Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues” as Want to Read:
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  7,232 ratings  ·  1,118 reviews
A “hugely entertaining” (Wall Street Journal) mystery starring “a Royal Tenenbaums-esque clan of geniuses” (Martha Stewart Living)—perfect for fans of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

In this “riveting…brilliant” (Booklist) debut, Hazel Severy, the owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore, receives a letter from her adoptive grandfather—mathematician Isaac Severy—days after
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by Atria Books (first published March 6th 2018)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Susan No visuals. You wouldn't miss anything by listening instead of reading.…moreNo visuals. You wouldn't miss anything by listening instead of reading.(less)
Heather Jones This is a bit late to answer you, but no. I haven't read the 39 Clues books, but while there are aspects of treasure hunting to "the last equation" it…moreThis is a bit late to answer you, but no. I haven't read the 39 Clues books, but while there are aspects of treasure hunting to "the last equation" it's mainly exploring human nature and relationships.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,232 ratings  ·  1,118 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues
i dont normally pick up books randomly, but this was showcased at my local library and i have been in a mood for mystery books this past week - so i thought ‘why not?’

for this book to be described as ‘a novel in clues,’ i was expecting more of a ‘whodunnit’ like premise, but it felt more like general contemporary fiction to me. the writing style and storytelling reminded me a lot of jonathan tropper and cynthia d’aprix sweeney. i wish there had been more of a mystery element to this, but the fa
Leslie Ray
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book begins with an intriguing opening line, "On the morning he was to die, the old man woke early and set about making breakfast". The book did not fail to deliver and I found myself not wanting to put it down but yet wanting to make it last as long as possible. A famous mathematician, Isaac Severy, is found dead, but leaves a cryptic note to his granddaughter Hazel with instructions regarding the last equation he was working on. This equation is of interest to several people as it proves ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read
When I first started reading this, it seemed as if was going to be a treasure hunt of a novel. The treasure belonging to a highly touted mathametician, and the treasure a brilliant equation, which many seek. When Isaac died under suspicious circumstances his granddaughter is left a letter containing clues as to where this equation is, and also to whom he wants it given.

But....this is not exactly a treasure hunt, it is also or maybe more about a family with the majority of family members having a
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mathematical genius and patriarch of the dysfunctional Severy family has died of apparent suicide by electrocution. The Severy family of geniuses is undone by Isaac Severy's sudden death. Adopted granddaughter Hazel receives a letter, dated before his death, asking her to perform a daunting task. Isaac entrusts her with a cryptic assignment. She is asked to safely deliver his final equation to a trusted colleague whose favorite pattern is herringbone. Is this note the disjoint ruminations of an ...more
Nova Jacobs
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Gotta love Goodreads for letting me rate my own book. It’s been such a thrilling launch. Much appreciation to all the Book of the Month Club members who chose Isaac Severy (and are posting such gorgeous pictures!), and to all the readers out there who took a chance on the Severy family. Thank you!
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This book totally surprised me. I was expecting a fun, lighthearted adventure/mystery story—which it definitely was—but also got a novel about death and the universe and family. The main characters (because the story focuses on more than just Hazel like the blurb leads you to believe) are flawed and complex and relatable. I particularly liked Philip's storyline, though I loved Hazel and Gregory too. And the mystery aspect of this novel definitely had me turning pages and guessing at what would h ...more
Sean Gibson
So, I sort of like cucumbers, but don’t feel strongly about them. Like, I like that they’re kind of crunchy, and I like the color green. They don’t really taste like anything, so I never really crave them, and I can take them or leave them. I kind of forget about them when they’re not around, but am at least moderately glad to see them when they’re there.

This book is a cucumber for me. Perhaps I had unreasonably high expectations after seeing it compared to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a delightfully fresh literary mystery. It was just the thing to get me out of a the little slump I'd been in. I wasn't in the mood for something terribly heavy or terribly morbid. I'm always up for quirky characters. No matter that the quirkiest character was deceased prior to Chapter One. (Of an apparent suicide. In a hot tub. With a string of Christmas lights.)

Hazel, adopted granddaughter of Isaac
Book of the Month
Why I Love It
By BOTM Guest Judge Sophia Bush

Everything in nature follows mathematical patterns: Planets follow elliptical orbits, flowers follow the Fibonacci sequence, and snowflakes crystallize with complex symmetrical elegance. Clues to the intricacy of the universe, if you will, and there’s nothing I like better than a finely-crafted succession of clues. Which brings me to this engaging, clever book.

