Little, Brown Book Group UK
Pub Date: 07 Apr 2016
In Fellside, our central character is Jess Moulson, who wakes up in a hospital bed to be told that she has suffered severe burns in a fire during which her neighbours’ ten year-old son, Alex, died. Worse still, Jess is suspected of having set the fire deliberately and is going to be charged with his murder. The problem is she doesn’t really remember what happened, as she was high on drugs at the time, and when the case gets to court she has little to fight the prosecution’s version of events. Wracked with grief about Alex and accepting she was to blame, Jess decides to starve herself to death.
Following a predictable guilty verdict, Jess is transferred to Fellside, a maximum security prison near Leeds. She is still refusing to eat, so resides in the Hospital’s infirmary, where all (the prisoners run a book on how long she will last ) await her inevitable demise. But then Alex appears to Jess as a vision / ghost, and tells her she must live, and that she didn’t kill him. Jess decides to live and mounts a miraculous recovery much to the surprise of the infirmary staff, in particular, Dr Salazar, and the annoyance of Harriet Grace, the queen bee in the prison, who has lost a lot on money with Jess’s survival, and will want to take her revenge at some point down the line.
So far, so good. Are Jess’s visions real or merely a symptom of her trying to stave herself to death??? Can she really use ‘him’ to solve the murder and get out of prison? Good question. To find out you need to tick your high level of suspension of disbelief box.
Whilst there was a surprising level of believability to the characters in The Girl With All the Gifts, despite the subject matter, that tends to go missing and get replaced by stock character cliché here.
The book pivots around the lucrative drug ring operated by Harriet Grace – with the aid of corrupt Guard Dennis Devlin – and how that impinges on Jess’s attempts to clear her name and save herself. As you might expect from a book set in Prison it is often brutal and unflinching and Carey writes violence well. Indeed for around the first half of this book I was gripped and expecting to hail it the same way I did ‘Gifts’ but the problem for me was the further the book progressed the less engaged I became and more it started to feel like watching a naff tv programme. Jess’s walking through people’s dreams, coupled with cartoonish and clichéd characters such as Dennis Devlin, just got more than a little annoying.
It was still an ok book, but it started with the promise of being much more. However, I still like Carey’s attempts to add something new to the horror genre, and will gladly pick up whatever he writes next.