William's relationship with Helen has deepened and this novel in the series exposes the changes this has wrought in him, including his attitude to a life in prison. There's an old aphorism that talks of honour among thieves and William's time in prison is peppered with occasions when this Convict Code surfaces: the relationships between races, interaction between inmates, closeness of true friends, fairness of some Officers and the belligerence of others. The protocols of incarceration contrast starkly to those of polite society but they are real nevertheless.
The story reveals the conflicts, camaraderie and brutality that the code demands and ends with a twist. Normality is turned on its head and readers find themselves regaling situations they'd find abhorrent were they to meet them in their regular life. This is a tale of a society that demands retribution, an institution that cares little for those in its care and the survival of those unfortunate enough to find themselves within a system created to keep the awful truth of a failed society away from the population it serves.