Obedience, by Will Lavender

Students enrolling on a logic and reasoning course are taken aback when their teacher presents them with a puzzle about a murder, and then walks out of the classroom. Subsequent lessons and emails reveal more about the crime, which hasn't actually taken place yet. The class has to solve the mystery before the clock stops ticking and the victim meets her end. But as they investigate, fiction and truth appear to blur: perhaps there is a real murder after all?

An intriguing concept for a story, and the concept supplied enough momentum to mean that you tended to forgive the weakness in the narrative and rather unconvincing behaviour of the students, who you might expect to contact the police when they uncover evidence of real criminality. It's not really clear either what the course has to do with "logic and reasoning".

The story focuses just on three of the students (not clear what the others are doing) who get engrossed in the puzzle and go to extreme lengths to solve it, and appear to uncover some very sinister things indeed, with people being beaten up and left in the middle of nowhere, or kidnapped and tortured in empty warehouses.

Despite the implausibility, you feel compelled to read to the end, to find out how everything is going to be wrapped up. And it's a huge let-down [spoiler]: the whole thing has been a psychological research experiment to see how people will behave when put in a situation where they can rescue someone they don't know (or something).

The ending is completely unsatisfying, to say nothing of being unbelievable: there's no way that such an "experiment" would be allowed to go proceed given the ethics of it.

I see many reviewers share this view. What I don't understand is how the book got any good reviews. A waste of a good idea.

Completed : 17-Mar-2012

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