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Dominance: A Novel Hardcover – July 5, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The self-reflective process of literary criticism known as 'deconstructing the text' becomes a diabolical game of murder in Dominance, an academic mystery by Will Lavender that gleefully illustrates the dangers of losing yourself in a book. . . . Lavender has the devious skills to write a twisted puzzle mystery."The New York Times Book Review

“Mr. Lavender should be able to write his third, fourth and fifth puzzle-crazy potboilers on the visceral strength of the first two. . . . Dominance is quick and complicated, in a wishfully Da Vinci Code way. But it is also very narrow, à la Agatha Christie . . . Part of Mr. Lavender’s sleight of hand involves flattering the reader’s keen intelligence . . . His book is tightly edited, with a lot of choppy leaps between 1994 and the present, and with a lot of white space (à la James Patterson) to accompany them. And he writes with real enthusiasm . . . Yes, this book’s obsession with riddles and game playing is what one of its characters calls “high nerd,” . . . But it is sincere and not just a feat of cookie cutting.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Lavender's novel is a literary labyrinth, the kind made popular by Jorge Luis Borges, without ever losing the pace or the pleasure of a taut thriller.”Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"Silence of the Lambs, Agatha Christie, and maybe Pynchon are prerequisites for this thriller set in small-town academia.”San Antonio Express-News

“With Dominance, Will Lavender has written a fascinating novel. If you like puzzles you will enjoy this book. If you are a fan of twists you will like this book. If you like both puzzles AND twists then you will probably flip over this book. It will have you guessing until the final page.”Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Dominance is a twisting, tilting, hall-of-mirrors funhouse of a book . . . [the plot] unfolds like origami with razor-sharp edges . . . [Lavender] plays fair with the evidence, but he treats his readers as intelligent beings, allowing each of us to puzzle out the answer without spoon-feeding the solution or killing the mystery with excessive foreshadowing as many page-turner authors often do. . . . Dominance reveals its secret stealthily, maintaining the mystery and suspense of the present while divulging the secrets of the past. That is a tricky tightrope, and it is marvelously executed.”Louisville Courier-Journal

“If anyone out there is looking for a good summer book, maybe a beach read, instead of reading something frivolous and light, why not try something that will actually make you think? Will Lavender writes puzzle books: half mystery, half thriller, with a literary twist thrown in for good measure. His newest book, Dominance, will make you think. A lot.”Fort Worth Fiction

“If you enjoy puzzling twists and turns, and suspense that doesn’t let up even on the last page, you should delve into Dominance.”Bowling Green Daily News

“[A] taut second standalone. . . . Full-bodied characters, an effective gothic atmosphere, and a deliciously creepy, unpredictable finale.”Publishers Weekly

“Lavender is Houdini-level dexterous at the sleight-of-verb necessary to keep the reader guessing, doubting, perplexed and attentive throughout the book. Characters lie, memories lie, senses lie, and underpinning it all is the game-that’s-not-a-game, this enigmatic Procedure, that pulls like an uncontrollable undertow from beyond the grave. Who is Paul Fallows? Maybe the students in Dominance would have been better off never knowing the answer, but Lavender’s readers will be abundantly rewarded.”Bookpage

The Silence of the Lambs meets And Then There Were None . . . a terrific premise.”—Booklist

"Lavender's exciting second literary thriller (after Obedience) pulls readers right into the hunt. Aldiss reminds us of a sexy Hannibal Lecter, and the mystery of the reclusive author Paul Fallows and his connection to the class is riveting. Well-drawn characters, excellent plot, good use of flashbacks, and many red herrings will keep the pages turning to the very end."Library Journal

"Lavender takes on another puzzle-within-a-thriller . . . Twisty and turny, with all kinds of side roads . . . [He] manages to maintain the novel’s taut, sinister atmosphere from the first page to the last. . . . Readers who loved Lavender’s first book will doubtless delight in this one."Kirkus Reviews

“With nods to Christie, Poe and Lovecraft, Lavender crafts a deadly game of obsession, full of riddles, subterfuge, grim revelation and red herrings galore.”Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)

"A brilliant concept, brilliantly executed. Dominance soars to the top of the thriller genre by infusing its rapid-fire plot with the mysteries of literature and authorship and offering cutting-edge (so to speak) psychological insights into minds both noble and horrifically demented. You'll never look at professors, authors or, well, books the same again. Oh, and that last page . . . "—Jeffery Deaver, #1 international bestselling author of Edge and The Burning Wire

“Will Lavender constructs plots with the expertise of a Parisian baker, masterfully layering mystery on top of mystery until, just when you think the whole thing might topple over, he sets it all together into a dangerously delectable mille-feuille of storytelling. Do save room for seconds.”—Graham Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Sherlockian

Dominance is a twisting, intriguing and compelling psychological thriller of the first order. Will Lavender has created a clever maze of a plot, fraught with dark corridors and deadly ends. With this novel in your hands, you'll be voraciously turning the pages late into the night, maybe thinking you're a step ahead, until you realize you've always been a step behind—right up until the stunning final scene.”—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Fragile

“Will Lavender has laid out a rich feast for fans of psychological thrillers—at the heart of it all is a weird, addictive game that’s far more dangerous than anyone realizes. This intricately layered story of murders past and present generates plenty of chilling twists and turns, right up to the final sentence.”—John Verdon, bestselling author of Think of a Number and Shut Your Eyes Tight

About the Author

WILL LAVENDER is the author of two previous novels, Obedience (which was a New York Times and international bestseller and was translated into fourteen languages) and Dominance. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451617291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451617290
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,155,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I first read the summary of Dominance by Will Lavender, I immediately wanted it. A literary mystery, phantom authors, novels as riddles - what could be more exciting?

