We meet the main protagonist Jess when she is lying in a hospital bed unable to speak, or communicate and with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Now this, I'm sure is one huge red herring, it sent me scampering off down the completely wrong track - I thought to myself "Uh huh, she's dead but not dead, a zombie or something" especially after reading the aforementioned book by this author.
We soon discover that Jess is not one of the living dead although her prospects are little better than this. Badly disfigured following a fire which left a young boy dead, she is soon charged with his murder and sentenced to be incarcerated in a harsh and brutal womens prison, Fellside.
Jess is a deeply flawed character, a heroin addict, she is nonetheless wracked with guilt, that a young lad she felt only fondness and sympathy for is dead and his death lies firmly at her door.
As a lifer and given her state of mind she is placed on suicide watch, removing the opportunity of killing herself, so she takes the only way she can think of to regain control and begins a hunger strike not as a protest but as the only way, of ending her miserable life, that she can take into her own hands.
Lying in bed, weakened in body, filled with self loathing and despised by those who tend her she drifts in and out of conciousness and in the murky half life between dreams and waking she encounters a spectral, lost soul, with the ability to guide her in and out of other peoples dreams.
When Jess discovers that she has a mission to complete before dying she begins to make a (quite startlingly rapid) recovery. Accompanied by her phantom companion she begins to seek out information which will atone for her own sins and provide peace of mind for the wraithlike Alex.
However she becomes embroiled in the corruption of life in this grim institution, where the inmates make the characters in TV's "Bad Girls" drama look like pussy cats and the staff are just as iniquitous.
Violence and cruelty is rife in this institution and the graphic barbarity and corruption is only slightly counterbalanced by the strange, ethereal, other wordly experiences in Jess's dream life with her ghostly accomplice.
Principally, I was enticed into this dark and haunting world by the surprising, murky, gritty setting and uncommon, ingenious, storyline. Few of the characters are remotely likeable, apart from the phantasmagorical Alex, even Jess is too deeply flawed and single minded to completely warm to and the rest of them!! Even when you think you glimpse a redeeming feature in anyone it's obscured by a rank miasma of corruption and immorality.
My recommendation is, go into this book without any preconceptions, open your mind and go with it, it's extremely impressive, completely engrossing and darkly different. (I defy anyone who watched the tv show Bad Girls not to superimpose the face of Jim Fenner onto the visage of the nefarious Devlin)
My thanks go to Netgalley for my advance e-book version in exchange for writing a review.
The unmissable and highly anticipated new literary thriller from the author of the international phenomenon The Girl with all the Gifts.
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.
It's a place where even the walls whisper.
And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.
Will she listen?