Will Lavender - Obedience (3 stars)

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Obedience

(Macmillan)

MYSTERY THRILLER

Will Lavender’s debut is a taunting puzzle mystery which explores the dark side of academia. The strangely enigmatic Professor Williams of Winchester University sets his logic and reasoning class a challenge: an 18-year-old girl called Polly has gone missing; find her by the end of term or she’ll be murdered. Homework and homicide is an interesting combination as three students (Brian, Mary and Dennis) stumble upon/are cunningly directed to a real-life unsolved disappearance uncannily similar to the prof’s pet narrative.

Actors, dodgy academics and red herrings abound, as Lavender sends his characters scurrying around back-of-nowhere towns, decrepit trailers and disappearing bars. The momentum of the plot, particularly in the last 100 pages, offsets the fairly thin characterisation and occasionally stodgy dialogue. Reader and student protagonists are dragged into a conceptual labyrinth, where personality doesn’t seem to matter much. This is a superior thriller and take a gold star if you guess the ending.

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