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THE WALLS by Hollie Overton: Book Review

Kristy Tucker doesn’t have an easy life.  She’s a single mother with a teenage son, the caretaker for her ailing father, and works for a boss she doesn’t respect.  But still, she thinks to herself, I’m managing all this and someday things will hopefully be different.  As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

Kristy’s son Ryan, a bit of an outcast at school, has been secretly taking martial arts lessons.  When Kristy finds out she’s upset, both because he kept it from her and because she’s not a fan of physical force to solve problems.  She makes her feelings known at a meeting with the trainer, Lance Dobson, and thinks she has put an end to Ryan’s lessons.  But the next day Lance shows up at the house, apologizing and asking for another chance to keep giving Ryan lessons, stressing the benefits of the lessons to a boy who feels out of the mainstream in his town.  Swayed by Lance’s apparent sincerity, not to mention his good looks, and by her son’s fervent desire, Kristy agrees he can continue.

Lance works his charm on everyone, even Kristy’s dad, a former prison guard.  Not until after Kristy and Lance are married does the real Lance shows himself as a physical and emotional bully and abuser, a control freak who needs to dominate every aspect of Kristy’s life.   And when she tries to rebel, Lance has no compunction in threatening her father and her son.

Kristy is the public information officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a job requiring communication skills among inmates, the media, and the prison system.  She works in the Polunsky Unit of the prison system, where 279 men are on death row.   Kristy has always been able to keep her emotions in check while dealing with the men, but now one of them, soon to be executed, has touched her.

Clifton Harris was convicted of setting his house on fire, killing his two young children who were inside.  Like all the other prisoners awaiting execution in what has been called “the hardest place to do time in Texas,” Clifton is on lockdown twenty-two hours a day in a small solitary cell, with no access to phones or television or contact with any other prisoners.  But Kristy is moved by his declarations of innocence; she’s not certain she believes him, but she’s equally not certain he’s guilty.  And the date of his execution grows closer and closer.

Hollie Overton has written a taut, terrifying thriller.  I must confess that I started the book, read about one third, and had to put it away for several days because it was so scary!  But when I picked it up again and read to the end, I felt it was well worth it.  The characters and the plot are top-notch, and the abusive, frightening situation that Kristy finds herself in is unfortunately too familiar to anyone who reads the newspapers or watches television.

You can read more about Hollie Overton at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.