Never fear, this is no tale of dry mathematical theory. It’s a sharp puzzle mystery, full of
Imaginative premise and superb writing could not save this story from being overwhelmed by its themes. Predictive mathematical models, chaos theory, dysfunctional family dynamics, child abuse, vigilante justice and a pseudo-incestuous relationship just to name a few. Throw in a multitude of characters and an exploration of fate and you have a muddled tale I could not decipher. This is another book that I kept reading for its ambition and I thought it would all make sense in the end. Instead I wa ...more
Karen R
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Three will die. I am the first.”

A spark is lit in struggling bookseller Hazel’s life after she receives a surprising and mysterious posthumous letter from her mathematician genius grandfather Isaac. Isaac is thought to have committed suicide in his Jacuzzi with Christmas lights wrapped around him yet his breakfast table was set for two.

Isaac’s letter to Hazel is cryptic. “Know that I am offf (spelling is correct. hmmm, first clue?) sound mind when I ask that you destroy my work in Room 137. Bu
Cindy Burnett
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5-4 stars

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is an entertaining read. I majored in math in college and loved that aspect of the book. Hazel is a likeable if somewhat naïve protagonist, and her hunt for her grandfather’s secret last equation kept me reading. I waited a few days to write my review because I was not sure how I felt about the ending; two aspects troubled me a bit: the location of the equation and the identity of the vigilante. Sadly, waiting a few days didn’t help me resolve my thou
Jessica Jeffers
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I got this because I saw it described as an adult Westing Game.

It's not.

This was a huge letdown. It was messy and anti-climactic. I didn't enjoy it very much at all.
Sue Em
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Hazel Severy has been set on a quest by her recently deceased grandfather, Isaac Severy, a renown mathematician. His letter to her stresses secrecy and suspicion of everyone else within the family and without. This charming narrative poses puzzles and clues to help her solve find his last equation and deliver it safely to his only trusted friend. Even without a facility for numbers, I found the puzzles interesting and the book enjoyable.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity t
Touchstone Books
Mr. Penumbra? A.J. Fikry? Eleanor Oliphant? If any of these names make your heart do a whimsical little flip, you're going to want to get acquainted with ISAAC SEVERY. So much love for this fantastic debut novel! ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intelligence fades. Sex fades. The thrill fades. Where is the wisdom that is supposed to compensate for the loss? But if his father's death had taught him anything, it was that there was no real wisdom with age, only forced compliance.

This book was my first great read of 2019.

Isaac Severy was the paterfamilias of a family made up of exceptional scientific and mathematical minds and academic disappointments, in some cases both at once. When he is found dead of an apparent suicide at his home in
This book was not at all what I was expecting. I thought there would be a mystery but instead it was primarily about Isaac's large dysfunctional family. It wasn't what I was looking for. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. ...more
Mar 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary

To call this book the "adult Westing game" is a farce, and is truly a disservice to both books.

The Westing Game was probably my favorite, most-read book as a child. I believe it just appeared one day in my little library and I read it back to front a million times. It was great because it had a mystery and the clues were included in the book-- you could unravel the mystery through deduction or by solving anagrams or puzzles.

This book pretends to have a mystery as the central point of the s
MaryBeth's Bookshelf
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a clever, witty, and fun novel from Nova Jacobs.

When Isaac Severy, patriarch of the rather eccentric Severy family, is found dead of an apparent suicide, it is up to Severy's adopted granddaughter, Hazel, to untangle the clues he has left behind. Severy is a world-renowned, brilliant mathematician who leaves a cryptic note for Hazel that leads her on a chase to solve when the next murder will take place.

Jacobs also weaves in the stories of Gregory, Hazel's br
Stephanie Anze
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
"The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make evrything the way it is."

After attending the funeral of her adoptive grandfather, Isaac, Hazel Severy receives a cryptic letter from him. Dated before his supposed suicide, Isaac asks Hazel to find his last equation and deliver it to a colleague. The Severy clan are mathematically gifted and their patriarch, Isaac Severy, particularly so. Hazel owns a bookstore, is not one of the family's geniuses and is surprised Issac would choos
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

I am the polar opposite of a mathematical person, but when I read the premise of this book, I was sucked in and knew I had to read it! Mystery, family drama and secrets, clues for the character (and for us as readers), wittiness with a side of bookstore owner?! Yes please! I enjoyed this book, was sucked into the world and was rapidly flipping pages to find out the ending. And Book of the Month?! Yay!
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
This is an entertaining story by a new novelist, Nova Jacobs. It is the tale of a dysfunctional family and their relationships with one another. It is also a mystery. The patriarch of the family dies, and leaves behind a note to his daughter Hazel, giving her a difficult task of finding his last equation and delivering it to the right person. Others are also looking for the equation, because it is proven to be able to accurately and precisely predict the future.

