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COVERS WEEK REVIEW: “The Fence And Then The Trees” by JF Smith

“(Don’t?) Judge A Book By Its Cover” Week

Jenni votes THUMBS UP on the cover of “The Fence And Then The Trees” Let’s see how the book itself fared…


What would you do?

Jack Carber was in a bad spot. Betrayed and thrown in prison, he had to figure out fast how to survive, and with no idea who to trust and who not to trust. To make matters worse, he had already gotten on the bad side of The Kennel on day one. But his biggest threat was the vacant psychopath named Adder, whose cell he found himself sharing. And with this one, his best tools for survival, his skills as a con man, had no effect at all.

How would you survive?

Jack faced dangerous enemies, an indifferent prison administration, and an inmate advocate with his own twisted agenda. He was determined to keep himself alive and sane, even as he began to slowly give up on himself.

As long as he kept his head down and didn’t fall prey to the fatal mistake of trusting anyone ever again, he’d eventually get out alive…in body if not in spirit. And that seemed like the most he could expect.

What would keep you going?

A sudden revelation and the resulting puzzle, though, throws his world into a wildly different light. He’s unexpectedly clutching at a glimmer of hope, something more than mere survival, and yet fighting to not repeat the mistakes of his past again. But something deep inside him begs him to take that risk one more time.

Because, exactly how far would you be willing to go to protect the best thing that ever happened to you, especially when it hadn’t even happened?


The cover of The Fence And Then The Trees, along with its shining reviews, were big draws. I’m intrigued by non-human/object-style art, especially in a genre that tends to umm…indulge…in the overtly sexual book jacket. (Hey, not complaining here, don’t get me wrong!) So yeah, the origami snake was appealing because I just knew it had to tie into the story in a very special way. Except, really, the connection wasn’t as obvious as you might think/hope, and the cover was just about the best part of the novel.




The Fence And Then The Trees is set in a prison, and our MC is Jack. He’s doing time for fraud and weapons charges—three years—and he knows prison will be rough. He starts his time with a series of attacks (sexual and otherwise) committed against and by him.

Jack’s cellmate—and our second MC—is Adder. For initially unknown reasons, Adder is mute; though he’s capable, he’s not interested in talking or being friends with anyone. Adder’s doing time for assault, robbery and a bunch of other bad deeds.

There’s a cadre of other, less memorable supporting characters, but the one thing you should know is this isn’t a story about survival, not really. It’s excess and shock value. What made it so ridiculously hard to read (besides the graphic, stiff, tell-me writing style) was the “faux” priest rape.


I guess this is where I should disclose that I’m Catholic, which I guess makes me overly sensitive to such things. I’m also an AVID supporter of anything LGBTQ, and believe in equal marriage rights for all (not to mention a pro-choicer), so I’m not your mother’s Catholic. I’m still Catholic, though, and yeah, there’s a priest in this story who’s gay and who has a fantasy of being raped by a prisoner.

Really? REALLY?

This disgusting garbage idea added absolutely nothing to the story line. It was gratuitous and just a revolting and inaccurate stereotype about Catholics and priests in general, and it burned me to my core. Absolutely it affected my rating of the book, but there were other problems, too.

The Fence And Then The Trees is packed with abuse, abuse and more abuse, followed by a healthy dose of Stockholm syndrome. I promise none of this stuff will compel you to root for either of these characters. Jack is not smart and is utterly unlikable (though I don’t imagine the author intended for him to come off that way). He makes some stupid choices and gives bad advice. He antagonizes other prisoners and Adder.

I didn’t much care for Adder either. He’s violent and starts his “relationship” with Jack as Jack’s abuser. I ask: how can a reader possibly be compelled to like this guy by the end of the book knowing what they will about his moral compass? How could a reader possibly believe he’d change? It’d take some seriously talented writing. Suffice it to say, I never did change my mind about Adder…

In the end, things get wrapped up all pretty and changed and for the better, and the MCs supposedly grow, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to root for them or for this book.




Title: The Fence And Then The TreesFence
Author: JF Smith
Publisher:  Self-pub
Pages: 313
Release Date:  March 14, 2014
Purchase Links: Amazon

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2014 by in Contemporary, Dark & Twisted, Reviewer: Jenni and tagged , , , , .

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