Author: Will Lavender
Release Date: January 6, 2009
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
In an undergraduate Logic class at Winchester University, the students of the small class are in for a huge shock. The class is taught by a Professor L. Williams, a mystery in and of himself, and on the first day of class, he tells them that a girl named Polly will be murdered in six weeks and it is up to them to prevent it. Three students, Mary Butler, Brian House, and Dennis Flaherty, find themselves obsessed with the mystery and are willing to follow it through to whatever end.
Upon first glance, Obedience, Will Lavender’s debut, is a very similar thriller to his latest book Dominance. Both are set in a small town on a college campus. Both feature a professor that can’t be trusted and a mystery that, at first glance, is contained within the class. But as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that the mystery is not confined to the classroom walls; it begins to seep into real life, until the students are unsure of what is true and what is false. Though these books unfold differently, if you don’t like the premise of one, you will likely not be interested in the other.
While Dominance takes place in two different time periods, Obedience is told in the present day. The character of Mary is the most sympathetic; she becomes obsessed with the idea of solving the Polly mystery because she is certain Polly will actually end up dead if no one tries to save her. Though she can’t let go (and that would be the smart thing to do), she becomes increasingly frightened. The class and the Polly mystery begin to take on a very sinister turn, one which will have chills running down the reader’s spine.
The plot of Obedience is twisty and gripping; I was completely hooked on the crazy turns the narrative took. Even when I had trouble believing what was going on, I still frantically read because I just had to know what was going on. At times, the plot is so intricate and complex and it’s difficult to follow, but follow it you must. If anything is crystal clear in this muddled novel, it’s that the reader, through Mary, is being led somewhere.
In the end, Obedience was a bit unsatisfying. I’m not sure what kind of ending would have been sufficient for such a crazy novel, but I didn’t love the way it came together. Still, I really enjoyed reading the book, even if I had a few issues with the plot and had a bit of trouble with the way it unfolded. I love how unsettled it made me while I was reading. The small town professor-class-mystery seems to be a formula for Lavender, but he makes it work well, so I can’t say I have any complaints.