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** My thanks to Abby at Knopf Publicity for my copy of this book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

In this gripping new work of suspense from the author of The Double Game, a young woman discovers a nefarious truth at the heart of the CIA’s operations in postwar Berlin and goes on the run for her life; years later she’s gruesomely murdered along with her husband, and her daughter begins to chase down these startling secrets from her past.

West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA’s network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen’s world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sight lines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.

My Thoughts & Review:

I love a book with a setting in the Cold War, I find it fascinating and something about the espionage and trickery that’s woven into stories set around this time are irresistible, so when I saw the description of this book I knew that I had to read it.

Upon starting this book I immediately took to Helen Abell, a young woman working in a male dominated field with the CIA in Germany.  The difficulties that she faced making her more determined and strong-willed to succeed and prove her worth.  Her superior, unhappy with having a female working in that position makes it all too clear to her repeatedly, belittling her and commenting negatively on anything she does.
Part of Helen’s role with the CIA is keeper of four safe houses which are used by their agents for various clandestine meetings, and in the course of her work she happens to overhear a conversation that sets in motion a chain of events that change her life.  Not realising the importance of what she has heard, and recorded in the safe house, Helen takes it upon herself to investigate.  But if this wasn’t enough, she later overhears something that shocks her to her very core and leaves her strongly in the sights of a very dangerous man.

Running parallel to this is another strand to the plot, the timeline this time being 2014 and featuring Anna who enlists the help of a neighbour of her parents to help her get to the bottom recent events, namely the death of her parents at the hand of her brother.    Unfortunately for Anna it seems that there is more to Henry than meets the eye, having spent time working with various departments of the acronymically named services of America.  The lessons of the past having far reaching ramifications for Anna and Henry as they try to untangle the clues to piece together the truth.

I did find the 1979 storyline the more intriguing one, but I think that’s more a personal thing than anything to do with the book.  Certainly, the action between the two timelines was wonderfully offset and where one would reach a crescendo the other would compliment it perfectly by being rife with intrigue and mystery.

Some of the characters are immediately unlikable, their actions are incredibly questionable and make the reader squirm with discomfort, but on the other hand there are characters like Helen and Anna who you cannot help but feel for.  But on the whole, they are all very well created and multidimensional, the various personalities coming to life through the great writing.
The plotting is tight and keeps readers hooked to find out what will happen next, the dialogue feels realistic and this makes for a gripping read.

A highly recommended espionage thriller!

You can buy a copy of Safe Houses via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones
Amazon.com
Book Depository

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