A mesmerizing, blackly comic confessional from a man whose troubles are just beginning when he kills his wife. Even though he's just a schoolteacher, things happen to Dan Cody. He gets life in Denning State for shooting his wife Janie; he gets isolated in Max One for kicking another inmate in the face; he engineers an audacious escape plot, murders a guard, and disappears with the nurse he's taken hostage. But as he keeps insisting to Sandy, the TV newscaster he's writing letters to, none of this is his fault: Everybody's been telling him what to do. He killed Janie only because she was HIV-positive and begged him to. The inmate he attacked was trying to get him involved in running drugs; later on, long after he'd become an unwilling mule, he had to kill another inmate to survive, and found himself controlling the prison drug trade almost by accident. ""All I want is for someone to understand what I've gone through in order to keep my spirit alive,"" he confides to Sandy, hoping she'll read his latest installment on tomorrow's broadcast. He tells her how he was drawn into the escape by Carol Ambrosino, the nurse who was just using him. All right, he was using her, but ""if I wanted to stay human, I had to escape,"" and he never thought anybody would get hurt. It's not till Dan's well away from Denning with Carol, his willing hostage, that Anscombe (The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, 1994) begins to hint that there may be something to this plausible scoundrel's self-excuses: Just because you're paranoid, after all, doesn't mean they're not really out to get you. Showing a deeply disturbing insight into all those parts of yourself you'd rather not think about, Anscombe's produced an alarmingly off-kilter odyssey that starts as chastely as The Collector before ending up like one of Jim Thompson's wilder nightmares.