A hardcore prison has a simple solution for the worst of the worst, and six college students are next in line in J. A. Huff’s Madisonville.
A group of six college students and friends prepare the perfect crime for a class project. Only instead of simply turning in the assignment, they decide to pull it off. Three bank robberies later, two police officers are down, and the students are headed to Madisonville. Madisonville has a reputation for being the worst of the worst, and prisoners tend to go missing. The warden and a select few of the guards personally offer offenders a chance to escape—if they can avoid being hunted first. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues where no one’s survival is guaranteed.
Madisonville is action-packed. The story kicks off with the end of the robbery, a car crash, and a shoot out. It only ramps up from there and eventually winds up with exploding helicopters, savage wolf attacks, and a showdown in an idyllic meadow. From the get-go, the tension is taut and never lets up. Violent, gory, and dark, a class project gone awry leads to death and destruction.
The only real issue is lack of character connection. The main characters are unsympathetic. An eclectic group of students that decides to rob banks and attempts to kill the cops that pull them over fails to give readers much to root for. While they aren’t hardened criminals, they do easily kill innocent officers. Once the hunt goes awry, local police are called in, and the group finds no issue brutally murdering as many as they can.
The writing is fairly polished, with some minor editing hiccups. Occasionally the dialogue can seem a bit stilted, lending the story the feel of a straight-to-DVD action movie. As noted, the character connection is lacking, and there is little in the way of character growth. Plot holes are conveniently filled with somewhat over-the-top character backstory that allows the students to defeat trained officers.
Despite those issues, Madisonville is a one hell of a ride. It’s a popcorn movie in novel form. Two groups fight to the death in an isolated meadow with an increasing body count. Bullets, arrows, and more fly and explode, and the action thunders onward. It becomes increasingly satisfying to watch an underdog group rally and defeat a superior force, often with their own weapons and tactics.