House of Correction by Nicci French

She’s a murderer.
Everyone knows she killed Stuart Rees – why else would his dead body be found in her shed?
So now Tabitha is in prison, awaiting trial.
Coming back to the remote coastal village where she grew up was a mistake. She didn’t fit in then, and she doesn’t fit in now.
That day is such a blur, she can’t remember clearly what happened. There is something she is missing, something important… She only knows one thing. She is not capable of murder.
And the only one she can trust to help her out of this situation is herself.
So she must fight. Against the odds.
For her life.

This book was absolutely not what I expected and yet I loved it. It was intriguing, wonderfully written, and provided a focus on mental health that came as a welcome surprise. There’s no hesitation at the beginning, the reader is instead thrown in straight away. It’s brilliant, as it immediately hooks us in and we’re desperate to know how Tabitha got into the situation she finds herself in.

Tabitha is a really fascinating main character. Her loss of memory is where her story comes apart as she has no way of knowing what is true and can’t even trust herself. She’s an unreliable character in many ways but she’s also oddly likeable – her determination and utterly unshakeable belief in herself at the beginning of the book establishes herself in the readers’ mind as someone they can support. It’s very clever writing from Nicci French and definitely deserves to be appreciated. I enjoyed the fact that we only see the story from Tabitha’s perspective as it does make it hard to know whether her belief is true, but it emphasises the tension throughout as there are times when it is difficult to piece together the truth.

This is where the writing gets really good, as we are piecing together the truth along with Tabitha herself. Throughout the book, and as part of her investigation, we meet a variety of other characters all of whom we get to know through Tabitha. I really liked this aspect of the book as it felt like we were part of her journey and investigation.

The focus on Tabitha’s mental health was something I found fascinating in this book and it was excellently done. It made the story more unreliable and intriguing without making Tabitha herself an unreliable or negative character. What I mean by this is that it added to the story in a genuine way and I didn’t feel it was simply used as a plot device. Instead there was real discussion about the help that Tabitha needed, the support she should have been given, and the ways her mental health affected her life. It was sad at times, and Tabitha often had to make these points clearly to the people she was talking to, but I appreciated the way that this aspect of the book was handled.

Overall this is an unusual, gripping and very clever thriller, really well written and a book that will definitely get you into Nicci French’s writing, if you’re not already a fan!

House of Correction
Nicci French
Simon & Schuster UK, 3rd September 2020

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