Framed. Imprisoned. Pregnant.
Jenna thought she had the perfect life: a loving fiancé, a great job, a beautiful home. Then she finds her stepdaughter murdered; her partner missing.
And the police think she did it . . .
Locked up to await trial, surrounded by prisoners who’d hurt her if they knew what she’s accused of, certain someone close to her has framed her, Jenna knows what she needs to do:
Clear her name
Save her baby
Find the killer
But can she do it in time?
There’s a bit in the middle of this book that made my stomach clench, drop and my heard skip a beat. It brought tears to my eyes and for that alone I’m celebrating On My Life by Angela Clarke.
There are other reasons to celebrate the book: It starts like The Count of Monte Christo or (one of may favourites( Sidney Sheldon’s “If Tomorrow Comes,” but where those books are less about the incarceration of the protagonist than about their revenge and ultimate redemption. Clarke, in this book, has focussed on what it means to be a prisoner in Britain today; on the impact that the removal of agency has on the individual and on the challenges successive political regimes have had on a system which is punitive this week, rehabilitative the next and always underfunded to a point that seems designed to encourage the dehumanisation of all involved.
But – lest you think this is a polemic on prison in Britain today – it’s all surrounded in a classic murder mystery, the added complications (while definitely opening the debate on the justice system) ratcheting up the tension and the pace til you end up reading huge chunks of the book while missing meals, appointments and (in my case) tube stops.
Jenna’s a great heroine: believably naive in the circumstances, but determined, and with an inner strength that slowly grows as the realisation that the only person who’s going to get her out of this mess is herself dawns on her.
The claustrophobia and repetition of prison life is brilliantly drawn and (no spoilers here) the denouement is hugely satisfying, logically following, as it does, from clues scattered through the story. No Deus Ex Machina here, just a brilliantly written, damn good page turner. Highly recommended.