Catalogue


The four stages of cruelty /
Keith Hollihan.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, c2010.
description
293 p. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0312592477 (hbk.), 9780312592479 (hbk.)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
More Details
imprint
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, c2010.
isbn
0312592477 (hbk.)
9780312592479 (hbk.)
abstract
Resolving to follow the law in spite of the illicit activities of corrupt peers at Ditmarsh Penitentiary, corrections officer Kali Williams learns about a missing inmate's creation of an elaborate comic book that reveals the covert workings of the prison's criminal operations.
catalogue key
7399528
 
Purchase; DSO; 2012; RB298784.
A Look Inside
First Chapter

1

I can think of no gentle way to begin.
I need to explain why the biggest mystery for me was not how an inmate could go missing inside a maximum security penitentiary, nor what the drawings meant, or even who was involved in the murders. The thing that stays with me, like the memory of a limb now gone, is the mystery of human compassion. The twisted variations of it, the love and the hurt, the obsession and the neglect, the abuse and the need, all commingled and bound. Although I am as cynical and skeptical as can be expected, given my experience, I am not one to deny that genuine relationships can form between inmates and corrections officers. I do know, however, that those relationships are almost universally based on some form of trade, a commerce of getting by. You need them as much as they need you, and I will admit that debts accumulate and sometimes must be paid off in ways that compromise what you think is right. This can happen to any of us.
My name is Kali Williams. I doubt that my parents, when they changed a few letters in the more conventionally spelled Kaylee, knew they were naming me after the many-armed Hindu goddess of darkness and destruction. But out of that dull midwestern instinct to be safe but slightly different, I sprang: a personality of sharp edges and bruising elbows.
If this were just a story about Ditmarsh Penitentiary and my work within it, I would probably start by discussing the routine and even the incidentally interesting aspect of being a thirty-nine-year-old female—one of only 26 women on a corrections staff of 312—providing daily operational security over 950 (plus or minus) hard-core assholes, sex offenders, addicts, liars, serial felons, white-collar dick suckers, gangbangers, and relatively honest murderers. I enjoyed my job. I liked the bang and clang of the cellblocks, the armored ease you needed to show in getting by, the acute attention to psychology and mood. For the most part, the bullshit bounced off me, the rat-a-tat routine of jokes and looks, the subtle grind of male criticism disguised half-assedly as helpfulness. I never questioned the right and wrong of the work—it was pretty goddamn clear to me, and still is—but there were times when I got stuck wondering how I’d become this person who wore the belt and jangled the keys and relied on the way the quick decisions got backed up by the remorseless rules. Nothing good came of those moods, however, and I avoided them as much as possible. I have an irritable impatience for the overly steeped, self-pitying emotions of anyone with too much time on their hands, including, and perhaps especially, myself.
This is not about my job, though, or about me; it’s about what happened, and all those mysteries I mentioned, and the mystery of compassion most of all. Even when I found the body dangling from a door in the abandoned cells beneath the prison, so terribly abused, it was the absence of compassion, the lack of pity in the place, that hit me hardest. Though surrounded by the dark output of violent lives, I had never before seen the ravages of such unrestrained brutality. I forced myself to edge past, pressing up against the cold wall where the scrawled drawings were most tangled, in order to see the face. In that dead gaze, was I the delayed rescuer or another tormenter? I’m not sure I can answer without sorting through the events that led up to it. As I said, I can think of no gentle way to begin.



