A Mortal’s Crisis (Valentine Chronicles) by Ingrid N. T. Jackson

*Editor’s Note: This is a review for an as-yet unfinished manuscript

★★★★  A Mortal’s Crisis by Ingrid N. T. Jackson is an eerie, atmospheric thriller centered in a decrepit prison. Sveta, the story’s main character, has just arrived after being sentenced for the murder of her friend, Layla. She warily acquaints herself with several of the prison’s inhabitants, including a motherly old woman named Olga, who exercises a surprisingly vast grip on the people around her, and an inquisitive man named Bruce, who believes the prison holds some sort of world-shattering secret. After ending up in the prison’s infirmary, Sveta meets Marcus, a mysterious figure who has committed his own share of crimes and knows a great deal about what is going on behind the scenes at the prison. Working together with Bruce and Olga, Sveta will have to appeal to Marcus for answers, and hope that the three of them alone are savvy enough to discover what’s really going on at the prison before it’s too late.

At just under 10,000 words, this sample is a small taste of what Jackson has to offer. Framing the action inside of a claustrophobic environment, like a prison, is a smart choice: it allows the author to crank up the tension as she sets the scene, then bring everything to an explosive finish when her characters finally learn the truth about their incarceration. Additionally, the world-building is subtle and pervasive, and minute word choices and mentions of menacing off-screen characters like “the Processors” will be instant hooks for curious readers. The dialogue, in particular, has been put to great use, hinting at some sort of global cataclysm that will undoubtedly be revealed in detail later on in the story.