The Spider in the Corner of the Room
Date Published04 June 2015
Price£ 7.99

The Spider in the Corner of the Room

by Nikki Owen

Dr Maria Martinez is in prison for the murder of a priest. She believes she’s been framed, but can she get anyone else to believe it?


Dr Maria Martinez is in prison for the brutal slaying of a priest. She suffers from Asperger’s, and the prison makes her scared and paranoid, but she also feels that her mental agility is speeding up with every hours she’s kept captive. She is certain she’s innocent, certain someone has framed her.

Then her cellmate attacks her, telling her all is not what it seems and that she’s involved in a conspiracy headed up by MI5.

The prison is an alien environment and the woman assigned as her counsellor seems to dislike her. But she makes a friend, her new cellmate Patricia, who believes that not only she was set up but that she’s also somehow caught in the middle of a strange conspiracy involving her family back in Spain, the priest that befriended her as a child, and the priest she’s been accused of killing.  The warden too seems to be on her side, and arranges a lawyer to lead her appeal against the conviction.

All the while, Maria is remembering things she doesn’t recall ever happening, writing down codes she never learnt. Her new lawyer is confident he can get a retrial, questioning the DNA evidence. But once on the outside, she would be more vulnerable than ever to the truth that lurks in the recesses of her overactive mind.

While well-written and tightly plotted, this is a difficult book to read. It’s written in first person, present tense, which makes the story more immediate but also makes the narrative jumps in time – between Maria’s stay in prison, and her sessions with a therapist – more confusing than they might otherwise have been. There’s no obvious switching between the two timelines, just the changing locations.

The question of whether or not she killed the priest is almost incidental against the question of whether or not she is a sleeper agent for MI5, and the whole plot at times feels just too implausible.

The reader is trapped in the confines of Maria’s mind, and forced to experience the same levels of uncertainty and paranoia as she does, and while it might be a clever device, it makes for a jumbled and exhausting book.

Reviewed 27 February 2016 by Madeleine Marsh