April 22, 2024
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Two young women are stuck in an Arizona prison for crimes they committed, knowingly or unknowingly. Florence Baum, whose prison name is Florida, may have helped her boyfriend torch a cabin – the fact that she drove the getaway car, her own Jaguar, is not in question.

Diana Diosmary Sandoval, known as Dios, is in for aggravated assault. Other than that, her record is clean.

Behind the walls, however, her record is not so clean. She targets other women, attacking them both physically and psychologically. In a stomach-churning scene, she attacks an overweight mentally challenged woman, twisting a sharpened fork into her face. Other prisoners punish Dios by beating her brutally, but she remains defiant and unfazed.

The book is set in the midst of the 2020 pandemic where overcrowded and unsanitary prison conditions lead to an early release for both women. Florida plans to serve her parole in the designated motel room, then go back home to Los Angeles where, she believes, her Jaguar is waiting in her mother’s multi-car garage.

Dios, however, has other plans. She believes that Florida is violent, as violent as she is, and wants to persuade her to come out of hiding and reveal her true self.

The book is written from multiple points of view, beginning with Kace, a prisoner who talks and listens to the dead, including Marta, the woman she killed. However, she points out that she is not a murderer even though she did kill someone. Kace lets the reader into the mind of Tina, a prisoner who was killed during a prison riot. Both Florida and Dios were involved.

Lobo, the officer assigned to find and recapture the two women, has her own demons to face. Obsessed with tracking down her ex-husband, she runs into trouble with a homeless man who takes issue with her peeping into his tent.

Lobos’ partner Easton believes women are incapable of the type of violence that leads them to commit the types of crimes attributed to Florida and Dios.

Lobos knows better.

Described as a Western, “Sing Her Down” by Ivy Pachoda is also a psychological thriller. It’s a difficult and fascinating read, giving us a glimpse into the minds of women prisoners, the process that brings them to that place and the trouble they have getting out of it.  

Curtis K. Shelburne

Muleshoe Journal Columnist

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