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House of Correction    by Nicci French order for
House of Correction
by Nicci French
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've long enjoyed the thrillers written by the bestselling husband-and-wife team of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French (pen name Nicci French), especially their series starring psychotherapist Frieda Klein.

Their House of Correction is a very different standalone mystery. It's written from the point of view of a young woman who's in jail and about to stand trial for the murder of Stuart Robert Rees. The evidence against her is circumstantial but compelling and she has no idea whether she is actually innocent or guilty. It feels like she's in a 'lopsided fairy tale'.

Tabitha learns from her lawyer that the body was found late December in a shed outside her back door and that she had blood all over her when the police showed up. She had been home all day after her morning swim in the sea (a habit even in winter that locals found odd). A big storm blocked access to the village the day of the murder, limiting the suspect pool.

Tabitha grew up in Okeham, England, but only moved back there a few weeks before the killing. She kept to herself, aside from working with Andrew Kane, who dropped by most days to help her with house renovations. The day of the murder, he discovered the body. Tabitha recognized it as that of her neighbor, her teacher when she was fifteen. She has a history of depression linked to what happened as a teenager.

Since the police are sure that she's the killer, Tabitha starts to reach out to everyone she can think of, in an attempt to solve the case herself. Cellmate Michaela gives her good advice and helps outside prison after she is released. Realizing that her lawyer believes she is guilty, Tabitha eventually decides to conduct her own defence - can this possibly end well?

House of Correction is a suspenseful, gripping read, with a most unusual premise and development, and an even more surprising conclusion. Don't miss this one!

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