Review: The Captive by Deborah O’Connor

The Captive by Deborah O'Connor is a 2021 new release thriller set in the future in a world where prisons have closed and those convicted are placed into custody with those that prosecuted them.

Could you live with the person convicted of a crime against you?

I do not want him here.” (Page 1)

Understandably I am not sure I would want to occupy the same space as the person accused of killed a loved one either.

“The cell was small, the same footprint as a shopping centre parking space, and yet they’d managed to cram in a bed, basin, screened toilet, cupboard and a table and a chair. A hatch and metal drawer through which to exchange food, dirty dishes, commissary items and any post the prisoner might receive.” (Page 1)

Hannah was worried, and quite rightly so. This person, Jem Dahlin, was being brought into her home to be locked inside a cage in her kitchen. This person, her new captive, is the one accused of killing her lovely, thoughtful husband, John, a Met Detective.

John was murdered after a night out. He had met his partner at a pub after work one evening and never made it home again. Those that prosecuted said it was a mugging gone wrong. Perhaps Jem panicked after realising that John was a police officer and took things too far? Perhaps he had always planned to murder him in cold-blood?  I supposed Jem is the only person that would be able to confirm his motives.

To Hannah it feels unfair that she will no longer be able to have a conversation with John, be able to laugh together, eat together or go out anywhere together, and yet now, this person has invaded her personal space. Her life will never be the same again, the pain of her loss will remain with her forever, his presence a constant reminder of what she has lost.

Several years ago, the powers that be came up with this as a solution for their overcrowding problem in British prisons. There had been uproar about the costs involved in looking after prisoners in a secure facility. The general public didn’t agree with the luxuries supposedly given to the inmates and therefore a reform of the service was required. This solution was agreed because it not only freed up space in the cells, the costs were also cut by nearly fifty percent.

However, for Hannah, this concept of supposedly restorative justice didn’t sit well. Why should she be forced to see her husband’s killer every day? Why should she be the one to have to cook for him, do his washing and converse with him on a daily basis in order not to get a fine herself?

Honestly, where is the justice?

“How is this fair? Who exactly are they punishing here?” (Page 52)

The official figures show that crimes have dropped since the new system has been put in place, however, it would appear that this is a false claim. Crime has not in fact dropped, but the reporting of it has. No-one wants to live alongside the person they have reported. Imagine living day in, day out with your rapist or the person that burgled you. Would you really feel safe?

Of course, those that are advocates of the system believe that you are perfectly safe. The authorities provide the solid cell structure, show you how to use the double-locking system and highlight the extra security measures they have put in place. Weekly you receive visits from a member of staff who makes sure that the prisoner receives their showers and exercise so you are never left alone with them outside of their cage. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about. The person will remain a captive at all times.

What could possibly go wrong?

Is everything in Hannah’s world really as it seems? Is it a clear-cut case where the person sentenced committed the crime?

Rupert, John’s partner, seems to think so.  In fact, even when Hannah begins to have doubts he sticks firm, believing that the person behind bars is the one that committed the crime?

Aisling, her best friend, also believes that Jem is the person that should suffer for the death of John, but is there something more to it?

Is Jem the person that deserves to be punished or has the real culprit got away with murdering a police officer?

Will Hannah be able to come to terms with having to live with her new house mate? Will she ever be able to forgive him?

The Captive by Deborah O'Connor, a new thriller for 2021.

My Thoughts on The Captive

This novel gripped me from beginning to end. It was one of those books that I simply couldn’t put down. I needed to know what happened next but then as the story was coming to a close, I didn’t want it to finish. I knew it was going to lead to a book hangover and that it would take days to recover.

Good story telling draws the reader in, immersing you into the narrative so that you visualise everything for yourself. I could picture the scene; the kitchen that was once Hannah’s sacred space becoming a prison for both her and Jem. I sensed the pain she was going through at the loss of her husband but also the confusion she felt when events started to unfold.  I was conscious of some underlying uncertainty and felt uneasy when certain characters were mentioned even thought Deborah O’Connor did a fantastic job in making them likeable; there was just something about them that I couldn’t warm to. Obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for others, so I won’t mention the characters by name here, but perhaps once you have read The Captive for yourself, you can share your thoughts with me.

Am I the only one that sensed that certain characters were untrustworthy?

The Captive is one of those books that I wish I could forget so that I could read it again afresh. I was so drawn into the narrative that I feel slightly forlorn now it has ended and cannot wait to read something else from this author. 

Will this be a top selling crime novel of 2021? I do hope so.

Have you read The Captive or any of Deborah O’Connor’s other novels? Perhaps you have read a book that leaves you feeling a similar way. If so, I would love for you to share the title.

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The Captive by Deborah O'Connor is the perfect way to start 2021 and could be one of the best thrillers of 2021. Want to know more? Read the full review at @tbookjunkie to find out more.

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