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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Excellent Convoluted Whodunnit !!!

Dominance: A NovelDominance: A Novel by Will Lavender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do not look at the picture of the author of this book--it is too deceiving. That handsome boyish face hides a diabolic mind!

The premise of this novel is so simplistic. In 1982 a celebrated literature professor at a small Vermont college ( it overlooks Lake Champlain---not far from Orwell--hmmm and Route 2 ) is convicted of the axe murders of two of his former students. They were part of a group that were trying to unearth the actual identity of a reclusive author, Paul Fallows and were found with Fallows' books, among others, covering their bodies. Now in 1994, the professor Richard Aldiss has been given permission to teach a night course to nine carefully selected seniors--elite literature students. He gives them clues in various ways to once more identify Fallows and in so doing reveal the real murderer. Aldiss claims to be innocent of the murders. One of the nine, Alexandra Shipley, is successful and Aldiss is granted his freedom. On the notoriety of the case, Shipley, who was headed to Harvard as a grad student, is eventually given a prestigious professorship at Harvard. Her life, it would seem, though greatly impacted by the experience of the night class, is good.

Flash forward to the present: One of the nine, an NYPD detective has committed suicide in his squad car. Shortly thereafter, another, now himself a lit prof at the site of the night class, Jasper College, is murdered with an axe and body is covered with books including those two --he only wrote two--of Fallows'. Aldiss contacts Alex, tells her there is another Fallows' manuscript and enlists her aid in locating it and the new murderer. Simple whodunnit, right? Wrong!

The book moves back and forth from the present to 1994 back to the present. We see the nine as students on a quest and we meet them again as they reunite to mourn the death of their friend on the Jasper campus. The narrative keeps you riveted for nothing is given to you--you become a tenth player in the game called Procedure.... a role-playing game in which the characters of Fallows' books and the scenes from the book are played out. Only problem is--you never know when the game is happening. Who was/is Fallows? Did Aldiss kill those two girls? Is he the killer again? Why are the nine being eliminated--more do die? Just as the end seems to come, the plot takes a turn and you find the mystery, the 1994 mystery and the present mystery are NOT at an end. Even on the last page--though all the threads seem to have been tied up and the killers revealed---does not feel like the end. Is the game over?

One things for sure I'm glad I wasn't a lit major and that obsession over an author and manipulation by my profs weren't part of my studies. Darwin is mystery enough for me! I did know which of the nine had turned very early on but I'm not sure why--it was almost subconscious since the plot spirals just like Fallows' books and kept me looking for that rabbit hole that would lead to solution. It was an engrossing and mysterious ride and Will Lavender has been added to my list of intriguing authors!

My only criticism and I feel this way about the TV shows, NCIS, Bones, Rissolli and Isles etc. Doesn't anyone pay their electric bills? For that matter, doesn't anyone have electricity? I'm so tired of total darkness and flashlights in every scene! Doesn't freak me out or increase the tension--it just irritates the hell out of me! Very minor distraction, however.

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Karen B wrote: "Katherine, is Dominion as bloody violent as the cover looks? I am picturing a lot of people getting hacked up."

Actually, no, though the murders were axe murders and books were strewn onto the bodies, the actual crimes predate the action in the book. There are several that occur over the course of the narrative but Lavender uses psychology and mystery rather than gore to keep you reading.

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