2. Behind the Iron (Hank Fallon Series)

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Partially satisfied with Hank Fallon’s successful first mission, unscrupulous detective agency owner Sean MacGregor gives Fallon a slice of cherry pie for his second undercover operation. Young Marie Benton has been sentenced to the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City as an accessory to a bank robbery committed by the notorious Harper Gang, which was wiped out by a posse but the money, $42,927.32, was not found. Investigators believe that Benton might know where Jess Harper hid it since they were lovers. And it has turned out that Marie is pregnant.

So all Fallon has to do is be sentenced to the pen, get a job in the infirmary–which shouldn’t be hard considering all the bullet and knife wounds Fallon has had to treat during his time as a deputy marshal. Fallon does point out that going to Yuma undercover was one thing. Nobody knew Hank Fallon in Yuma. But Fallon has spent a number of years in Arkansas, Indian Territory and Missouri, and several men he put away are still serving time in the Missouri pen. Since Fallon is an ex-con himself, MacGregor points out, there’s no need in him pretending to be some other jailbird.

So in goes Hank Fallon, a deputy marshal-turned-convict, to be abused by convicts and guards alike. Eventually, though, Fallon does make it to the infirmary, where grumpy, half-in-the-bag Thaddeus Gripewater is the prison doctor. And Hank Fallon befriends Marie Benton. He doesn’t learn about where that stolen loot might be hidden, but he does learn just how corrupt the warden is at the pen.

Evelyn Allen, the matron of the women’s cell block, exchanges favors for money. Toughened convicts Kittie, Claire and Puckers are used as prostitutes–with the warden serving as the pimp. And the conditions at the prison are so horrible, the place has earned the reputation as being the bloodiest 47 acres in America. And it’s about to get bloodier.

Because the inmates, including a few former members of the Harper gang, and two who want Hank Fallon dead because he put them in this hellhole, are about to riot. And caught in the middle, between angry guards who belong locked up and killers in prison with nothing left to lose are Hank Fallon, a pregnant young girl, three hardened women and a drunken sawbones . . .

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