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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: NO SAFE HOUSE, Linwood Barclay

"I did have high expectations. Perhaps that was the problem."


Seven years ago, Terry Archer and his family experienced a horrific ordeal that nearly cost them their lives. Today, the echoes of that fateful night are still audible. Terry's wife, Cynthia, is living separate from her husband and daughter after her own personal demons threatened to ruin her relationship with them permanently. Their daughter, Grace, is rebelling against her parents' seemingly needless overprotection. Terry is just trying to keep his family together. And the entire town is reeling from the senseless murder of two elderly locals.

But when Grace foolishly follows her delinquent boyfriend into a strange house, the Archers must do more than stay together. They must stay alive. Because now they have all been unwillingly drawn into the shadowy depths of their seemingly idyllic hometown.

For there, they will be reconnected with the man who saved their lives seven years ago, but who still remains a ruthless, unrepentant criminal. They will encounter killers for hire working all sides. And they will learn that there are some things people value much more than money, and will do anything to get it.

Caught in a labyrinth between family loyalty and ultimate betrayal, Terry must find a way to extricate his family from a lethal situation he still doesn't fully comprehend. All he knows is that to live, he may have to do the unthinkable....


Never having read a Linwood Barclay novel before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Given that No Time for Goodbye, to which No Safe House is a sequel, was a Sunday Times No.1 bestseller and best-selling paperback novel of 2008, I did have high expectations though.

Perhaps that was the problem.

I did enjoy No Safe House. But it didn’t obsess me, as can happen when I find a book I adore. Instead, I skipped through it merrily, having no real highlights, but then again, no complaints either. It’s fine. I’m just a little bemused by the massive explosion of accolades that were heaped onto its predecessor, if this book is anything to go by.

This sounds like complaining though, and ultimately No Safe House was a good read. The story got off to a fast-paced start and never looked back, rolling along really well. The plot was intricate, believable, and made perfect sense. I just wasn’t particularly invested in any of the characters, and wouldn’t elevate it above a great holiday read.

This could be partly because of the decision to tell the story in a mix of third and first person, which didn’t seem to be for any reason other than whim. Changing between the two forms felt awkward, like the crunching of gears in a car. Perhaps that, coupled with over-expectation, was what caused an issue with this perfectly decent book.

Overall, I have been left with this feeling: if I were to see a Linwood Barclay book on sale in a bookshop and I were searching for a good, fast read, I would definitely buy it. I wouldn’t, however, go into a bookshop with the express intention of buying the next Barclay novel. It’s a subtle distinction, but one worth making.


Orion, Hardcover £16.99, Paperback £7.99, ebook £7.99. ON SALE FROM 25 SEPTEMBER

No Safe House cover.jpg

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