Copyright © 2010 by Keith Hollihan

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2010-10-11:
Joshua Riff, a 19-year-old convict at Ditmarsh Penitentiary, puzzles Kali Williams, a 39-year-old corrections officer, in Hollihan's impressive first novel, a complex and atmospheric thriller. The other COs are protecting Josh by keeping him segregated in the infirmary next to an enigmatic inmate, Jon Crowley. Josh has been helping Crowley illustrate a densely symbolic comic book based on prison life called The Four Stages of Cruelty, which conjures up history from Ditmarsh's dark past. When Crowley disappears, Williams investigates on her own. The clues take her beneath the prison to the long-abandoned isolation chambers that older convicts refer to as "the City," and from there things really get interesting. Hollihan manages to combine a labyrinthine plot, full of intrigue, secret societies, and arcane lore, with a nuanced, character-driven narrative that provides insights into prison life while keeping readers guessing until the last page. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Through the eyes of a young, vulnerable, tough female guard, Hollihan presents prison life in all its daily bleakness and occasional violence and reveals the intricate social strata, black-market dealings, alliances and hostilities between the prisoners and guards in Ditmarsh Prison. In precise and visceral language, he gathers up the various, fascinating threads of his plot and weaves them into a stunning, unforgettable story." --Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man "This is one intense book--brutally sad and heartbreakingly brutal, and filled with precise, vivid detail that brings the world of Ditmarsh Penitentiary vividly to life. I found it impossible to put down, not only because the plot is kinetic but because of Hollihan's deep understanding of moral and emotional complexities." --Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply "[An] astonishing debut.... As airless and shadowy as the prison, the book goes well beyond conventional prison dramas with its unnerving intensity, graphic violence, discussions of the meaning of evil and "the mystery of human compassion" and lack of heroics. ... The narrative gets under your skin early and keeps you hooked even when you want to look away."-- Kirkus Reviews *starred review* "[An] impressive first novel, a complex and atmospheric thriller. ... Hollihan manages to combine a labyrinthine plot, full of intrigue, secret societies, and arcane lore, with a nuanced, character-driven narrative that provides insights into prison life while keeping readers guessing until the last page."-- Publishers Weekly *starred review* "In this labyrinthine thriller, a female prison guard keeps an eye on a 19-year-old inmate who's helping another inmate create a graphic novel full of dark symbols about the prison's literally underground and abandoned isolation chambers."-- The Pacific Northwest Inlander
NAMED ONE OF PUBLISHERS WEEKLY 'S BEST BOOKS OF 2010 "Through the eyes of a young, vulnerable, tough female guard, Hollihan presents prison life in all its daily bleakness and occasional violence and reveals the intricate social strata, black-market dealings, alliances and hostilities between the prisoners and guards in Ditmarsh Prison. In precise and visceral language, he gathers up the various, fascinating threads of his plot and weaves them into a stunning, unforgettable story." --Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man "This is one intense book--brutally sad and heartbreakingly brutal, and filled with precise, vivid detail that brings the world of Ditmarsh Penitentiary vividly to life. I found it impossible to put down, not only because the plot is kinetic but because of Hollihan's deep understanding of moral and emotional complexities." --Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply "First comes the awareness that you're home alone. Next the butterflies kick in. Soon you're skipping ahead to the bottom of the page before you get the nerve to back up and face what happened, the reading equivalent of peeking through your fingers. But the thrills in this novel, Keith Hollihan's first, aren't cheap."-- The New York Times "Mr. Hollihan's superb accomplishment is to get us to care for the prisonersmost of them murderersas they harass, cajole and barter their way into power. The book's title foretells its inevitable drift, yet, like Kali, we're made vulnerable by compassion. Then, having softened us up, Mr. Hollihan sets off an explosive ending that's indelible and genuinely shocking."-- The Wall Street Journal "[An] astonishing debut.... As airless and shadowy as the prison, the book goes well beyond conventional prison dramas with its unnerving intensity, graphic violence, discussions of the meaning of evil and "the mystery of human compassion" and lack of heroics. ... The narrative gets under your skin early and keeps you hooked even when you want to look away."-- Kirkus Reviews *starred review* "[An] impressive first novel, a complex and atmospheric thriller. ... Hollihan manages to combine a labyrinthine plot, full of intrigue, secret societies, and arcane lore, with a nuanced, character-driven narrative that provides insights into prison life while keeping readers guessing until the last page."-- Publishers Weekly *starred review* "In this labyrinthine thriller, a female prison guard keeps an eye on a 19-year-old inmate who's helping another inmate create a graphic novel full of dark symbols about the prison's literally underground and abandoned isolation chambers."-- The Pacific Northwest Inlander "This chilling thriller is perfect for a snowy night. Leave the light on."-- Hudson Valley News
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, October 2010
Globe & Mail, February 2011
Quill & Quire, March 2011
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
