The Safe House by Cameron Ward

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The Safe House by Cameron Ward

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A nail-biting story set in the raging fires in the outback. You'll feel the menace right from the start and it doesn't let up.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: September 2023
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1405951685

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Jess Walker accepted an offer (OK, actually she was gently nudged into it by her friend, Rupert) to caretake a luxury property in the Australian outback for a couple of months. After the problems she'd had at work, it seemed like just the break she needed. She was no longer a data analyst for the Metropolitan police in London: she was Jess who was returning to the country of her birth and in need of the space to get over the traumatic end of her relationship with Charles. A few weeks in the Otway Ranges in Victoria sounded like just the ticket.

I first encountered Cameron Ward's writing when I read A Stranger on Board. If anything, it's better than The Safe House, but there are similarities between the plots. The lead characters are both 'damaged' women, taking on something outside their comfort zones, almost as a form of therapy. In both cases, we know that - whatever else happens - it's not going to end well. The problems start with the injured man who's struggling on the outside of the property boundary. She's not meant to bring anyone else onto the property - but can she leave him where he is?

No - she can't. Nor can she deny safety to the couple (warring couple would probably be more accurate...) whose campervan has broken down. Although the bush fires in the area are still some distance away it would only take a change of wind direction for that to change. There are fire breaks on the property but this fire is ferocious and could easily jump the breaks. Then there's the ranger, the two drug addicts and the man who has been hiding in the shack on the property. When the telephone line fails, the seven people on the property are cut off.

Jess also has to reassess why she's looking after the property. It belongs to Bill Drummond Willoughby who made his money in diamonds. Bill has disappeared and the courts are still debating as to whether or not there should be a warrant to search the house. And that's before we even start to think about the vault in the basement that everyone seems so interested in...

The tension ramps up right from the start. Unfortunately, I made a connection early on which told me who I should be watching. It didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book as there were enough twists and turns to ensure that I was never completely certain that I was right. It was a good read and I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

For another thriller from the Australian bush, we can recommend The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean. For a thriller set in London with similar themes, we can recommend Access Point by T R Gabbay.

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