Obedience by Will Lavender (published by Three Rivers Press, available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble), is a puzzle mystery. On their first day, students in a logic-and-reasoning class are presented a startling assignment: Save Polly! Using clues dripped out by the professor, the students must to solve the puzzle of her disappearance by the end of the term or Polly will die and they will be held responsible for her murder.
The novel focuses on three students, each of whom has dreadful secrets, as well as damaged psyches. Add to that mix the weirdness of the faculty, and there are bound to be explosive interactions. What fun would college be without lies, sex, and death?
There are several reasons I bought and read this book.
First, I met and spoke with the author (as well as taking one of his classes) at Killer Nashville, a conference for crime writers. The concepts behind the book and the way he wrote it gave me insights that any author could use.
Next, this story, as I said, is billed as “a puzzle mystery.” Aren’t all mystery novels puzzles? Yes, but this one has a clear and distinct enigma that cuts the proverbial elevator cables at the beginning of the story. To be worthwhile, a story must concern a crucial problem happening to believable characters, which eventually presents a resolution that stops the runaway elevator from slamming into the cellar.
Finally, my own mystery novel had just been published and, until I met Will Lavender, I hadn’t realized that I’d also written a puzzle novel. I’d never heard of that subgenre before, and yet I can help but direct my second mystery novel down that same path.
Will’s novel is perfect for the puzzle aficionado, the mystery lover, and the philosopher.
The puzzle lover in you will be sifting through the clues the professor doles out in tiny drips. At times, you’ll want to reach through the pages and strangle the professor or, more likely, some of the strange characters who pop up. Patience, dear reader, all is explained in the end and you’ll slap your forehead for not realizing the significance of the information you got.
As a lover of mysteries, I’m always curious about how the crime (usually murder) was committed. Without spoiling the ending, the book goes into great depth about the causes of the murder. This turns Obedience into a bit of a psychological thriller, another layer on the underlying puzzle mystery.
Would a philosopher like this book? Yes. The university and the characters are placeholders for examining the universe and the people who inhabit it. What secrets could be so deadly that they should be covered? What secrets, if revealed, would cause a murderer to strike? What responsibility do you as an individual have not just to society but to some anonymous person that you didn’t even know existed before you came to this crazy man’s classroom?
Obedience is a fun romp.
Bill Hopkins uses his decades of experience as a private lawyer, a prosecuting attorney, and a Missouri state judge to capture readers with his Judge Rosswell Carew murder mysteries. Courting Murder, his first mystery novel, is available from Amazon.com. You can follow Judge Hopkins at judgebillhopkins.com, or through his Facebook and Twitter pages.