Roy Harper’s prison based escape drama is brimming with excitement, adventure and witty dialogue, and although not a traditional crime fiction novel there is enough intrigue and interest to wet the appetite for more (which, given the title, would suggest that more are coming, despite the finality to the ending).
Set in and around the violent and corrupt Parchman Maximum Security Prison in Mississippi, Shank tells the story of David “Tool” Roney, violent criminal with a dangerous past and a distorted moral code. Escape, betrayal and the quest for vengeance all follow as Tool desperately strives to match the needs of his moral code with the very real need for freedom. His discovery of a woman named Rose complicates the issue, providing an interesting character dynamic.
Setting is used well here, acting as both an asset and a hindrance to the escaped convict as he battles against both nature and fear to survive and find a way to heal after the horrific events of the book’s beginning. Although crime is the primary plot device here, this novel is really about Tool’s journey from prisoner to free man, with some surprisingly tender passages for a book whose main character is a criminal.
Ultimately Shank is a tough read, dealing with emotive subjects including rape, murder and severe violence: despite this there is a real humanity to this novel, and some great insights into human nature which make this an ideal read for those looking for something new from their crime fiction.