2017 Reviews · contemporary fiction · crime · mystery · psychological · thriller

Book Review: The Walls by Hollie Overton

Title: The Wallsthe walls small

Author:  Hollie Overton

Published: August 14th 2017

Publisher: Century/Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 400

Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4.5

What if you could get away with murder?

Single mom Kristy Tucker works as press agent for the Texas Department of Corrections – handling everything on death row, from inmate interviews to chronicling the last moments during an execution. Her job exposes Kristy to the worst of humanity and it’s one that’s beginning to take its toll.

So when Kristy meets Lance Dobson, her son’s martial arts instructor, she believes she finally found her happy ending. She was wrong.

Kristy soon discovers that Lance is a monster. Forced to endure his verbal and physical abuse, Kristy is serving her own life sentence . . . unless she’s willing to take matters into her hands. Perfectly poised to exploit the criminal justice system she knows so well, Kristy sets out to get rid of Lance – permanently.

The Walls explores domestic violence, the morality of murder and how far one woman will go to protect her family.

My review:

In April of this year I read Hollie Overton’s debut thriller, Baby Doll. Many books later, I can still attest to this book remaining my favourite thriller of the year. My excitement at the release of Overton’s second novel in August saw me order this book as soon as I could. When it finally arrived on my doorstep, I literally ripped open the packaging and began reading it immediately. In less than 24 hours I was done with The Walls and my verdict on Overton’s follow up novel was one of high regard.

The title of Hollie Overton’s second book, The Walls is in reference to the place of employment of the main character of the novel, Kristy Tucker. For many years, 32 year old single mother Kristy has worked as a Public Information Officer for The Department of Criminal Justice in the state of Texas. Kristy’s role involves liaising with the media in delivering stories from the inmates of the jail, including executions. Texas is state that adheres to capital punishment and a significant part of Kristy’s job is to oversee executions. Kristy is dedicated to her rather bleak job, as she is the breadwinner for her high school aged son Ryan and her ailing father, Pops. When Ryan lashes out at a student at school and punches his nose, information comes to light that a man by the name of Lance Dobson has been teaching Ryan judo at the local recreation centre. When Kristy goes to confront this man that she had no knowledge of her son interacting with, she finds herself drawn to him. Eventually, Kristy marries Lance and it seems like the man who took her son so unconditionally under his wing is Kristy’s knight in shining armour. However, cracks begin to form in the couple’s marriage when Lance’s protectiveness and need for control sees him physically and mentally abuse Kristy. With no one to turn to, Kristy one day breaks down in front of an inmate at work, Clifton Harris, a man dubbed the baby killer, who is in jail, on death row for killing his children in a house fire. Clifton’s support of Kristy is admirable and he even suggests help to remove Lance from Kristy’s life could come within the walls of the prison. Kristy rejects Clifton’s help but resolves to commit the perfect crime, she must kill Lance before he kills her or her family.

As far as psychological thrillers go, The Walls offers the reader something a little off kilter. It isn’t just a story about spousal abuse and one woman’s attempt to seek revenge on her lover. It is much more than that. The Walls looks at the burden of single motherhood, care for elderly family members, the history of abusers, the death penalty, the flawed criminal justice system and it critically examines the ethics of a murder. There is plenty for the reader to ponder on in Overton’s second effort.

Overton directs much attention in the first half of The Walls to setting the scene and giving the reader a solid insight into each of her characters. It some respects, readers may see this as a slow burn style narrative in the early stages of the book, but rest assured, the pace picks up and the momentum increases dramatically at the halfway point of the novel. Kristy, the leading protagonist of the book, was immediately likeable and I soon sympathised with her binding predicament. She made a terrible error of judgement in accepting Lance into her life. With both her son and sickly father duped by Lance’s charms, Kristy felt like she was blocked in a corner, with no option but to turn to murder in order to remove Lance from her life. Overton presents a good cross section of good and ugly characters in The Walls. Surprisingly, the bad characters are not all from Kristy’s workplace, the prison walls of death row. Clifton Harris, a key player in the novel and a prisoner on death row, is the most compelling character in this book and really makes it something else. Lance, Kristy’s Prince Charming, who turns into a terrifying husband, is also drawn well by Overton. In fact, Overton does a good job at concealing this character’s true dark side in the early stages of the book, so like Kristy, the reader is also duped by his character.

I was quite taken aback by how much I admired the character of Clifton Harris. Overton uses letter correspondence from Clifton to Kristy to heighten our attachment to this character. The letters and Kristy’s interactions with Clifton allowed me to feel a strong emotional tie to this protagonist. His wrongful conviction and the frustrating injustice of Clifton’s case and in fact the whole US judicial system, had me reeling. I spent the vast majority of this novel biting my fingernails, concerning myself simultaneously with Kirty’s welfare and  Clifton’s impending execution (which has an unexpected twist). I spent much of my time reading this book on the edge of my seat, considering how Kristy was going to continue to survive Lance’s vicious attacks, if she would go through with murdering him and if she would be arrested for her crime. I continued to read the novel at a fairly frantic pace, wondering of Kristy would end up behind the very same walls as the prisoner’s she was sent to interview. There is no denying Overton gives the reader plenty to contemplate over, especially in the area of capital punishment and the morals impacting on the execution of a crime.

The Walls is a well informed and superbly researched novel, especially in offering the reader a realistic portrayal of domestic abuse. The Walls also builds an authentic picture of what life is like working, as well as living as a prisoner in a typical prison in the US. Overwhelmingly, I found The Walls to be quite a terrifying and pulsating psychological thriller. Adding in a death row prison slant gave more weight to this story. My eyes stayed glued to this novel for the entire time I spent reading The Walls. The final outcome of the novel was a slight deviation from what I expected to happen and I was surprised by the eventual turn of events, including the resolution of Kristy’s predicament. I have absolutely no qualms at all in endorsing this top rate psychological thriller, from respected author Hollie Overton.

The Walls by Hollie Overton was published on August 14th 2017 by Century/Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Walls, Hollie Overton, visit here.



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