Detective Mark Baker is an honest cop and an all-around good guy. After a chaotic night, Mark starts to reexamine his role in the system he no longer believes in.
That's when an ominous letter arrives from his estranged sister. She sounds distraught, suicidal. Her words send him on a mission to a small midwestern town, uncertain if he'll find her dead or alive.
Valley Mill is a quiet little utopia. Everyone gets along. There's zero crime. On the outside, it's exactly what Mark thinks society should be. But what Mark discovers behind the pristine fences and closed doors is far worse than anything he could have imagined.
And he learns very quickly to be careful what you wish for...
Mark Baker is a police detective, he's good at his job, sometimes - too often - defense attorneys are just better at theirs. It can be so frustrating to see good police-work go for naught, just because of some legal technicality. And it's been one of those days.
Once married, now divorced, Mark is currently in a loving relationship with Gina who is carrying his child and at least that part of his life is right.
What turns everything upside down is a letter from his estranged sister, Sarah. They haven't been in touch for 10 years and Mark reads the letter as a cry for help, even though there is no return address.
Mark's PI friend, Reilly, helps to locate Sarah in the very small village of Valley Mill, Wisconsin. This is where things get interesting.
White Picket Prisons is, at times, a very disturbing story. The scene that starts off with "...wet, sucking sound, like a suction cup being pulled from a steamed window..." was one of the most cringe-worthy scenes I've read all year.
I love the little things in a Kelli Owen piece. Simple prose that adds so much to a scene, like, "A loose piece of cellophane from a cigarette pack floated across his path, dancing on the light breeze snaking it's way down the street like it was funneled between the buildings directly at him."
Kelli has the ability to describe those moments many of us have had, so succinctly. "He tried to slam the door as he went through it, but the hydraulic arm prevented his anger from venting through noise and quietly pushed the door to a close." Damn, I hate it when that happens.
Expect the unexpected from the beginning right through to the final page. This one comes highly recommended.
White Picket Prisons by Kelli Owen is an intense horror thriller. Incredibly intense.
The story starts off as a steadily building dark thriller, full of suspense, dark sequences, and excellent characterization.
About halfway through it turns to something much darker.
I reached a point where the building suspense and absolute dread were almost too much for me. It was not something I could bring myself to read right before sleep. So, I set it aside until the next day. I had nightmares anyway.
It was a good call though. The horror, both psychological and explicit, manifests in spades in the last several chapters.
Kelli Owen’s unique skill with developing characters and building a story is beautifully evident in White Picket Prisons. However, the warning about graphic content should be heeded. Readers who are used to dark thrillers may find Kelli’s unique venture into disturbing taboo horrors to be a bit much. Hard horror fans will delight in her daring.
This is a truly captivating and horrifying story about people and the dark realities of our sense of right, wrong, and justice. Highly recommended.
This was my third visit to the world of Kelli Owen. The story inside the pages of White Picket Prisons was fantastic. The scenes, especially the recalling of Mark’s marriage as it destructs, was amazing. An emotional rollercoaster that left me sad, angry and hurt. I could feel my chest tighten while Kelli slung the words like knives. Mark was full of surprises, giving a realness and solidity to him. My only complaint was the multiple times Mark complained about his job, but otherwise I loved this character. But, it wasn’t until much later I would understand the need for his strong opinions and conviction.
When Mark finally finds his sister and discovers the mysteries of Valley Mill, it was heart stopping. The shock I felt was almost too much, and I’ve read some crazy shit as a horror fan. White Picket Prisons is a book that will make you question what is just and fair. How a criminal should be dealt with. How we judge others for their actions and how long a person should have to pay for their offenses. The ending was another twist I didn’t see coming and it caught me off guard. I think this is the best piece of work I’ve had the pleasure of reading from Kelli Owen and it will not be the last. I’ll be looking forward to reading her work, and I hope it is soon!