Book Review

Safe House by Jo Jakeman


The morning after a great storm, a woman arrives in a remote Cornish village.

But Charlie, as she now calls herself, steers clear of the locals and keeps a low profile – because she has a terrible secret.

Recently released from prison after providing a false alibi for the man she loved, Charlie wants to move on and start afresh. But someone, somewhere, is watching her, determined that she will never get that second chance.

Jo Jakeman is an author whose work is new to me, but on the strength of Safe House, she is definitely an author that I will be revisiting. 

I think that thrillers often – not always – have a protagonist who is caught up in events outside of their control.  Maybe they’ve been targeted for some reason, perhaps they witnessed something that they shouldn’t have done, but whatever the scenario, they tend to be innocent, relatively speaking.  Safe House offers the reader something a little different in that Charlie (aka Steffi Finn) has recently been released from prison after providing a false alibi for her former boyfriend.  An alibi that resulted in a woman’s death.  We know that she is guilty of that much, and having served her time, she is now looking to make a fresh start under an assumed name in order to escape the press and public who are still baying for blood. 

Charlie – the name she chooses to live under – is a particularly interesting character due to that conviction, and I immediately wanted to know more, even as I struggled to sympathise with her at the outset of the novel.  Did she deliberately provide a false alibi?  Did she know what her boyfriend was up to?  This background is gradually revealed, and it soon becomes clear that it’s not as straightforward a case as either the police or the press would have you believe. I warmed to her as I understood more about her background, her relationship with Lee, and the circumstances that led her to providing that alibi.  She may not be wholly innocent, but she has served her time, and I felt that she deserved the fresh start that she seeks. 

Having been released from prison, she moves to a small coastal village in Cornwall, her solicitor having bought a house for her at auction. She intends to renovate the property, putting some of her newly learned skills into practise, although upon arrival there’s a sense that she has perhaps bitten off more than she can chew when she sees how dilapidated the property is.  Daunted but determined, she starts to turn this old building into a home.  Her new village of Penderrion – while beautiful and remote – isn’t the ideal place to hideaway, however, as Charlie is about to discover.  It’s a small community, and it’s not long before the locals begin to take an interest in her and her plans.  Against her judgement and intentions, she begins to make friends, albeit cautiously.  

It soon becomes clear that Charlie’s past hasn’t quite finished with her, however, and she becomes aware of small incidents which she tries to dismiss but she isn’t wholly convinced that there isn’t something more sinister going on. It makes for a tense read as Charlie attempts to pass it off as paranoia but becomes increasingly convinced that someone knows her secret.

Safe House is a brilliant thriller with an intriguing protagonist which also explores whether we can ever truly escape our pasts and whether those who serve their time are deserving of a second chance.  Recommended.

Safe House is published by Vintage and is available now in paperback, eBook, and audio formats.


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