This question comes from reading Washington's proof of Iwasawa's theorem, and wanting to learn the commutative algebra version of the classification of finitely-generated $\Lambda$-modules. I went to the reference in Serre, and am now hung up on a point in his classification.

Let $A$ be a regular local ring of dimension $2$, and let $M$ be a finitely-generated, torsion-free $A$-module. $M$ is reflexive if $M = M^{**}$, or equivalently, if $M = \cap_P M_P$, where the intersection ranges over all prime ideals of height $1$. The detail that I am hung up on is the following:

$M$ reflexive implies that it is free.

Serre is kind enough to give a proof of this, however, he uses confusing notation which is contained in the lecture notes from a 1955 lecture in Tokyo. For completeness, his proof is as follows (I will try to stay close to the original French, odd word choices are due to the French, and might be insightful): One can plunge $M$ into a free module $N$ of the same rank. $M$ being reflexive signifies that that, in the primary decomposition of $M$ in $N$, the prime ideals that intervene are of height $1$. One then has that $\text{codh}(N/M) \geq 1$, then $\text{dh}(N/M) = \text{dim}(A) - \text{codh}(N/M) \leq 1$; since $N$ is free, one has $\text{dh}(M) = \text{dh}(N/M) - 1 \leq 0$, which signifies that $M$ is free.

My guess on the dh is that it denotes projective dimension (I am sure that it stands for some form of homological dimension, based on the name of the paper). That would enable concluding that $M$ is free if the projective dimension is $0$. The prime decomposition fact is proven in Bourbaki (Commutative Algebra, Chapter 7, Section 4, Subsection 2, Proposition 7 i)). The confusing thing about that interpretation is that it seems to imply that the co-projective dimension is easier to get than the projective dimension. Also, where does the equality between the dimension of $M$ and $N/M$ come from (idea: the projective dimension of $N/M$ is at most one, and this is a start of a projective resolution of $N/M$, so the completion indicates that $M$ has dimension one fewer than $N/M$. However, why does it follow that every projective resolution has the same length, or if that isn't true, why is this a start of a minimal projective resolution?).

Also, I will give a proof that a friend gave me. Use the embedding of $M$ into $N$, and look at a regular sequence for $N$. This gives rise to a regular sequence of $M$. But then, since $N$ is free, the regular sequence for $M$ is of length at least $2$, so the projective dimension of $M$ is at most $0$, which is again what we wanted.

However, that only uses $M$ is torsion-free, and not reflexive. If there is no error in the above proof, then one can easily show that the maximal ideal is free for a sample counter-example to that statement.

Finally, some remarks are in order for how I am using this. I am using this in the case that $A = \mathbb{Z}_p[[T]]$, so a proof specific to that ring wouldn't be too troubling (while it is true in general, I would only be generally disturbed without a complete proof). Also, I only really need that if $M$ is torsion-free, and $M/f$ is finite, then $M$ is trivial (applied to the case $f(T) = ((1+T)^{p^n} - 1)/T$). Finally, I am trying to get around having to understand a long matrix bash (on the order of 5 pages) in order to understand this theorem.

notbecome a reg sequence on M (a regular element would, but not sequence in general). – Hailong Dao Apr 29 '10 at 14:15