The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

Murder inside the prison

Noel Grima Thursday, 29 July 2021, 10:50 Last update: about 3 months ago

‘Tlettax’. Author: Kenneth Caruana. Publisher: Horizons / 2020. Pages: 364pp

Belwyth, the location of the prison which is where the action of the book takes place, does not exist anywhere in the world, so one can only speculate that it takes place in Britain, the US or anywhere else.

The geographic location, in other words, does not matter. What matters is that it is a prison and that it harbours a very diverse collection of deeply flawed characters.

More than just a prison, in fact, it is a psychiatric prison.

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We follow the unfolding of the story through the life of William Shaw. We will remain till the very end unsure whether William is a criminal or a deeply flawed person.

On the face of it, he is a sane person who has become unhinged by the many tragic events he witnessed while being a press photographer covering some of the most tragic wars of our times.

Although a press photographer is taught to remain neutral whatever he records, and to put a distance between him (or her) and what he/she is shooting, exceptions happen... As in this case.

Inside the prison there are gathered a group of deeply-flawed individuals, all of whom had been involved in murders. Some were crimes of passion but some stemmed from deep-seated psychological disorders such as the Wernicke-Korsakoff strain of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The mental hospital cum prison has its complement of psychiatrists and psychologists and an organised regime. But none of them anticipates the mayhem that was to unfold and, for some time after the event, did not even begin to understand what had happened.

The reader, however, readily understands what happened.

One final note: to understand the significance of the title one must read the book to its very last word.


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