3 out of 4 stars
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Like his father before him, Emil Sorns is a corrections officer at Larsan State Prison. As a boy, his father taught him to stand up to bullies. Now, Emil is the night sergeant who rules the prison with an iron fist. Careful to present himself as the model C.O. to his superiors, Emil and his officers are determined to administer "justice" to inmates who are disrespectful or disobedient. "The idea started in a bar, and like most ideas so conceived, it should have stayed there." Michael Kelso's One on One follows Emil's journey as he crosses the line between justice and revenge.
The 268-page book is well written, moves at a quick pace, and challenges readers to rethink preconceived convictions regarding corrections officers, prison, and the criminal justice system. The plot includes some surprising twists and turns I didn't see coming, keeping me engaged until the very end. However, be forewarned; violence and retribution are central themes in the story.
I most liked the book's ending. I appreciated the fact that there were no loose ends. I won't reveal any spoilers, but considering the dark plot, it ended on a more positive note. I also liked the character of Harley Richardson; I found him to be the most relatable character. Harley was a bully from Emil's childhood. They eventually became friends, and he resurfaced as the story unfolded.
However, I found it difficult to connect with most of the characters. In the preface, the author states "98% of the good things that C.O.s do is forgotten when the 2% that do something wrong are plastered all over the headlines. This book is about the 2%." As part of the 2%, Emil is so unlikeable that the author leaves no doubt regarding his motives and vigilante intentions. In this regard, I felt the author went overboard; Emil would have been more relatable had he occasionally experienced remorse or appeared conflicted.
I particularly disliked the author's portrayal of female characters. Despite Emil's questionable morals, there are instances when the author creates a degree of empathy for his actions. On the other hand, Emil's mother is consistently portrayed as an overbearing nag. Alice, the only woman Emil cares about, demonstrates the strength to work in a career mostly dominated by men and knows how to put them in their place when they underestimate her. However, Alice's character is undermined by the author's constant need to dwell on her physical appearance, describing her as a "taller version of Marilyn Monroe with larger breasts." It seems her resemblance to the iconic movie star is not enough; Alice must be further enhanced. The author seems compelled to mention her noticeable curves even when she is involved in a relevant portion of the plot.
Overall, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. Despite my objections to the character development, the book is professionally edited, the plot delivers, and the ending is satisfying. I recommend it to readers who enjoy books about vigilante justice and don't object to profanity and plot-related violence. However, I would not recommend it to young readers or those who are triggered by violence.
One on one
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