The family is filled with geniuses
lucky little cat
Aug 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the movie <i>Knives Out</i>
Recommended to lucky little cat by: Ms.pegasus
Cute, sometimes intricate family-mystery story with a dollop of romance. Confession: I skimmed the math-ier parts. Set in LA, complete with a faux Chateau Marmont.

Here's my low-tech family tree for anyone who, like me, kept forgetting exactly where Sybil fits in.

Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received an ARC of this novel from Touchstone Books via my position as a bookseller for Barnes & Noble. I picked it up mostly because the back blurb name drops Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore which I absolutely adore. Let me say up front that that comparison is wonderfully apt. If you love that or Robin Sloan's other novel, you'll fall right in love with the Severy family.

This book has everything: plot twists, family drama, mathematics, storylines that fall into each other like folding origam
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just right for my mood, a nice cerebral mystery. Apparently it’s difficult to impossible nowadays to describe a new novel without referencing another, however tangentially connected, but really this one is very much its own book. Seriously, yes the protagonist owns a bookstore, but it’s a relatively inconsequential detail in the grand scheme of things. It also doesn’t need to describe itself as a novel of clues, a lot (most?all?) of mysteries have clues. Going by the description I even thought m ...more
Robert Blumenthal
This novel ended up being rather different from what I expected. Instead of a somewhat wild and exuberant romp, it was instead a measured and character driven tale more reminiscent of Allegra Goodman than Thomas Pynchon or Jess Kidd. There is quite of bit of family dynamic involved, easily as much as mathematics and academia. It was certainly more refined and emotionally compelling than I had expected. I found it to be a very strongly and confidently written novel, especially for a debut.

It empl
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 rounding up. Imagine my surprise when I had just left the library placing a hold for a Nancy drew book, I read them all too many decades ago to share, but I loved the thrill of those mysteries and wanted to see what I think of one as adult now. I had no idea what this book was about, must have seen on goodreads, I just queued up at the library and as usual jump in blind. I was INSTANTLY smitten, it felt like Nancy drew all over again. It is a smart gentle mystery, none of that horrid modern ...more
Lindsey Erickson
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I am a self-proclaimed math nerd and I do love the subject, though I feel a bit inadequately compared to the characters in this novel. For these reasons, it made me love this book even more. However, taking that out of the equation (ha, see what I did there), I thoroughly enjoyed this murder mystery, the way this family all tied together, and I couldn't wait to see how everything would turn out. This book kept me intrigued from the very beginning and though I couldn't wait to finish it, I'm now ...more
Ali Edwards
This one took a long time to hook me - not sure if that was due to my sporadic reading this month or the story itself. I almost moved on 1/2 way through but decided to give it one more try over a weekend getaway and I was glad I did overall (but also happy to move on to the next story).
Stephanie Cowart
Wow! I can’t believe this is a debut novel! Really great premise and the delivery was spot on. Several characters and perspectives done really well. Highly recommended!!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Rainbirds
  • The Anomaly (The Anomaly Files #1)
  • The Philosopher's Flight (The Philosophers Series, #1)
  • Carolina Skeletons
  • Struck By Living (2nd Edition): From Depression to Hope
  • Love, Skip, Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Yes
  • The Oracle Year
  • To Catch a Cheat (The Great Greene Heist, #2)
  • Being Ram Dass
  • Moonflower Murders (Susan Ryeland #2)
  • The Municipalists
  • Palindrome
  • The Eighth Detective
  • The Dinner List
  • The Guest List
  • Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts
  • A Double Death on the Black Isle
  • The Lord Sorcier (Regency Faerie Tales, #0.5)
See similar books…
Nova Jacobs has an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is a recipient of the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her debut novel The Last Equation of Isaac Severy was named a Best Mystery of 2018 by The Wall Street Journal and was nominated for a 2019 Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. She is a co-writer with Donnie Ei ...more

News & Interviews

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people fall in love with books about falling in love. Every month our team...
29 likes · 2 comments
“The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is.” 4 likes
“You know what he told me once? That the whole universe is one giant computer, and every second it's calculating its own future down to the last detail - right down to some guy getting angry on the road.” 1 likes
More quotes…