Prisoner, by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

Having enjoyed some of Ross Greenwood’s writing before, I was eager to get my hands on his latest novel. While Greenwood has always had an edgy and detailed writing style, this latest piece offers something even more intriguing. Pulling on his past working as a prison guard, Greenwood explores life for those behind bars, as well as the guards who spend time with them on a regular basis. A wonderful story that has a little of everything, Ross Greenwood shows how a little personal experience can go a long way when writing a novel.

Jim Dalton is a prison officer, working on the male side of HMP Peterborough, one of the few locations where both men and women are housed. Having worked in the prison for many years, he’s used to much of the bravado and the emotion-fuelled outbursts that take place on a regular basis. Dalton is no-nonsense and has been able to earn the respect of the inmates, at least to the point that no one’s coming after him.

Dalton’s personal life is not as smooth sailing, with a wife and two children who seem more to tolerate his work shifts, leaving him feeling on the outside of his own household. When a relative is sent to HMP Peterborough, Dalton is transferred to the female wing, ensuring there will be no favouritism. It’s an eye-opening experience for him, not only because these are all women, but he has been placed with some of the youngest offenders. It’s a chance that Dalton hopes will jumpstart some other changes in his life.

As his home life begins to deteriorate, Dalton focuses all his attention on work. He begins to see that working with young women is not as easy as it would seem. It’s not the work that causes him grief, as much as the temptations and flirtatious nature of the inmates. Faced with making a decision that could have major ramifications, Dalton takes a leap, knowing it could be one he will soon regret.

While I am used to Ross Greenwood telling stories about serial killers and trying to hunt them down, this novel’s change of pace is welcome and held my attention throughout. Pulling on his personal experiences, Greenwood takes readers inside the British prison system and ensures nothing is left to wonder. With strong storytelling and detailed interactions, Greenwood does well to captivate the reader from the opening pages.

Greenwood’s personal experiences surely help him to create a handful of great characters for the book, on both sides of the bars. Jim Dalton is relatable and surely someone with whom many readers will connect, even if some of his decisions are a tad problematic. The female prisoners bring their own issues to the story and are placed perfectly within the narrative, their characters developing throughout the piece.

Greenwood pulls on life experience to bring the story some added depth, keeping the narrative moving throughout with ease. The reader is pulled into the simplicity of the storytelling and cannot hep but want to know more about Dalton and what he experiences. With great characters and a plot that is easy to follow, the story works well and the reader can easily latch on to what’s being recounted. Prison novels are usually dark, though this one had more drama and even the odd hint of hope, something that will hep Greenwood stand out when readers compare this book to many others in the genre.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood, for another winner. I thoroughly enjoy the adventures on which you have taken me and cannot wait to see what’s next.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: