It all started with Swapna's review. She threw phrases around like "literary puzzle" and "thrill ride". She was purposefully vague about a twisty plot with a wink and a nod to book lovers. So the seed was planted. Then, as books are wont to do, it hurled itself into my path at a Borders closeout sale at 70% off. Who am I not to take a hint?
The book was perfect for the RIP Challenge. It just had the unfortunate luck to be in my hands when I went to SIBA, so I didn't have the preferred momentum when reading it. But never mind. Even in a distracted state of mind, this book did a number on me.
Synopsis: A successful Harvard professor, Alex Shipley is called back to Jasper College, her alma mater, because one of her classmates has been brutally murdered. The murder strangely resembles one that took place years ago that was presumably committed by literature professor Richard Aldiss.
When Alex attended Jasper, she and a group of other students attended a night class taught, via transmission from prison, by Aldiss. The class focused on one author's works - an author whose existence and true identity was highly speculated and had become something of an urban legend. For years students had enjoyed reenacting this ghostwriter's novels in something called "The Procedure", but the game had a reputation for turning violent.
After this latest murder, however, it appears that someone may be playing "The Procedure" again. Nobody can be trusted, and nobody is safe.
My thoughts: I'm aware that my synopsis probably makes no sense and seems a little convoluted. That is because the entire story is one big jigsaw puzzle and half the time I had no idea what was going on. I began to have flashbacks to the movie "The Game" (have you seen this?) with Michael Douglas, where you never know what is real, or who can be trusted. I've also seen this book compared to "The Silence of the Lambs", which I would agree with 100%. Aldiss and Shipley have that Hannibal/Clarice vibe going on.
I love "locked-door mysteries", and this story falls into that category. The bad guy (or gal) has to be one of a finite number of people. Total Agatha Christie, and so much fun.
Like Swapna, I've left out quite a bit of the plot, because reading it cold is like making your way through a funhouse with mirrors and false doors. My warning to you, the reader, would be to read this story when you are awake and alert, don't drink a glass of wine, and read it quickly. It would be easy to miss the whole point. In fact, when I turned the last page, I was scratching my head and asking myself "Wha? What just happened? Who is the evil-doer here?". It probably could even use a re-read. But I admire cleverness, and Will Lavender has it in spades. It just may be a tad too clever for its own good.
4 out of 5 stars