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Keep Her Safe


Keep Her Safe

For me, the top two authors working in the psychological thriller genre today are Sophie Hannah and Tana French. They are essential reading, and I cannot get enough of them.  Hannah is a favorite not only due to her taut, unpredictable and well-plotted thrillers, but also because she received the personal blessing of the Christie Foundation to continue the Hercule Poirot mystery series.

I am pleased to report that Hannah's latest release, KEEP HER SAFE, is another winner. It boasts all of the great elements of top-notch psychological thrillers as well as the expected --- or, in this case, unexpected --- plot twists that will have you jumping up and down while yelling at your book. This isn't too far from the truth, and hopefully anyone reading this review will grab the novel and find out for themselves.

What I think Hannah does best in her contemporary thrillers is come up with seemingly simple stories that suddenly turn into complex, multilayered works of art that tend to leave me beaming in appreciation. The setup here is easy to groove into slowly. A British woman, Cara Burrows, seems to be going through some sort of inner turmoil that has forced her to hit the pause button on her life so she can take some time away from everything and everyone to sort things out. This involves leaving her husband and two children, and flying far away to a five-star spa/resort located outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

"[KEEP HER SAFE] boasts all of the great elements of top-notch psychological thrillers as well as the expected --- or, in this case, unexpected --- plot twists that will have you jumping up and down while yelling at your book."

Cara believes that her escape is unexpected and that she left no trail behind her that could possibly be followed by her family and friends. She even sent separate messages to her husband and both children telling them she is okay and will return in two weeks. She then pays the guy who delivers her rental car to the airport to physically take her cell phone and not return it to her until she drops off the car in two weeks.

Unfortunately, the issues and problems Cara may have been running from are about to meet their match. Her arrival at the airport in Phoenix is somewhat surreal, and that doesn't come close to what awaits her with a middle-of-the-night check-in at the Swallowtail Resort and Spa. The check-in clerk, Riyonna, makes a critical error, giving Cara a key for a room that is already occupied. Since it’s the middle of the night, Cara enters the room and, failing to locate the wall switch, feels her way into the bathroom. When she sees bathing attire and other toiletries strewn about, it is evident that the room belongs to someone else.

That someone else turns out to be a middle-aged man and young teenage girl who Cara assumes to be his daughter. The man is very suspicious of the British woman in his bathroom and proceeds to interrogate her and rifle through her bags. When he realizes she is no threat, he allows her to leave, apologizing for the rude and abrupt way he treated her.  Cara receives a personal super suite for her troubles and finally begins to relax.

A strange occurrence at the front desk, again with Riyonna and an elderly guest, catches Cara's attention. Throughout the exchange, the old lady keeps swearing that she saw someone named Melody and will not let it go. Paying no mind, Cara goes on her way. Lounging by the poolside, she strikes up a conversation with a woman and her teenage daughter. When Cara shares what she witnessed, they indicate that the guest was referring to Melody Chapa. The name initially means nothing to Cara, so she does some online research. It turns out that Melody was at one time one of the most famous people in America, due to the fact that her parents murdered her when she was seven. When Cara looks more closely at the photos of Melody, she gets the feeling that this may have been the young woman she barged in on during her check-in mishap.

In lesser hands, this thriller could have become nothing more than an exploitative tale ripped from the supermarket tabloids. But Hannah is at the helm of KEEP HER SAFE, and things will get stranger and stranger, keeping the reader constantly off balance in anticipation of what is yet to come. Cara discovers one very eerie similarity between herself and Melody: each had a younger sister named Emory who died. Cara finds a bowl in a common area at the resort filled with comments and notes left by other guests. She lets her suspicion get the best of her and begins to read some of the notes, stopping abruptly when she unravels one that reads: "Cara Burrows --- is she safe?"

The first part of the novel ends with a very unexpected guest: Cara's husband Patrick, who has tracked her down. When she breaks away from him and runs off, she is accosted by a stranger who puts something over her mouth that puts her out. Part two begins with Cara now a kidnapping victim. Who might be behind this or why this happened are the questions that immediately come to mind. Additionally, Cara and Melody both having deceased siblings named Emory is an extremely odd and unlikely event. Has Hannah just taken her readers down the rabbit hole? Is Cara turning out to be an extremely unreliable narrator, or is there something else going on?

I will leave you right there, on the precipice of revelations that fill the pages throughout the final act of KEEP HER SAFE that easily make this one of the most memorable and accomplished psychological thrillers of the year.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 22, 2017

Keep Her Safe
by Sophie Hannah