This would make a great movie. In fact, The Conviction strongly reminds me of a sci-fi flick from the late 1990s, Cube, in which a group of strangers navigate their way through a sequence of lethal puzzles trying to discover why they’ve been abducted. The Conviction features a similar theme, with locked rooms containing potentially fatal tests to challenge each person’s principles – and their breaking point. Just like a film, this short story adeptly employs cinematic-style cut-away cliffhangers to leave the reader in suspense while a character’s fate hangs breathlessly in the balance.
But The Conviction tells a very different story to Cube. Right from the get-go we know that none of the four protagonists have clean hands. They represent different types of criminal corruption, from lawyers who pervert the American justice system, to well-heeled offenders who cheat and bribe their way out of sticky situations, to the violent thugs who brutalise their victims for a fistful of dollars. Each must now face the consequences of their actions, trapped in a deserted warehouse and coerced into participation in punitive trials. A young man was wrongfully convicted, and someone is intent on balancing the scales of justice…
This is a rapid read, split into short sections, full of misdirection and manipulation. You’re pulled through the plot by a series of mini-mysteries – eager to find out what kind of psychological or physical ordeal lurks behind the next door. It’s immediately obvious that each of these unpleasant people thoroughly deserves the trauma they’re being subjected to. The ultimate payoff is solving the puzzle of who is behind this elaborate set up…
The author doesn’t linger too long in any scene or go into too much depth about the details. It doesn’t really pay to go back and examine what happened at each stage – in hindsight, there may be a plot hole or two – so this is one of those stories best enjoyed in the moment. The storytelling is crisp and fresh, and the author takes an intriguing approach to an established theme in the crime-thriller genre. The text could certainly be improved by a professional editor, but it’s acceptable for an indie publication from an emerging talent.
Definitely worth a spin to see if you like the author’s style – and he has a full-length novel out which looks equally intriguing.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Conviction: Enacting Vigilante Justice by John Mathews is available at Amazon