Hi Reader! Welcome to February, the home of lighter mornings, lighter nights and a bit more sunshine, hurrah!
Throughout January I managed to read 7 books in total which I think is pretty much a record for me, so I’m well on my way to my 30 book challenge for 2021! I was fortunate to read a whole of host of solid books of different genres. I had many proof copies and books soon to be published (which I always love receiving!). The next one is one of those books.
SAFE AND SOUND BY PHILIPPA EAST
So when the very wonderful people at HQ Stories Publishers (an imprint of Harper Collins) said they’d like to send me this new psychological thriller I was so super excited for it to arrive! You may be like ‘So Em, let’s talk about that Christmas Tree’.. I assure you its not still up (kind of wish it was though haha)! This book arrived when the halls were still decked and we were singing ‘falalalala’ (ok we weren’t but im painting a scene for you ;)).
“In a small London bedsit, a radio is playing. A small dining table is set for three, and curled up on the sofa is a body…
Jenn is the one who discovers the woman, along with the bailiffs. All indications suggest that the tenant – Sarah Jones – was pretty, charismatic, full of life.
So how is it possible that her body has lain undiscovered for ten whole months?”
If I had to pick a genre to read for the rest of my life, (ok lets pick two genres thats too hard) then one of those genres would be a thriller. I’ve always loved the suspense thrillers create, the game you feel like you’re playing with the author, playing reader detective trying to pick up clues. I grew up reading old battered copies of Nancy Drew and I think the love of puzzle solving in the pages has grown with me!
The story opens with Jenn, a Housing association officer and mother of one in Brixton, London. From the opening chapter, you feel Jenn through the pages and it is honestly rather unpleasant so I’ll pop in a trigger warning here. Jenn is anxious – about her child’s health, about her job, about her appearance about her responsibilities, about everything. Her mind is very scattered, awkward, tense and as a reader immersing herself in her character it’s easy to feel, well, uneasy. In the opening chapter Jenn visits Flat 16, Munroe house, the flat where the radio plays non-stop and the tenant doesn’t pay her bills. Its then that they find the body.
At first glance, this is a locked door murder mystery. There is tea laid out for three, a healthy woman in her prime, a phone with no contacts listed, a locked door and a shut window. However this story isn’t about to be passed over to no police officer – oh no. Jenn believes this to be entirely her fault and she’s determined to find out what happened.
In the following chapters we follow Jenn through a psychological spiral, as she juggles a professional and personal crisis alongside single motherhood. You can feel that the deeper Jenn goes the more she suffers mentally. You cannot help but feel compassion for Jenn, the burden and the responsibility she feels to this tenant, the racing thoughts and the feeling of dread that she has to fix this and what will happen to her and her child.
I won’t give away any more of the plot, for it’s a thriller after all! But this thriller is clever. It brings mental health to the forefront of the story, giving those who thankfully haven’t experienced anxiety and panic a glimse into that world – hopefully creating some more compassion and empathy for those that suffer with it in the real one. It focuses on dysfunctional families, relationships, surface level friendships and the image we portray to others about our lives. The story is like an onion, it has multiple layers, the author leaving tantalising clues of information, but nothing is too obvious. Theres a dual time line at play too, one with Jenn in the now, and a story in the past about Prin and Jane – which makes no sense for most of the book because those names aren’t in our story. Or are they..
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5
I couldn’t put this book down and was really impressed by the author. Usually in a thriller there’s a plot hole where I think ‘hm you’ve jumped to a conclusion to fit a narrative there’ but with this book the author covered all bases. First thing we’d think is about the smell, right? How do neighbours not notice the smell of a rotting corpse? The author has that and many similar things covered.
It’s a really clever puzzle like book where we don’t quite know if we can trust the characters – those are the books I really enjoy. Whats more, the ending of the story is like the answer to a riddle.
I think its super important also to note the emotional elements of this book that are brought forward as they are the main key points of the narrative. It’s a thriller yes, but it’s an emotional one. These are done with care and compassion – yet in case you missed it above – trigger warning for anyone that does suffer with anxiety, I do think the writing and Jenn may be a bit too intense at some stages. If you do suffer, perhaps try an e-book sample first to see if it’s for you and if you think you will be ok.
The only reason for me knocking this a star is because some of our side character’s actions didn’t make sense or ring true to me. For example there’s a guy that keeps coming back to help Jenn and whilst he could be super compassionate, I just don’t think people stick around and take that much shit from someone in real life. Or maybe that’s just me.
Where to buy:
Waterstones (or your local bookseller!): £7.99 in paperback.
Preorder now! Published 18th February 2021. Big thanks to the lovely people at HQ Stories for sending me this gem. All reviews and thoughts are entirely my own and completely honest.
WASHED DOWN WITH:
I have been gulping down Teapigs loose leaf English Breakfast Tea of late after finding it discounted 25% in Waitrose. I first discovered I liked this tea when I joined teapigs for their tea school (read my experience here) and thought ‘ey up this is special!’.
I’ve been using my new favourite loose leaf brew mug from Tealyra and enjoying a cup most mornings. It’s not your usual breakfast tea, I must say! It is very strong, very fragrant and I would describe it a little smokey. It’s a blend of three different types of tea and I think it’s the Rawandan that gives it the punch. If you’re a dishwater and three sugars kind of tea drinker I’d say maybe give this a hard pass as you want to taste the flavour! However the beauty of loose leaf is of course that you can add as little or as much as you like. You can also get this in teabag form if you’re not a loose leaf fan (called ‘everyday brew’). Just click here for pricing and distribution.
Well lovely reader, it’s time for me to get back to my books. Pretty excited to tell you that the next two blog posts will also be brand new releases.. mid-Feb seems to be a pretty hot date in the calendar for publication this year!
Are thrillers your thing? If so what’s youre favourite kind? Murder mystery, psychological, action, crime? Comment below!
Until the Next Chapter,