THE PROCEDURE HAS BEGUN . . .
Fifteen years earlier. Jasper College is buzzing with the news that famed literature professor Richard Aldiss will be teaching a special night class called Unraveling a Literary Mystery—from a video feed in his prison cell. In 1982, Aldiss was convicted of the murders of two female grad students; the women were killed with axe blows and their bodies decorated with the novels of notoriously reclusive author Paul Fallows. Even the most obsessive Fallows scholars have never seen him. He is like a ghost. Aldiss entreats the students of his night class to solve the Fallows riddle once and for all. The author’s two published novels, The Coil and The Golden Silence, are considered maps to finding Fallows’s true identity. And the only way in is to master them through a game called the Procedure. You may not know when the game has begun, but when you receive an invitation to play, it is an invitation to join the elite ranks of Fallows scholars. Failure, in these circles, is a fate worse than death. Soon, members of the night class will be invited to play along . . .
Present day. Harvard professor Alex Shipley made her name as a member of Aldiss’s night class. She not only exposed the truth of Paul Fallows’s identity, but in the process uncovered information that acquitted Aldiss of the heinous 1982 crimes. But when one of her fellow night class alums is murdered— the body chopped up with an axe and surrounded by Fallows novels—can she use what she knows about Fallows and the Procedure to stop a killer before each of her former classmates is picked off, one by one?
A college campus, as it did in Lavender's debut, Obedience, provides the backdrop for the author's taut second stand-alone. In 1994, as an undergrad at Vermont's Jasper College, Alex Shipley was part of a controversial night class, Unraveling a Literary Mystery, taught from prison by literature professor Richard Aldiss, who was serving a life sentence for murdering two female grad students 12 years before. The class's mission: to learn the identity of reclusive author Paul Fallows, whose two novels were clues to his identity and were best understood by playing a game called the Procedure. Alex's investigation not only uncovered Fallows's identity and a masterful literary hoax but also exonerated Aldiss of the murders. Now a Harvard professor, Alex returns to Jasper after her classmates in Unraveling a Literary Mystery start turning up murdered, their bodies arranged the same way the two grad students were. Full-bodied characters, an effective gothic atmosphere, and a deliciously creepy, unpredictable finale will please fans of academic thrillers.
Hard to follow at points in the story with all the flashbacks.