The Institution

Written by Helen Fields

Review written by Carole Tyrell

Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.

The Institution
RRP: £14.99
Released: March 03, 2023

Nurse Tara Cameron didn’t deserve to die. Thrown down a laundry chute with her baby stolen from her. Forensic profiler Dr Connie Woolwine knows that Tara’s parents are relying on her to find their daughter’s murderer and their new-born grandchild. A ransom demand is made for five million untraceable crypto currency in return for the baby’s location.

And so Connie enters the world in which Tara worked: The Charles Horatio Parry Institution for the Rehabilitation of the Criminally Insane or The Institution as it’s known. But, as one staff member tells her, there is little rehabilitation there, instead it’s containment. Housed in an ancient fortress high up in the mountains with breathtaking views but with no obvious escape route for its inhabitants. They are known to some as “patients” or “guests” but none of them are going home any time soon.

Amongst their ranks are prolific serial killers and madmen and there are five patients that Connie is particularly interested in. Five extremely dangerous killers on the locked ward on which Tara worked. As the rest of the staff and these five are told, Connie is there as a specialist therapist to a new patient and has been appointed by the military. The clock’s already ticking for Connie as she only has five days in which to find Tara’s baby, Aurora.

However, Patient B is not what he seems and is already known to Connie and she needs all the support that she can get. She begins to interview the five other patients and uses hypnotherapy to unravel their histories and what crimes they have been incarcerated for. Tara was well liked within the Institution’s community and as far as they know, she had gone on maternity leave early. But Connie soon senses rivalries between staff members and a general feeling of burn out from some of them.

Slowly and insidiously the atmosphere of menace and claustrophobia in the Institution begins to weigh heavily on Connie. Her cell phone goes missing and then turns up again and she has a sense of an unknown visitor having been in her room. Even more mysteriously, Patient B is given a powerful drug by one of the Institution’s doctors as he was supposed to have become violent. Connie knows that this is out of character. And then a “patient” on the ward is found dead in his shower and is clutching one of Tara’s missing earrings.

And then the oncoming storm hits, imprisoning everyone in the Institution for 72 hours and suddenly new alliances are formed with Connie now in great danger. Someone is determined to stop her finding baby Aurora or being allowed to leave the Institution at all.

This was a cracking book which drew me in right from the first page. I liked Connie immediately as she treated Tara’s ravaged body with sensitivity and compassion and became determined to find Aurora. She was a woman with her own demons which she acknowledged and she has overcome them. But I was convinced that she would find the truth about what happened.

The interviews with the five patients on the ward was a good way of introducing the reader to their crimes and the reason for their incarceration in such a secure place. I also got a strong sense of the dullness and frustration of their lives as they were never going to be released. This was no One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Although the creepy building and the oncoming storm are familiar elements, I felt that the author handled them well and emphasised how much the inhabitants were affected by the remote location and the elements. They had almost been erased from society. It also created an effective backdrop to the action and I could see how it affected everyone within the building. I do enjoy reading about creepy old buildings as an ex-urban explorer. There was also a good build up of events as they reached a crescendo and I enjoyed the way that the author skilfully handled the suspense.

I had my doubts about one character and was glad to be proved right at the dramatic climax but the unmasking of Tara’s killer was a complete surprise. It’s always pleasurable to have the rug pulled out from you and red herrings had been so skilfully set.

I really enjoyed this book and intend to explore the author’s other books. Recommended.

Book Reviews
About Us
Contact Us

Privacy Policy | Contact Shots Editor