In this heart-pounding stand-alone thriller from best-selling author Nicci French, a woman accused of murder attempts to solve her own case from the confines of prison – but as she unravels the truth, everything is called into question, including her own certainty that she is innocent.
Tabitha is not a murderer.
When a body is discovered in Okeham, England, Tabitha is shocked to find herself being placed in handcuffs. It must be a mistake. She’d only recently moved back to her childhood hometown, not even getting a chance to reacquaint herself with the neighbors. How could she possibly be a murder suspect?
She knows she’s not.
As Tabitha is shepherded through the system, her entire life is picked apart and scrutinized – her history of depression and medications, her decision to move back to a town she supposedly hated…and of course, her past relationship with the victim, her former teacher. But most unsettling, Tabitha’s own memories of that day are a complete blur.
She thinks she’s not.
From the isolation of the correctional facility, Tabitha dissects every piece of evidence, every testimony she can get her hands on, matching them against her own recollections. But as dark, long-buried memories from her childhood come to light, Tabatha begins to question if she knows what kind of person she is after all. The world is convinced she’s a killer. Tabatha needs to prove them all wrong.
But what if she’s only lying to herself?
Tabitha Hardy returned to her childhood home in Okeham to renovate a property after she inherited some money and used it to buy a cottage. She has a history of being a loner, of having depression, eccentricities, and rudeness and hasn’t exactly ingratiated herself with the home town people. She wakes one day to send her handyman off as she didn’t wish to deal with repairs or work that day and he discovers a body in her outhouse.
This can’t end well. And doesn’t. After she is arrested for the man’s murder, it is discovered he was her math teacher when she was 15 and it is revealed was abused by him. Uh oh, means, motive, and opportunity.
And the problem is that she can’t remember the day—anything about it—but she is pretty sure she couldn’t have murdered him. The attorney assigned to her simply suggests she should plead guilty—too much evidence against her—and hope for a short sentence. Tabitha fires her and now she’s up the creek without a paddle as she knows nothing about the law, about the procedure, or even how to go about defending herself if she can’t remember what happened that day. There are times she doubts herself.
Could she have done it?
Tabitha may have gotten lucky, however, in the initial cellmate she is given, Michaela (released early), ends up supporting Tabitha right into the courtroom. Perhaps the first third to a half of the narrative is Tabitha’s assumption it’s all a mistake and she’ll be found not culpable and sent home. Doesn’t happen. The second half of the book is her courtroom fight. While it quite accurately shows her lack of expertise, ignorance, and egregious mistakes, it also paints the picture of an overly tolerant judge, allowing a large degree of latitude where I doubt would realistically happen.
Tabitha is not a protagonist to love—she is difficult, foul-mouthed, and short tempered. Once she digs in, however, she does appear to be making some headway into her case, challenging witnesses and discrediting her share of them. There are periods where she waxes philosophical and you get a glimpse of the woman she might have become were it not for those crippling teen experiences. I really appreciated the character of Michaela—smart, loyal, empathetic. The authors draw the prosecutorial team as you might expect, overly confident, competent, and theatrical.
My introduction to the husband/wife team that is Nicci French in a narrative that captures attention immediately, draws you in, and keeps a fast-paced, well plotted storyline. Not part of a series and out now, get the audiobook as I did enjoying a particularly fine narrator or the format of your choice. I think you’ll find this thriller worth the read and I’ll be looking for more. Recommended.
Genre: Crime Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Print Length: 487 pages
Listening Length: 11 hrs., 19 mins.
Narrator: Michelle Ford
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: House of Correction (Amazon)
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
The Author: Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who write psychological thrillers together.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Apdency (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
(Goodreads—Truncated) Note: (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French also write separately.)
Nicci Gerrard was born in June 1958 in Worcestershire. After graduating with a first class honours degree in English Literature from Oxford University, she began her first job, working with emotionally disturbed children in Sheffield. In that same year she married journalist Colin Hughes.
In the early eighties she taught English Literature in Sheffield, London and Los Angeles, but moved into publishing in 1985 with the launch of Women’s Review, a magazine for women on art, literature and female issues.
In 1987 Nicci had a son, Edgar, followed by a daughter, Anna, in 1988, but a year later her marriage to Colin Hughes broke down.
In 1989 she became acting literary editor at the New Statesman, before moving to the Observer, where she was deputy literary editor for five years, and then a feature writer and executive editor.
It was while she was at the New Statesman that she met Sean French.
Sean French was born in May 1959 in Bristol, to a British father and Swedish mother. He too studied English Literature at Oxford University at the same time as Nicci, also graduating with a first class degree, but their paths didn’t cross until 1990. In 1981 he won Vogue magazine’s Writing Talent Contest, and from 1981 to 1986 he was their theatre critic. During that time he also worked at the Sunday Times as deputy literary editor and television critic, and was the film critic for Marie Claire and deputy editor of New Society.
Sean and Nicci were married in Hackney in October 1990. Their daughters, Hadley and Molly, were born in 1991 and 1993.
By the mid-nineties Sean had had two novels published, The Imaginary Monkey and The Dreamer of Dreams, as well as numerous non-fiction books, including biographies of Jane Fonda and Brigitte Bardot.
In 1995 Nicci and Sean began work on their first joint novel and adopted the pseudonym of Nicci French…Nicci and Sean also continue to write separately. Nicci still works as a journalist for the Observer, covering high-profile trials including those of Fred and Rose West, and Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr…
The Narrator: Michelle Ford is a native Brit and professional voice actor. Having moved “across the pond” six years ago, Michelle now lives just outside New York and still gets a buzz when driving into the city and seeing the Manhattan skyline. Michelle has a proven track record in long narration, with over twenty titles in published audiobooks covering contemporary fiction, historical romance, mythical/paranormal fiction, biographies, children’s stories, short stories, science fiction, and business, and she is never happier than when she is in flipflops and behind a mic.
In addition, Michelle is experienced in voicing e-learning (she’s worked with many blue-chip pharmaceutical, medical, and technical clients), animation voice-over, corporate messages, Web sites, characters, children’s stories, film narration, podcasts, industrial projects, on-camera, tv, and radio commercials. She has worked for clients in fourteen countries, from Brazil to South Africa, and the Middle East to Australia. (Courtesy Tantor Media)
©2020 V Williams