"Through the eyes of a young, vulnerable, tough female guard, Hollihan presents prison life in all its daily bleakness and occasional violence and reveals the intricate social strata, black-market dealings, alliances and hostilities between the prisoners and guards in Ditmarsh Prison. In precise and visceral language, he gathers up the various, fascinating threads of his plot and weaves them into a stunning, unforgettable story."--Kate Christensen, author ofThe Great Man "This is one intense book--brutally sad and heartbreakingly brutal, and filled with precise, vivid detail that brings the world of Ditmarsh Penitentiary vividly to life. I found it impossible to put down, not only because the plot is kinetic but because of Hollihan's deep understanding of moral and emotional complexities." --Dan Chaon, author ofAwait Your Reply
Main Description
NAMED ONE OF PUBLISHERS WEEKLY 'S BEST BOOKS OF 2010 A female corrections officer works with a young male inmate to uncover a criminal organization that has taken control of a maximum security prison Ditmarsh Penitentiary holds many secrets within its walls, and the inmates aren't the only ones who keep them. Given absolute authority, the guards often slip across the divide from law enforcement to criminality. Officer Kali Williams tries her best to stay on the right side of the law. Then she meets an inmate named Joshua who claims that another prisoner has drawn an elaborate comic book that holds a guide to Ditmarsh's criminal underworld. At first Kali can't take it seriously. But soon after, the artistinmate disappears completely. Intense and arresting, The Four Stages of Cruelty is a powerful debut for fans of Umberto Eco and Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
Main Description
Intense and arresting, this powerful debut follows a female corrections officer who works with a young male inmate to uncover a criminal organization that has taken control of a maximum security prison.
Main Description
Ditmarsh Penitentiary holds many secrets within its walls. A maximum-security prison, it contains every breed of hatred, self-destruction, greed, and regret. Its inmates aren't the only ones who grapple with these emotions. Under constant threat yet given absolute authority, the guards routinely cross the divide between law enforcement and criminality. Corrections Officer Kali Williams takes pains to avoid the complicated traps of inmates and guards alike. Then a young inmate named Joshua comes to her for help. He claims that another prisoner has drawn an elaborate comic book, which holds a guide to the illicit underworld of Ditmarsh. The struggle to obtain the information encoded in its pages has been the cause of ever-increasing violence throughout the prison. At first Kali can't take Joshua seriously. But soon afterward, the artist-inmate disappears completely. As she retraces his steps, she enters a labyrinthine world inside the prison with unexpected connections to the outside world. Along the way, she uncovers the most bewildering secret of all the mystery of human compassion, the twisted forms it can take, and the violence and redemption it makes possible.
Main Description
Ditmarsh Penitentiary holds many secrets within its walls. A maximum-security prison, it contains every breed of hatred, self-destruction, greed, and regret. Its inmates aren't the only ones who grapple with these emotions. Under constant threat yet given absolute authority, the guards routinely cross the divide between law enforcement and criminality. Corrections Officer Kali Williams takes pains to avoid the complicated traps of inmates and guards alike. Then a young inmate named Joshua comes to her for help. He claims that another prisoner has drawn an elaborate comic book, which holds a guide to the illicit underworld of Ditmarsh. The struggle to obtain the information encoded in its pages has been the cause of ever-increasing violence throughout the prison. At first Kali can't take Joshua seriously. But soon afterward, the artist-inmate disappears completely. As she retraces his steps, she enters a labyrinthine world inside the prison with unexpected connections to the outside world. Along the way, she uncovers the most bewildering secret of all - the mystery of human compassion, the twisted forms it can take, and the violence and redemption it makes possible.
Main Description
Ditmarsh Penitentiary holds many secrets within its walls. A maximum-security prison, it contains every breed of hatred, self-destruction, greed, and regret. Its inmates aren't the only ones who grapple with these emotions. Under constant threat yet given absolute authority, the guards routinely cross the divide between law enforcement and criminality. Corrections Officer Kali Williams takes pains to avoid the complicated traps of inmates and guards alike. Then a young inmate named Joshua comes to her for help. He claims that another prisoner has drawn an elaborate comic book, which holds a guide to the illicit underworld of Ditmarsh. The struggle to obtain the information encoded in its pages has been the cause of ever-increasing violence throughout the prison. At first Kali can't take Joshua seriously. But soon afterward, the artist-inmate disappears completely. As she retraces his steps, she enters a labyrinthine world inside the prison with unexpected connections to the outside world. Along the way, she uncovers the most bewildering secret of all --the mystery of human compassion, the twisted forms it can take, and the violence and redemption it makes possible.
Main Description
A female corrections officer works with a young male inmate to uncover a criminal organization that has taken control of a maximum security prison Ditmarsh Penitentiary holds many secrets within its walls, and the inmates aren't the only ones who keep them. Given absolute authority, the guards often slip across the divide from law enforcement to criminality. Officer Kali Williams tries her best to stay on the right side of the law. Then she meets an inmate named Joshua who claims that another prisoner has drawn an elaborate comic book that holds a guide to Ditmarsh's criminal underworld. At first Kali can't take it seriously. But soon after, the artistinmate disappears completely. Intense and arresting, The Four Stages of Cruelty is a powerful debut for fans of Umberto Eco and Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

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