Review: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Title: The Safe Place by Anna Downes
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Domestic Mystery, Suspense
Length: 354 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


Superbly tense and oozing with atmosphere, Anna Downes’s debut, The Safe Place, is the perfect summer suspense, with the modern gothic feel of Ruth Ware and the morally complex family dynamics of Lisa Jewell.

Welcome to paradise…will you ever be able to leave?

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.


The Safe Place by Anna Downes is an atmospheric domestic mystery.

Emily Proudman is struggling to financially as she pursues an acting career.  And after she is let go from her latest temping job, her situation becomes dire. Unable to turn to her parents for help again, Emily is surprised then grateful when her former boss reaches out to her. Scott Denny offers Emily a lucrative position helping his wife Nina and their daughter Aurelia on their isolated estate in France. Emily is beyond impressed upon her arrival, but is there more to Nina’s need for seclusion than her daughter’s fragile health?

Emily is somewhat naive, flighty and gullible which makes her perfect person for Scott to offer her a position staying with Nina. She does not ask too many questions and she accepts his explanations at face value. And anyway, with the exorbitant salary he is offering her, Emily  does not really want to know anything beyond what he has told her. Amazed at how beautiful the estate is, Emily at first just goes along with whatever Nina tells her about Aurelia. Despite her growing curiosity, she keeps her head down as she goes about her work. But Emily soon realizes not everything about Aurelia adds up. But does Emily want to jeopardize her position by giving voice to her questions?

The narration smoothly switches between Emily, Scott and occasionally Nina’s points of view. The glimpses into Scott’s life and thoughts offer intriguing details that do not exactly jibe with his successful business.  Why is he so reluctant to visit his wife and daughter? And what is driving some of his unorthodox coping mechanisms? Nina’s narration is sometimes vague yet ultimately, these revelations are quite illuminating. She is clearly troubled but, in the aftermath of tragedy, her behavior becomes even more risky as she makes impulsive choices. Emily is surprisingly insightful considering how out of control her life is. She also easily relates to some Aurelia’s reactions and before long, she is questioning exactly what is behind the young girl’s unexpected responses. Emily is also becoming very uneasy around Nina due to her strange and sometimes erratic behavior. But just as Emily is putting the pieces of the puzzle together, will it be too late for her to do anything about what she is starting to suspect?

The Safe Place is a fast-paced debut with an intriguing premise and unique characters. Emily is a likable young woman who grows from her unexpected experiences with the Denny family.   Scott and Nina’s happiness is very precarious and in the face of tragedy, their life is shattered.  With events snowballing ever out of control, will Scott’s inability to react result with another shocking decision? Anna Downes brings this clever mystery to a mostly satisfying conclusion. Fans of the genre are sure to enjoy this suspenseful domestic mystery.

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Filed under Anna Downes, Contemporary, Domestic Mystery, Minotaur Books, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Safe Place

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