Newest Review: ... but as much as anything she is making the move to take her away from memories, to try to further her relationship with her young dau... more
Not a very safe house...
The Safe House - Nicci French
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Safe House - Nicci French
Advantages: You are kept hooked until the end
Disadvantages: The ending is slightly disappointing
I have read four books by Nicci French now, all of which I have enjoyed, although with varying degrees of enjoyment. I read this book immediately after having read another of her books, The Red Room and I think I would have benefited from giving Nicci French a rest before embarking on The Safe House. Nevertheless, I couldn't put it down and managed to whip through it in about three hours.
Nicci French is a pseudonym for a journalist and her journalist husband, Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Both have degrees in English Literature from Oxford University. They have worked for a number of newspapers and magazines between them, including the Observer, The New Statesman and The Sunday Times.
This book is about a doctor specialising in post-traumatic stress disorder, Samantha Laschen, who moves to the country with her small daughter Elsie, to escape the trials and tribulations of London. She has a job at the local hospital heading up a new trauma unit, due to begin in a few months, but is planning to take life easy, spend time with her daughter and write a book. Their tranquil life is interspersed with visits from Samantha's boyfriend in London, Danny, with whom she has an on/off relationship.
The tranquillity ends when Samantha is asked to provide a home (the safe house in the title) for a disturbed teenager, Finn, whose parents were brutally murdered while she was at home. Finn herself was stabbed. Samantha is unwilling at first, but finds it hard to say no. Finn arrives, clearly struggles for a couple of weeks and refuses to go to her parents' funeral, but grows slowly stronger thanks to Sam and Elsie, who grow to love and accept her. This cosy situation ends rather suddenly when Samantha finds a note from Finn and Danny, saying that they had fallen in love, couldn't live without one another and have run away to be together. They are later found shot in a burnt out car with a letter nearby claiming that they couldn't bear the pain they have caused Samantha and so have ended their lives.
But is it all that it seems? Without wanting to give away the storyline, this is only the beginning of the story and it does carry on at quite a frenetic rate until the end.
The portrayal of Samantha is excellent, as are descriptions of her relationship with her daughter and boyfriend. Although she is taken aback by the betrayal of Finn and Danny, she did have some doubts about their relationship beforehand, which does keep you interested. Other characters are sensitively portrayed, although kept vaguer, which is of course for a reason. Descriptions of the experiences trauma victims have could have been stronger, but nevertheless were effective enough. Finn's pain does come across, although is not dwelled on too much, again, as it happens, for a reason.
I would recommend any fans of crime fiction, especially authors such as Val McDermid and Minette Walters, to read this book. Nicci French is excellent at creating an atmosphere of foreboding. There is also a promise all the way through that something more is going to happen, that things are not as smooth and finished as they appear to be. This kept me gripped until the last few pages. Without a doubt, the book draws you in and makes you look over your shoulder.
At the same time, I do have a couple of niggles. One is that the story, for me, wasn't quite finished off, and there was no clear explanation of why the perpetrators did what they did. This may not be a niggle for everyone, I admit, some may like to be kept hanging in the air, but I like to have all my t's crossed and my i's dotted. This helps to keep a book more memorable for me, and as I read so much crime fiction, I can see that I will forget about this book quite quickly. The Red Room also had a similar problem.
My second niggle, again one that is repeated in The Red Room, is that the police are made out to be totally useless and that only the interference of Samantha leads to the (almost) successful completion of the case. As a criminologist, I am well aware that the police do not manage to solve a huge number of crimes and that those in the papers tend to be the handful that are solved. However, I find it hard to believe that hunches by a member of the public would be so accurate and indeed even taken on board by the police. Then again, without this, the story wouldn't have worked, so don't let this put you off reading the book.
The book is available from Amazon for £5.49 published by Penguin Books Ltd. 400 pages. ISBN: 0140270361
This review has been posted on other sites under the same login name.
Summary: Gripping reading for fans of crime fiction