I would have never wondered that a movie from Hollywood could have been better than a novel by a writer from Argentina. Which is like saying that I prefer a McDonald's plastic-like burger to a succulent meaty asado. But, well, there's always a first time.
For the big screen version of "The Oxford Murders" is far from being brilliant, but still better than the original version of the story on print. I think this should tell you a lot regarding this novel. And when you do prefer the big-eyed Elijah Wood and his naive American attitude and accent ("I don't understand") to the unnamed Argentinean main character of this book, that means how this novel is a utter failure.
Now call me too harsh, but I actually kind of liked ONLY the opening of this novel with its "Borgesesque" style. Unfortunately, from the second sentence onwards everything began to collapse.
Let's face it: the plot of "The Oxford Murders" is dull. The characters are flat, unrealistic and blabber way too much about their own number theories in a way that has nothing of intellectual but is a mix between a cheap imitation of the scholars' lingo and a Dan Brown outtake.
Not that Martinez prove to be any better of Mr Brown: actually sometimes he is even worse than him. A few lines are absolutely ludicrous especially while the author is trying to add some exciting red hot chili moments to the boring repetition of those number series of him. Number series you can easily find on one of those "Get your IQ in 30 minutes" paperbacks.
In order to excite his little half-wits readers, Martinez calls a thin woman "very huggable" (mmmh, spicy!) and indulges on a supposedly hot scene on a tennis court which made me laugh with astonishment. For those of you who watched the Hollywood movie there is no spaghetti sex in the book, but I have to confess how I actually preferred that blatantly awful scene to the way Martinez write about a love&sex affair.
Moreover, the author doesn't even try to justify his choice of choosing Oxford as the main set of this novel by not creating any atmosphere of the town. It's one year I live in Oxfordshire and, apart from naming some local places here and there, Martinez couldn't catch a hint of the town with its mysteries kept beyond the high walls of the colleges.
The reason why this book gets two stars and not one is merely because I lived in Oxford and feel a kind of sympathy for the novelists who put the town on paper (Waugh, McEwan, Marias...). That and a surprising reference to one of my favourite Italian writers: Dino Buzzati. But it's not showing us that he read Buzzati (and Prevert) and studied a whole lot of maths that Guillermo Martinez can save this book from a well deserved death by numbers.