EXCERPT: … now the person who had abused her was dead. Mr Rees the maths teacher. Stuart Rees her neighbour. The pillar of his little community. His body in her shed, his car parked outside, his blood all over her.
She bit her lip so hard that she tasted iron in her mouth. She put her hands over her eyes to make the darkness darker. She couldn’t remember that day, or only a few snatches. It had been a day of wild weather and of a crouching fear. The kind of day that she had to crawl blindly through, just to get to the end.
What had happened? Why had he come to her house and why had he died and what had she been doing?
Her solicitor believed she had murdered him. What did she, Tabitha Hardy, believe? She didn’t know. She didn’t know, and not knowing tipped dread through her like poison.
She didn’t know what to do. She had no idea. She had no one to turn to and the night went on and on and on and when morning came she still didn’t know.
ABOUT ‘HOUSE OF CORRECTION’: ‘So,’ said Mora Piozzi, her lawyer, looking down at her laptop. ‘In brief: you are charged with the murder of Stuart Robert Rees, on December 21st, between the hours of ten-forty in the morning and half-past three o’clock in the afternoon.’
Tabitha is accused of murder. She is in prison awaiting trial.
There is a strong case against her, and she can’t remember what happened on December 21st.
She is alone, frightened and confused.
But somehow, from the confines of her cell, she needs to prove everyone wrong.
MY THOUGHTS: Tabitha is a difficult character to like. She is depressed, angry – sometimes to the point of violence – and quite hostile towards the people in her village. She doesn’t have friends. But then she has been through a lot – seduced/raped at the age of fifteen by the man she is accused of murdering, she never told anyone at the time. She has had spells in psychiatric hospitals. She is medicated. She struggles to live any semblance of a ‘normal’ life.
All the evidence seems to point to her, even the CCTV footage. Tabitha at times doubts her own innocence. She doesn’t think she did it, killed Stuart, doesn’t think she is capable of it, but can’t be certain…
Nicci French has written a ‘locked room’ mystery set in a small coastal English village. There is only one road in and out which, on the day of the murder, was blocked by a fallen tree. So we have a limited pool of suspects, none of whom, other than Tabitha, appear to be in the right place at the right time.
I became absorbed by her case. She has fired her brief, who believes her to be guilty, and elects to defend herself against all advice. Her defence is haphazard and stumbling. She constantly erupts in the courtroom, doing herself no favours. She has the feeling that she is missing something, something important that dances around the periphery of her mind but that she can’t quite grasp…
There are plenty of twists in this story, none of which I saw coming. At the beginning, I wasn’t entirely convinced that Tabitha hadn’t murdered Stuart, yet I was busy trying to work out who else could have killed him right through to the end. Believe me, I suspected almost everyone in the village at some point.
House of Correction is a read that will set your ‘little grey cells’ humming. While I can’t say that I liked Tabitha by the end, I had certainly grown to admire her.
An interesting and absorbing read with a cast of interesting characters. Definitely recommended.
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THE AUTHOR: Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard (born 10 June 1958) and Sean French (born 28 May 1959), who write psychological thrillers together.
DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Simon and Schuster via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of House of Correction by Nicci French for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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