Published today One More Chance is an assured first novel by Oxford writer Lucy Ayrton.

Set in Holloway’s Women’s Prison, it focuses on Dani, a woman who wants more than anything to reunite with her baby daughter who has been taken away from her.

An addict and frequent offender, with a troubled family life behind her, at 23 Dani is serving her tenth sentence, this time for possession of heroin and intent to supply.

Estranged from her own mother and with her daughter Bethany growing up in foster care, Dani is desperate to be free and reunited with the youngster.

But Dani can’t stay out of trouble and her hopes of an early release and having the strength of character not to offend again are slim. Then she gets a new cell mate: Scottish Martha is quiet and unassuming... and she can also facilitate visions and cast spells.

Against her better judgement Dani helps Martha when she’s picked on by Chris, a serial killer, with nothing to lose in her subsequent campaign to get even with the pair. So when Martha suggests an escape bid to Dani, she goes for it.

The mystical aspect of the book stretches credulity but the brutal account of prison life, the ways that people cope with imprisonment and the alliances they form is fascinating.

Ayrton is communications manager of a prisons charity, and much of One More Chance is informed by the people she has met and the time she has spent in prisons, especially on the mother and baby unit. Chapters begin with extracts from reports or regulations relating to prisoners – which are enlightening and sobering. From them we learn facts like “only five per cent of children stay in their own homes after mother’s imprisonment”.

As the book develops and flashbacks fill in the background to Dani’s descent into addiction and crime, you can’t help but root for her and hope she gets that one more chance.

One More Chance by Lucy Ayrton, £14.99 paperback, ibook £4.99