Unfortunately, Dominance fell short of its unique premise. I'm not sure if my expectations were too high but I think Dominance had all the elements to make it a great thriller yet for a multitude of reasons detailed below, it didn't quite get there.

The progression of the narrative was well done - Lavender kept the suspense meter amped up as the book alternated between 1994 and the present. Little by little we learn how Alex proved Richard Aldiss's innocence in 1994, as we simultaneously learn how she uncovers the murderer's identity in the present. This technique hooked me into the dual storylines and kept me turning the pages.

I also liked the way Lavender effectively depicted the competitiveness between the star students in 1994, as this was a crucial aspect of the plot.

The relationship between Alex Shipley, a Harvard professor and former student, and Richard Aldiss, the enigmatic professor whose innocence she proved in 1994, is derivative of that between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. I liked how Richard Aldiss's character is deliberately ambiguous - did he or didn't he do it? Is he or isn't he evil? However, his explanation of why he kept secret for 12 years a key piece of information which could have proven his innocence is just ridiculous. Being tight-lipped and coy when you're facing life in prison isn't the mark of an enigma, it's unrealistic.

And that's really what my dissatisfaction boils down to - the lack of logic. I expect red herrings in mysteries, but the ones used here did not make sense to me.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved Will Lavender's first book...Obedience. It was surprisingly suspenseful and masterfully written.
I love love love Will Lavender's second book...Dominance. It is as powerfully written as his first book. I think that you should read both in order to appreciate both of them fully.

The premise is this...students who were in this oddly unusual class years ago are back together again. Some students in the first class were murdered...ax murdered... and it appears to be beginning again with more murders of students...who are no longer students ten years later but have come together to try to find out who is behind the new murders. Whew...this is a complicated book to describe!!!
The characters involved in the first crime...are all old and withering and still rather secretive. I read this along with a friend and we both thought about the nurse for one of the characters as the perpetrator...and then changed our minds and then changed our minds again...but you will have follow your own path and make your own assumptions about a villain as you read this ever winding clever story.
I really think that this is all that I can share...there are too many ways to reveal the events happening within this story and you should not know anything that will reveal the masterful plot in this book.

There are some really odd and unusual characters...the oddest being the professor who was accused of the crimes years ago...everything revolves around him and finding out how to do something called The Procedure. I can't even tell you what that is because it would spoil this book...
totally...just keep in mind that The Procedure is essential to the plot of this book.
You really just have to trust me. If I were you...
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23 Comments 11 of 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine a parallel universe in which Hannibal Lecter rubs elbows with the gang from Scooby-Doo and you've got a glimpse into the world created by Will Lavender in this monumentally disappointing second effort. This is a world not subject to the laws of reality as we know them. Police detectives interview suspects at the scene of the crime after permitting them to congregate and chat freely with one another. Victims are murdered willy-nilly in the unlikeliest of ways, in some cases with no subsequent police investigation at all. Characters come and go like actors in a play, wandering onstage and exiting without cause or purpose. They speak like one another, say little that makes any sense, and inhabit a landscape which is vague, imprecise, and flat. Perhaps this is postmodernism, a kind of elaborate ruse on Lavender's part. Indeed, one of the characters in the novel insists at one point that literature is at its core a game. If that's so, score Lavender one, reader zero.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Upon reading the description of Will Lavender's "Dominance," I knew intuitively that it was a book that would appeal to me. A series of murders, long hidden secrets, bizarre obsessions--what's not to like? But add to the mix, a complex literary mystery was the central plot point. What a terrific jumping off point for a clever and intricate novel set in the world of academia and literature (two subjects of inherent interest to me as a reader). I saved the book for a rainy day, so to speak, knowing that once I began--I would devour it. And that I did as it is an incredibly fast read. But as I zipped along, I realized something pretty important about half way through--I wasn't particularly enjoying the narrative. It sets up a complex scenario and promises to be smart and clever, but nothing really fulfills those aspirations. Don't get me wrong, Lavender is an entertaining enough writer. The book just lacks the cleverness necessary to make it particularly noteworthy. At times convoluted, at times silly, at times completely underwhelming--"Dominance" takes a great idea and doesn't really have anywhere to go with it!

The premise is certainly solid. Establishing alternate timelines, the plot details a controversial literature night class in 1994 taught by a notorious killer from behind bars. A select group of promising students has been invited to participate, but the teacher seems to be playing a game of cat-and-mouse with his charges. Alex becomes a star pupil as she starts to unravel a greater mystery to the professor's murders that might prove his innocence. Cut to present day and the attendees of the night class themselves now seem to be intended targets for an unknown assailant who is recreating the original deaths.
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