The characters are clever, most of them in a playful and fun way, and there's a lot of wordplay and etymological puns and nerdy in-jokes. I kept reading out particularly entertaining bits to Alex.
It's not perfect. I found there were slightly too many viewpoint characters for me to keep track of comfortably, and it wasn't always clear when the narrative shifted from one to another: if the shift happened over a page break so there wasn't the clue of an extra line break, and if the new section just started using "he" or "she" rather than a name, which it often did, then it wasn't clear it wasn't still talking about the previous character. There are a couple of bits where the author seems to withhold information just for the sake of it, rather than because it contributes to the suspense in any meaningful way. The unsympathetic characters are a bit caricatured. There was a loose thread that I was expecting to see tied up and wasn't as far as I could tell (gur pvephzfgnaprf bs Gurb'f sngure'f qrngu). And there were a lot of proofreading mistakes (there are two proofreaders credited in the acknowledgements, but it isn't consistent about the hyphenation between the two of them, so one is a proofreader and the other a proof-reader; there are a lot of capitalisation mistakes around dialogue, like "Hello," She said; and there are lots of misspelled proper names, like "Oepidus" or "Glaxo Smith Klein" or Don "McClean"). And I was a bit unconvinced by some of the cryptocurrency details. But overall it was a really good book: delightful and enjoyable enough to abundantly make up for these flaws. I think atreic and geekette8 would probably like it.
There is apparently a prequel, which I'd like to read next.