A logic class is the setting for a psychological mystery that pits three students against time, each of them questioning their logic and the truth of the assignment: is it just an academic task or will someone really be murdered at the end of the term? Professor Williams gives his class at Winchester University, Logic and Reasoning 204, a unique assignment. They have a finite period of time to discover the location of a young woman, Polly, or she will be killed after six weeks at end of term. Certain clues will be delivered via student email regarding time, place, motive and circumstance. Which clues are significant and which are not is left to the student to determine.
Mary Butler is immediately fascinated by the task. A high-achiever, Mary is still recovering from a broken relationship with classmate Dennis Flaherty. Clutching her laptop, Mary gathers information, obsessive about the assignment almost from the beginning, with no concept of how this problem will eat into her personal life. Brian House is both curious and suspicious of the professor and the assignment. His brother's suicide has profoundly affected Brian, keeping him in school rather than heap more burdens on grieving problems. Brian holds a key piece of the novel that will contribute to a shocking denouement, but in the beginning he applies himself to solving the riddle until the quest for Polly merges into his daily life, deeply disturbing to the young man. Of the three, while Mary is the most driven and obsessive, Dennis Flaherty has a gift: his superior logic allows him to focus on the big picture, filling in the details as he works. Dennis has an Achilles heel, however, the wife of the university's dean, Elizabeth Orman, distractingly beautiful and ultimately the cause of Dennis's manipulation.
Working singly, then together as time and circumstances draw them into a mad race against time, each student is caught up in a quest that may indeed be real. If Polly is truly in danger of being murdered at the end of six weeks, they must crack the code and find her in time, regardless of personal danger. Deliberately mixing false information with real, Williams has set the classmates an impossible, but compelling task, one they cannot ignore as reality fades and obsession with Polly becomes all consuming. Each answer more frustrating than the last, Mary, Brian and Dennis are driven to find this girl before it is too late, frantically sifting through maddening clues and unable to give up. Based on the Milgram Behavior Experiments of 1971 at Yale University, this novel illustrates how the lives of three young people are transformed by Williams' provocative class, leading to a shocking ending that proves the unpredictability of one critical factor: the human element. Luan Gaines/ 2008.