The Binding Song

Written by Elodie Harper

Review written by Jennifer Palmer

Jennifer Palmer has read crime fiction since her teenage years & enjoys reviewing within the many sub-genres that now exist; as a historian who lectures on real life historical mysteries she particularly appreciates historical cime fiction.


The Binding Song
Hodder and Stoughton
RRP: £14.99
Released: June 29, 2017
HBK

In a bleak Norfolk prison a psychologist struggles to explain an obsessional belief in a menacing female ghostly presence affecting some prisoners with dire results.

HMP Halvergate is a prison in Norfolk and the protagonist here is the newly appointed prison psychologist, Dr Janet Palmer. The 1950s buildings are drab indeed with a palpable feeling engendered of despair and fear. A prison provides that beloved setting of crime fiction, a closed community. Janet can, of course, leave the goal after her working days but the despair and fear go with her to her rented, shabby, unattractive house in the nearby village. The Gothic atmosphere of the prison is compounded by the attitudes of the prisoners she treats (all sex offenders) and the somewhat inexplicable hostility of the prison staff towards her. She has her own demons to fight, relating to her sister's death (does any protagonist in crime fiction ever have a happy domestic life?).

There have been several inmates before her arrival who have killed themselves and there are stories amongst the inmates of a spirit of vengeance that attacks individuals and becomes an obsessive presence. The previous prison psychologist was troubled by the idea of a female Fury pursuing guilty men.

Janet struggles on, virtually alone, in the overwhelming task of making sense of the swirling emotions within and outside the prison. Eventually she succeeds in gaining more understanding of the causes of the deaths though she is hampered by her own feelings and experiences.

The ghostly presence that pervades the book makes rational explanations hard to discover. Janet's search for the causes of the events that unfold is intelligent and productive even if the atmosphere is highly charged.

I am not a fan of ghost stories and I preferred the logical parts of this tale with its superb evocation of a bleakly atmospheric Norfolk and the work of a psychologist with sex offenders in a prison.

Since Janet didn't eat a decent meal throughout the book I wondered if the angst she felt had a purely physical origin!

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