Told from the perspective of Charlie in the present day, and Steffi in flashback, Safe House is a cautionary tale of coercive control by a manipulative but seemingly charming man. Steffi has just come out of prison and has changed her identity to escape persecution. She has been vilified by the press and received hate mail. She just wants to make a clean break and get on with her life. She heads to Cornwall, but underestimates how difficult it is to hide in a small community.
Scattered through the narrative are the anonymous thoughts of someone hellbent on trying to locate Charlie. This racks up the tension as we try to figure out their identity and their intentions. In the past she seemed gullible, naïve and trusting, but has wised up since her spell behind bars. We could see what Steffi could not – just how creepy and controlling Lee was.
The story is well written with dark humour to offset the feeling of foreboding. Cornwall is beautifully described, the people she meets in the village are well rounded and believable, especially Aubrey. It is interesting that, although she goes there intending to keep to herself, she can’t curb her instinct to help others, and this is what saves her.
There is an unexpected twist near the end that really took me by surprise. The dramatic ending in the middle of the storm will have you on the edge of your seat; I just had to keep reading to find out what happened. I had not read her previous novel but will now definitely add Sticks and Stones to my list. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.