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I thought I was going to like this more: a critically-acclaimed mystery novel set at a fictional university. Unfortunately…

The new semester at Winchester U has started, and Professor Williams is teaching "Logic and Reasoning 204". But it's unusual, since the whole course revolves around the (allegedly fictional) abduction of 18-year-old "Polly"; Williams states that if the students don't "find" where Polly's being held during the six-week run of the course, she'll be murdered.

Prof Williams devotes his lectures to presenting facts and timelines about the case and discussions of suspects, motives, and opportunity. The book focuses on three students, Mary, Brian, and Dennis, as they work through the evidence and puzzles. But they've all got their own problems; for example, Dennis is Mary's ex-boyfriend, and he's getting hit on by Elizabeth, the young hot-to-trot wife of an old dean.

The course just keeps getting weirder and weirder, though, intruding on students' personal lives. Worse, it becomes obvious to them that there's some link between the case Williams is presenting and an unsolved abduction 20 years ago.

Without giving too much away: the whole plot is extremely implausible. Worse (remainder of paragraph contains information which may spoil the book, so I've put it in white; select to view if you dare and/or care): the plot's resolution depends on you not knowing that the human-subject research portrayed in the book is very, very, illegal and would never be allowed in an actual university.

But you might like it anyway. The author, Will Lavender, does a good job of evoking an increasing sense of paranoia, dread, and academic seaminess.

Last Modified 2012-10-08 8:36 PM EDT