Some time in May I ran across a description of this book and wrote down the name as something I might be interested in reading. When I read the jacket cover to Whirl she responded that it did not sound like my typical choice in books. I’m not exactly sure how to take that. Is that a good thing that I’m branching out into a different style of writing? Is that a bad thing that my choices are rather predictable? What does that say about me, exactly. I believe choices and their consequences are fundamental elements to the development of personality and I believe that one of the benefits of reading is that it allows us to hold up a mirror to ourselves to judge the effects of our choices.

It is with those sorts of questions at the back of my mind that I have begun to read Will Lavender‘s first novel: a psychological thriller set in a small liberal arts college in rural Indiana. I have some familiarity with the small liberal arts colleges of rural Indiana. I graduated from one of those. I also have some familiarity with puzzles. I married one of those. Or rather, my child bride has a passion for solving puzzles and logic problems.

Just the superficial clues about the book and the setting I find intriguing. The title itself is a bit of a mystery, particularly coupled with the statue of statue of Stanley Milgram in the middle of the Winchester University campus. Stanley Milgram was a psychologist. The Milgram experiments demonstrated the average individual’s willingness to subject others to painful electric shocks when ordered to do so by someone identified as an authority figure.

So we have logic and philosophy, college, murder, mayhem and Man’s inhumanity to Man. Sounds like an interesting time to me. Oh, and for those of you wondering what the text on the cover reads, here it is:

When the students in Winchester University’s Logic and Reasoning 204 arrive for their first day of class, they are greeted not with a syllabus or texts, but with a startling assignment from Professor Williams: Find a hypothetical missing girl named Polly. If after being given a series of clues and details the class has not found her before the end of the term in six weeks, she will be murdered.

At first the students are as intrigued by the premise of their puzzle as they are wary of the strange and slightly creepy Professor Williams. But as they delve deeper into the mystery, they begin to wonder: Is the Polly story simply a logic exercise, designed to teach them rational thinking skills, or could it be something more sinister and dangerous? The mystery soon takes over the lives of three students as they find disturbing connections between Polly and themselves. Characters that were supposedly fictitious begin to emerge in reality. Soon, the boundary between the classroom assignment and the real world becomes blurred—and the students wonder if it is their own lives they are being asked to save.

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