Janet has her work cut out for her at HMP Halvergate. A series of suicides has rocked the prison and it doesn’t seem as if they are going to stop any time soon.
Not only does she have to deal with the insidious nature of her clients crimes and their questionable characters, she also has to cope with staff members with ulterior motives. Inmates seem convinced that a ghost, a spirit or perhaps even a demon is killing fellow inmates.
The real question is whether the evil spirit is real or is it just mass hysteria. Mass hysteria spreading through the prison from inmate to inmate and also to the staff. The power of suggestion is strong, especially in a somewhat solitary environment.
At the same time Janet is trying to deal with the disintegration of her relationship. It seems impossible to fit two ambitious careers under one roof.
I have to be honest Arun was a bit of a toad and Janet should have used some of that tough guy attitude on him. Take no mercy, instead of being a simpering weakling afraid of being alone. There are plenty more fish in the sea.
What Harper does quite well is to portray the prisoners as vulnerable men, and in the same breath she reminds the reader that they are criminals and some of them are sexual deviants. The type of men who wouldn’t think twice about committing an act of brutality upon an innocent person, and yet still want the support, comfort and safety they secretly crave.
Personally I do think Janet should have been more diligent about her own safety, which was put at risk quite a few times. A prison isn’t a playground for the pseudo intellectual to practice their theoretical knowledge in.
The story has a gothic feel to it, which is mixed with a plain old crime scenario. The creepier element could have been drawn out more and given more depth. Harper brings the crime and the ghostly together to create a tense and often worrying read.