‘The Institution’ by Helen Fields | @Helen_Fields @AvonBooksUK

Author : Helen Fields
Title : The Institution
Pages : 430
Publisher : Avon UK
Publication date : March 2, 2023
Source : Netgalley


On a locked ward in the world’s highest-security prison hospital for the criminally insane, a nurse has been murdered and her newborn baby kidnapped. A ransom must be paid, and the clock is ticking.

Forensic profiler Dr Connie Woolwine is renowned for her ability to get inside the mind of a murderer. Now she must go deep undercover among the most deranged and dangerous men on earth, and use her unique skills to find the baby – before it’s too late.

She has five days to catch the killer.

But with the walls of The Institution closing in on her, will her sanity last that long?


Holy flying fudge-balls! WOW!

Helen Fields always manages to shake me right to the core. She is also an author who isn’t afraid to tackle the truly gruesome side of crime fiction, to lead readers into places so dark you’re almost left to wonder if there is a way back. But somehow, ‘The Institution‘ is even darker than her previous books. I don’t know what it says about me that I loved every minute of it. Possibly also food for psychologists.

First things first. You may remember Dr Connie Woolwine from ‘The Shadow Man‘. If you haven’t yet read that one, honestly, shame on you but it’s not necessary to be able to keep up with ‘The Institution‘ as it reads just fine as a stand-alone. Connie is a forensic profiler, renowned for her ability to get inside the mind of murderers. This time, she must go deep undercover in an institution full of deranged and dangerous men to find one depraved enough to kill a pregnant nurse and kidnap her baby. There isn’t much time.

The evil in this story … gah! It often made my skin crawl something bad. ‘The Institution‘ is probably not quite for the faint-hearted amongst us. There were times where I thought I’d need to take a break, go for a walk, get some fresh air and try to get rid of all this vile brutality in my head. But another part of me, the immersed and enthralled part, wanted to keep going, to hold on to the feelings and the tension that were building up.

The institution has an effect on Connie too. Not just due to the residents on the ward, but due to other events you’ll have to read about yourself. What that meant was that I got to know Connie a bit better, but I also wasn’t always entirely sure if her opinion could be trusted. Was she reliable? Was the pressure of finding this baby getting to her? When a storm hits, I felt just as isolated as everyone else. It was so easy to imagine how frightening that scenario could be. Secure facility or not, someone still managed to make a baby disappear. It didn’t even bother me that the whole storm thing has been done a multitude of times before. Sometime a locked room thriller just works, other times it doesn’t. But here, everything just fitted together perfectly. The masterfully put together plot, the incredibly intriguing characters, the spot-on pace and knowing that the clock was mercilessly ticking in the background all made this one of the most compelling books I’ve read.

Every time I thought I knew who was behind this ghastly murder, something would make me change my mind. Just like Connie, the reader gets background information about the killers on this ward. It allows us to try our hand at Psychology 101, see if we can figure out who could have been capable of killing this nurse and taking her baby. And boy, there was clearly no holding back from the author here either. Aside from the chilling accounts leaving me desperate for something fluffy to cuddle, the psychological insight into these minds was both equally harrowing and fascinating.

I’ve been a long time fan of Helen Fields and have loved all her crime fiction books. However, ‘The Institution‘, in my most humble opinion, just has that little bit extra that makes me want to say it’s her best book yet. Days later, I find I still think of what drives people to act out in the most despicable ways. ‘The Institution” is thought-provoking, sometimes emotional to the point of me having a lump in my throat, definitely disturbing and absolutely stupendously brilliant. Recommended!

Amazon UK [will be published on Thursday, March 2nd]

My thanks to the publisher for the advanced review copy, which I received via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  12 comments for “‘The Institution’ by Helen Fields | @Helen_Fields @AvonBooksUK

  1. February 28, 2023 at 8:54 am

    Helen’s books are waaaay too gruesome for me! Glad you enjoyed it though 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2023 at 9:06 am

      I can absolutely see why. She doesn’t hold back at all, does she? I’ve no idea what it says about me 😳😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. February 28, 2023 at 9:39 am

    You’re right, shame on me! I’m going to rectify that! Also regretting now that I didn’t go for this one… Loved the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. February 28, 2023 at 11:22 am

    Wow definitely not one for me, but an amazing review! x

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 1, 2023 at 8:38 am

      Too gruesome? I get that. She’s not for everyone. That’s why I mention it in my reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. February 28, 2023 at 11:31 am

    Back on track with the ‘locked room’ mysteries. So glad you enjoyed this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. March 3, 2023 at 10:18 pm

    Oh yes, you definitely enjoyed it more than I did. 😂 I might need a reread at some point when my reading mood isn’t so fickle, because I do usually enjoy her books. Fab review! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2023 at 8:47 am

      I’m so sorry it didn’t work for you. I saw your review before I read it and honestly couldn’t figure out why you struggled so much with it 😄

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 8, 2023 at 2:24 am

        Haha I’m still surprised myself to be honest. I think it was maybe just the wrong time for me to read it… It was somehow too slow for me, which is strange, and then I found the part after the storm started too lacking in credibility… Which I normally don’t really care about if the story is entertaining enough.


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