Review: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4.5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.

Superbly tense and oozing with atmosphere, Anna Downs’s debut is the perfect summer suspense, with the modern gothic feel of Ruth Ware and the morally complex family dynamics of Lisa Jewell.

Welcome to paradise…will you ever be able to leave?

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My Thoughts:

Anna Downes debut novel The Safe Place will surely place her safely amongst the rising stars of mystery-thriller authors.

This very suspense mystery is set in the U.K. and in France, and it is narrated by both Emily Proudman and Scott Denny.  Emily is an interesting character.  She is a white-hot mess.  Even as an adult, she behaves like a petulant child having a tantrum when she bothers to contact her adoptive parents.  There is something in Emily’s past, and neither Emily nor the reader ever gets a full view to the dark, repressed childhood trauma.  It is clear that she is desperately seeking approval and acceptance.

Her employer Scott Denny and his wife, Nina, are creepy.  There is something off or “not quite right” with each of them, and together they are the “power couple” of crazy.  These characters add greatly to the story’s foreboding. The entire book, I questioned Scott’s complicity and motivation.  Like Emily, I questioned the rumors surrounding Nina and Scott’s relationship.  At first, Nina seemed lovely if not lonely and forgotten by her too-busy husband.  But looks can be deceiving! Nina remains a little more mysterious since the reader never gets her POV, but Scott’s unreliability as a narrator makes him easily as difficult to know.

Ms. Downes is a good storyteller.  Overall the plot is well paced.  The story is believable.  There are clues to the mystery sprinkled throughout the story (that I caught in hindsight).  The characters are interesting and compelling in an odd way.  The mystery wasn’t what I initially anticipated, and the ending was quite different that I had expected.  There is just enough justice and closure to be satisfying even though I didn’t feel that Emily or I got her full story.


About the Author: ANNA DOWNES was born and raised in Sheffield, UK, but now lives just north of Sydney, Australia with her husband and two children. She worked as an actress before turning her attention to writing. She was shortlisted for the Sydney Writers Room Short Story Prize (2017) and longlisted for the Margaret River Short Story Competition (2018).
The Safe Place was inspired by Anna’s experiences working as a live-in housekeeper on a remote French estate in 2009-10.


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