Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dominance by Will Lavender

In 1994 an elite group of nine students is brought together at Jasper College for a most unusual literature class called Unraveling a Literary Mystery. While the nine gather together in a lecture hall on campus, their professor, a convicted murderer, appears to them on closed circuit TV from prison. Prisoner and professor Richard Aldiss, convicted of the brutal 1982 murders of two female students of literature at Dumant University, will lead the nine in the discovery of the true identity of mysterious author Paul Fallows. Aldiss will also introduce his students to an intricate game called the Procedure, an esoteric game which can only be played by students so steeped in the work of the author that they can, with no prior notice, slip into the word for word recreation of scenes from his novels.

Fifteen years later, the remaining students from the night class are called together to mourn the loss of one of their number. Michael Tanner--who, along with his wife Sally had stayed on campus after graduate school--has been murdered in what appears to be a copycat crime. Alexandra Shipley, Alex, who discovered the true murderer in 1994, exonerating her professor and earning his release from prison, has been asked by the detective on her friend's case to consult. On a visit to Professor Aldiss she's told to pay close attention to the surviving members of the group. As she investigates--and as her former friends begin dying, hideously--the case becomes more and more bizarre.

Dominance unfolds in episodes alternating between the original class in 1994 and Alex's point of view in the present day. The writing is good and tight, as is the plotting. The characters on the other hand, in particular that of Professor Aldiss, who has the potential to be as fascinating as Hannibal Lecter, are never developed enough to become truly interesting. Unfortunately, the same must be said for the game, the Procedure, upon which the whole plot ultimately hinges. When first mentioned it seems a fascinating concept, but that fascination is not borne out. The few glimpses we get of the game seem stilted and awkward, so play-acty that it's hard to imagine anyone getting so absorbed by it that it could become dangerous.

And that may well be the problem with the novel as a whole. It's neat, and it's intriguing, but, despite the spooky settings and recurrent murders, the danger never really emerges enough to threaten. Dominance is Will Lavender's second novel, and although it was somewhat disappointing, I look forward to his future work.

Disclosure: In accordance with FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion.   

1 comment:

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Thanks for the honest review. This sounds a bit too convoluted for me.