review of Reformed by Ashley Beery

I was very impressed by the creativity and imagination Ms. Beery put into this novel. She starts with a highly sympathetic protagonist, a well-respected family man named Mike Reese. One day, he commits the mortal sin of taking out a loan behind his wife Elizabeth's back--and comes home to find her and their sons murdered! While coping with his grief and wondering who would do such a horrific thing, he gets even worse news: he is being charged with their murders. His trial is obviously a sham, and he is convicted based on lies, dubious forensics, and conveniently missing evidence. Unfortunately, no one seems willing to stand up to Sherriff George, who seems hellbent (pun intended) on making sure he gets "punished" for a crime he didn't commit. Eventually he is convicted and sentenced to death.

Beery's portrayal of prison life almost makes it seem like a refuge compared to his home town, where he had become a pariah. Death-row inmates are free to move about the prison and have generous library privileges. This took me by surprise, so I contacted the author, who clarified that the murder took place in the early 80's (before 'prison reforms' essentially reduced prisoners to zoo animals). There is nothing in that prison that we hear about today--shanks, rioting, and there is no mention of Mike ever being forced to be anyone's 'kid.' On the contrary, Mike is mentored by an older, more experienced prisoner. 

After his eventual execution, Mike is condemned to Hell where instead of fire and brimstone, he is condemned to relive the murder of his family over and over for eternity, with ten-minute breaks in between. With the help of Ron, his mentor in Hell, Mike uses the opportunity to look for that one piece of evidence that would exonerate him. Mike wondered why he would be punished in the afterlife for something he didn't do. I wondered the same thing. For the justice system to make such a grave miscarriage of justice is one thing, but God? I knew Reformed would have to have one hell of an ending (again, pun intended), and trust me, I was shocked to the core when it was revealed what actually went down and what the real intended purpose of Mike's punishment is.

Highly entertaining and original. I recommend this for audiences 17+ (because of violence, profanity, and adult situations). You may be thinking "Huh?" While reading this, but give it time: the ending is worth the wait! Check it out today!

Jessica Wren

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