Nikki Owen’s debut is a twisty and intricate tale of conspiracy and paranoia. Suspend reality for a bit and just go ahead and plunge right into the madness that is Dr Maria Martinez’s life.
Don’t make the mistake I made: stopping to double back and re-read, it takes too much from the story. This is a book made for reading in one or two sittings, perfect airport waiting material.
Spanish-born Maria is convicted of murder and imprisoned in the UK. A horrible, gruesome murder. Of a priest. A highly intelligent plastic surgeon, Maria has managed to make a career for herself despite the fact that her social interactions are often strained as she suffers from Asperger syndrome. Her condition makes adjusting to prison life extremely challenging. Well, that and her absolute belief in her innocence. However, when a distressed Maria begins therapy, it triggers disturbing flashbacks that prompt her to question not just her innocence, but her entire identity. As in, what if someone has been controlling her mind all these years… what if it’s not just Asperger’s affecting Maria’s memory and actions?
Things really get murky when an inmate attempts to kill Maria while babbling on about a secret mission. Oh and her prison-appointed therapist regularly draws vials of her blood “for testing”.
If you stick with it, the end of the novel brings some answers – but not many because it’s part one of a planned trilogy. For me, it ventured into interesting mind-game, conspiracy theory territory but didn’t fully commit. I was waiting for more; more details on the “mission”, more background info on Maria. Maybe that’s being rationed for the remaining two books, unfortunately, it is to the detriment of this debut.
It feels like a missed opportunity for what could be a strong storyteller.