Expected publication: July 5th 2011 by Simon & Schuster.
“What if you could read a book and treat it as a competition between you and its author?” – Alex Shipley, Chapter 3.
That is pretty much how I tackle anything from the mystery/thriller genre, whether it be a TV show, a movie, or in this case… a book. Will Lavender is an author of what he calls “puzzle thrillers,” novels that are not quite mysteries and not quite thrillers but incorporate elements of both, and I have never read anything like it.
Like most of you, I enjoy a good mystery book. I love the challenge it posts in the beginning, the chase, the way it all unfolds in the end. My book-love started with those Nancy Drew Mysteries collections. As a kid, I ate all of it up. But after a while, it begins to look the same. Someone gets killed, there are clues left behind, the villain taunts the heroes, the villain gets caught. Over and over. And sometimes, it builds and builds only to an ending that is less than satisfying. This book breaks through all that.
The book jumps right into it; setting up the premise that will last the whole book. Our hero, Dr. Alexandra “Alex” Shipley, was a part of an elite experimental class in Jasper College, Vermont in 1994. This class was being taught by a jailed professor named Dr. Richard Adliss, convicted of brutally murdering 2 grad students. The crime scenes were littered with the books of the author Paul Fallows. Who is this elusive Paul Fallows? Richard Adliss then shows his class of 9 students how to answer that question.
Fast forward to “Present Day”. Alex is now a professor at Harvard. She is famous in the literary world as the one who found out about Fallows’ true identity. In the process, she also acquitted Adliss of all charges against him. But then, one of her former classmates gets killed in the same way as the grad students’ murders. She then uses the skills Adliss taught them to solve this mystery.
The book bounces back and forth between 1994 and present day. Normally, I get turned off by this storytelling device but Lavender showed excellent use of flashbacks. It kept me on my toes, guessing at every turn of the page. Both past and present settings are equally exciting. I love that both settings move forward rather the present the only one progressing and the flashbacks are just random points in the past. Parallel time lines, I enjoyed. Also, I liked the cast of characters. Some are a little bit cliche but the focus is very heavy on the main characters that I did not mind the minor ones that much.
It is definitely one of the most frustrating books that I have read in a while. When reading mystery novels, I usually solve the puzzle somewhere midway through the story. Some authors just make it too obvious. But this one? Oh boy. I had suspicions but I was never 100% sure until it was officially revealed. The plot was airtight and solid. The flashbacks are very essential to the present day storyline as if it answers the questions of the present.
(On a side note, I was playing around with the idea that the BAU team from the CBS show Criminal Minds would have a field day with the villains in this book. It should be interesting to see what Dr. Spencer Reid does with the whole Paul Fallows lore and how they would eventually figure out what was going on. Looking at my notes, one of the bullets said, “Totally Criminal Minds material!”)
I know some of these do not make sense but I am telling you, read this book and you will see the genius! You will be bombarded left and right with clues that you would not be able to put it down until the mystery is solved. I read it and treated it like a competition between me and the author and guess what, Will Lavender won.
Recommendation: If you’re tired of your usual mystery/thriller novels and looking for something different, pick this one up. This is definitely something new.
Get your copy here.