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Friday, October 3, 2014


3 stars out of 5

Based on the description and rave reviews, I picked this book with some degree of excitement when it was offered free through Kindle Unlimited. The term "psychological thriller" always gets my attention (my undergrad degree is in psychology, and while I didn't pursue that as a profession, human behavior remains a huge interest). Beyond that, it's based in my birth state of Indiana, where the author spent 20 years as a counselor in the Department of Corrections. Within the first couple of paragraphs, mention of sycamore trees and U.S. Route 40 (the former found all around me as a kid and the latter less than 30 miles from home), had me hooked.

Unfortunately, the hook never went any deeper. At least twice, I told myself to give it up, something I absolutely hate to do. Then, I convinced myself that if I could make it past the halfway point, I'd be able to stick with it. That I did - but all in all it wasn't a very pleasant experience.

On Nov. 23, 2000, 100 inmates captured 12 prison guards in the laundry dorm of the Indiana Penal Farm, and dorm counselor Tom Hemmings has been tapped to handle "negotiations" and get the situation under control before the worst happens. But he's not just dealing with the inmates' protest over lousy services; they're also members of rival gangs, and the guards are in labor unions that are at loggerheads as well. 

Truth is, that bodes well for a terrific story, so just why it failed to hold my interest is hard to pin down. The writing is impeccable - it reads more like prose than a typical thriller novel (which I admit for me was more of a curse than a blessing). The many characters got a bit confusing, and somehow I just couldn't envision a prison counselor - much less guards and least of all prisoners - speaking in such a profound, esoteric manner that it was tough to wade through and didn't sound realistic coming from most of the characters. Until near the end, the story jumped around from place to place, usually forcing me to back up a few pages to determine whether the situation was present or past. And finally, although this alone had little bearing on my like or dislike, this is perhaps one of the most thoroughly depressing books I've read in a while.

All that said, at the time of this writing, 28 of the reviewers at had given it 5 or 4 stars. All I can say, then, is it simply wasn't my cup of tea. If it sounds like it's yours, I urge you to read what others have to say before you decide. 

The Siege: A Psychological Thriller by James Hanna (Sand Hill Review Press; 1st Ed., February 2014); 276 pp.

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