“House of Correction” by Nicci French is the story of Tabitha Hardy who is not doing well; she is locked up in prison, but she does not belong there. Her story unfolds in a flood of metaphors and sensory descriptions, the squeak of rubber-soled shoes, the glossy institutional paint of the walls, the spluttering sound of the water pipes, and the sour taste of the milk. Her days are fluid and vast.
The narrative is driven by conversations, what Hardy says to others, what others say to her, and what she says to herself. She is charged with the murder of Stuart Robert Rees, yet she remembers nothing. Readers follow her through the prison conflicts, the interviews, the soul searching, her efforts to convince everyone that she did not do this terrible thing, and her pains to remember those events herself.
Her fight begins; the action proceeds at a measured, calculated pace. She is playing a game, deadly poker, with her life on the line. She has no legal representation; she decides to represent herself. This means she cannot be put into solitary confinement, and she has access to every document and resource needed for her own defense. She pours through documents, statements, files, CCTV, and finds that people remember what said six months previously, but not perhaps what actually happened. For the trial, she is unprepared, like a horrible exhibit of what not to do; yet, proceed she must.
Tabitha Hardy is not in an American courtroom, and things are very different. She is stuck in a complicated legal system and must find the courage within herself to find answers. She questions everything, even herself. Yet she still believes that somewhere there is a killer who is getting away the crime she is accused of committing. I received a review copy of “House of Correction” from Nicci French, HarperCollins Publishers, and William Morrow Paperbacks. It is a personal journey, compelling and complex right from the start.