cover image Fellside


M.R. Carey. Orbit, $27 (496p) ISBN 978-0-316-30028-5

Jess Moulson wanders in very dark places in this overwrought contemporary thriller from Carey (The Girl with All the Gifts). She doesn't remember the incident that leads to her trial for the murder of 10-year-old Alex Beech, because she was on heroin when she set afire the photos from her ongoing toxic relationship. She doesn't remember escalating to burning down her entire London apartment in an attempt to kill her boyfriend, but Alex, an upstairs neighbor, died in the blaze. Jess is sentenced to Fellside Prison, where she must wrestle with the question of her own culpability, try not to get tangled in the prison's internal drug business intrigues, and, unexpectedly, find that Alex, or what's left of him, may still have a job for her to do. Carey sustains an interesting concept at a high pitch of suspense until nearly the end, when the book implodes into melodrama as the plot becomes completely implausible. The denouement is the novel's lowest point, but the path to get there is taut, tense, and unusual. (Apr.)