Wozencraft's stint as a narc inspired her raggedly vital Rush (1990)--and, like Rush's heroine, she wound up her cop-career by perjuring herself into a federal pen. Behind bars, withdrawing from Valium addiction, Wozencraft was sent to a women's psychiatric unit: the bleak setting for this second novel--more controlled than Rush but far less daring--about a woman awaiting trial for killing her abusive husband. Narrator Cynthia Mitchell, 39, is undergoing evaluation in the Fort Worth federal prison to see whether she's competent to stand trial for fatally stabbing her pilot husband Daniel. But we don't learn that for a while, as Cynthia concentrates first on describing her prison life: her job threading handles into mailbags; her sessions with a male prison psychiatrist; her exchanges with a crew of properly picturesque inmates--a wise Cuban, a tough Jew, a poetry-loving African-American, and a woman who dances with scarves. Slowly, amid dramas that include a suicide attempt and Cynthia's own nervous breakdown--leading to three weeks in isolation in ``the white room''--Cynthia's past seeps in: Child of an abusive dad and passive mom, she repeated her mother's mistake by marrying a white knight with tarnished armor. Daniel began smacking Cynthia soon after the marriage--abuse that escalated until she cut him as he slept: ``His skin needed the blade. I let him go. I survived.'' Cynthia survives again when, after she's found competent and is put on trial, she perjures herself by claiming that she killed Daniel as he choked her--a statement followed immediately by an expert witness's long explanation of why battered women stay with abusive men. The jury deliberates; justice triumphs. Cynthia and her plight ring true, but this is p.c. fiction- -polemic disguised as story--and, however compassionate and carefully drawn, about as subtle as Uncle Tom's Cabin.