No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

In brief: Cynthia Archer has been through some awful things in her life. So when her daughter goes on a date with a local boy, she’s prepared for trouble. But not this kind of trouble – guns, murder, kidnapping and drugs. Can the family make it through this unscathed?

The good: Certainly action packed and I liked how English teacher Terry (Cynthia’s husband) was the hero, showing the strength of family.

The not-so-good: Initially, I was a bit confused as to who Reggie was in the alternate chapters. It’s not a thing to worry about – you won’t forget when Reggie steps into Terry’s narrative.

Why I chose it: From the lovely people at Hachette Australia and The Reading Room – thanks for putting Linwood Barclay on my radar.

Year: 2014

Pages: 527 (ARC)

Publisher: Hachette (Orion Books)

Setting: Milford, Connecticut, USA

My rating: 8 out of 10

No Safe House is the sequel to No Time for Goodbye, which was a bestseller in 2008. I must have been hiding under a rock with no internet at the time, because I missed out on reading this thriller based on Cynthia and the loss of her family. I’m lucky in that I get to meet her in the sequel, No Safe House, which I read happily as a stand-alone. While you get some background as what happened to Cynthia as she found out the truth about her family, the whodunit aspects are cleverly masked so you can read the original book and still be surprised.

Cynthia returns in this book with her teenage daughter, Grace, making trouble. It’s the usual teenage stuff but Cynthia is super-controlling due to her past. When an incident takes Cynthia to breaking point, she moves out of home to stay at a friend’s apartment. Little does she know that she’s going to be taking a backseat in another wild ride that will threaten the family. The action is mainly told from Terry’s viewpoint (Cynthia’s husband) as a date with Stuart, a wild boy, goes horribly wrong for Grace. Breaking into a house for a joyride appears to have had deadly consequences and Grace turns to her father. Terry’s immediate reaction is to protect Grace, but in doing so, comes into contact with Vince (who just happened to have saved Terry and Cynthia in the previous book). Vince is a shady character and covering Grace sucks the entire family into a world of guns, money and hidden goods across the town of Milford. Meanwhile, another group led by the mysterious Reggie wants something Vince has and will go to any lengths to get it. Can the family make it through another ordeal?

It’s amazing the book takes place over only a few days – in fact, most of the writing is in the first 48 hours as the crime is set up and the revealed slowly. What exactly happened to Grace and Stuart in the house? Is Grace a murderer or just unlucky? Terry is the unlikely hero as he thinks up ways to protect Grace and in doing so, becomes involved with Vince’s underworld dealings and a man he really doesn’t like. The occasional chapters about Reggie took me a while to warm to as they initially don’t seem to have any link to what’s going on with the Archers. When Reggie does show up in the main narrative though, the reader knows there’s going to be Big Trouble. We are also introduced to the character of Jane (she may have appeared in the first book, I’m not sure) – she was my favourite. She’s spunky, spiky and doesn’t take any lip. She could have her own series, she’s that street savvy and smart. Vince was another one that grew on me – he’s a gangster with a heart buried deep inside and has trouble expressing his feelings, something that Jane didn’t realise. He still had the ability to act in cold blood, which made him quite unpredictable and much better for the plot.

Cynthia – well, obviously she’s been through a lot, but I didn’t really warm to her. She’s overbearing one minute, then coolly breaking the law the next. Grace is a teenager with attitude who reverts into a little girl after her alleged crime. She’s got a bit of a mouth on her and seemed quite immature underneath. Terry’s got a lot of guts for a mild-mannered teacher. His devotion to his family is admirable, some of his actions stupid but never boring. The same can be said for the plot. Don’t expect flowery detail of the town, just action and a plot with a number of hairpin bends. While the final reveal was a little underwhelming, it was a wild ride that I enjoyed. You’ll never give anyone a house key without serious thought again.

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