Inside - Brenda Novak

Released July 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll start by saying I really loved Inside, but the book also drove me crazy. It's one of those novels that keeps you on the edge of your seat hoping that everyone deserving a comeuppance has karma really get them.

Peyton Adams' father was killed in prison. Serving a five-year sentence for embezzling money to help her mother's fight against cancer, he was stabbed by another prisoner. It's his unnecessary death that's driven Peyton to become a determined deputy warden at Pelican Bay. Peyton is not happy with the new prisoner who's going to be joining the prison population. He's served years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Virgil Skinner has spent plenty of time behind bars. Sentenced for killing his stepfather, Virgil's recently been released after evidence proved his innocence. The only reasons he's returning to a prison setting is to help law enforcement uncover who murdered a judge. In exchange, they will get his sister and her children into witness protection to keep her safe from the gang that wants Virgil punished.

Peyton is adamant that Virgil not be used as bait. Virgil is just as determined to save his sister from mistakes he's made. Soon sparks fly and Peyton's relationship with Virgil becomes personal. Keeping him safe isn't just a job duty any more.

It's apparent from the start that Brenda Novak did a lot of research for Inside. She makes note of it in her acknowledgments. The stark feel inside the prison comes through incredibly well. It also shows the determination and strength that Peyton has to perform this job on a daily basis. I really liked her character.

Virgil is also strong, though he does have his flaws. This makes him incredibly believable. He's been in jail since he was 18, so he's not really accustomed to dealing with relationships. His insecurity, despite his tough guy persona, was endearing. Together, I felt they made a very likable couple. They have many obstacles and those obstacles definitely had me wanting to smack a few characters around. I won't go into details though. Once you've started the book, you'll know exactly what I mean.

It's clear that this is the first book in a series. I'm hoping that Virgil's sister's story is next. The possible romantic angle between her and a former gang member could prove to be an intriguing story. I can't wait to see what happens next!


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