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The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Emily Proudman is a struggling actor in London, whose life is falling apart. When she is offered a job as a live-in assistant for a family on a remote French estate, she jumps at the chance to start over.

But her charismatic new employers are hiding dangerous secrets, and what at first appears to be a dream come true morphs into a prison from which none of them will ever escape. Can Emily find a way to set them all free?

The Safe Place is the debut of author Anna Downes, who found herself in the grip of post-natal depression and turned to writing to help her gain some control. It's a good read; easy to read and a good escape from reality. But for me there were two elements that let it down.

The plot was too predictable, meaning it didn't really satisfy the 'thriller' the book is marketed as. Don't get me wrong - it has twists and turns, but they're obvious and don't leave you frantically turning pages or with your heart in your mouth.

With that, the characters were too flat and cliche. Emily annoyed me from the very first page with her flakiness. While I get that it was part of her character to allow her boss, Scott Denny, to manipulate her, it irritated me. Speaking of Scott, the backstory around him and his wife Nina had the potential to really add something to the plot, but was never fully realised. The minor love story between Scott and Emily falls under the same category.

Having said that, The Safe Place is still a decent story and Downes has a lot of potential. She is brilliant at world-building and setting. The French estate, Querencia, does feel dreamy. Downes has a knack for describing all the settings in a wonderfully atmospheric way, placing the reader right there.

While The Safe Place didn't quite tick all the boxes, it's an easy read in this tumultuous world we're living, making it a great one to escape to over a weekend.

Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

Affirm Press, RRP $32.99


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