The Safe Place by LA Larkin was a little slow to lure me in but before I knew it I was hooked. Larkin offers two strong female leads – both likeable and complex but very different women in very different places in their lives.
The Safe Place
by L.A. Larkin
Published by Bookouture
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Everyone in Eagle Falls knows Jessie Lewis. Ever since she reported her boyfriend, fire chief and local hero, for beating her, she’s been an outcast from the small town. But when someone sets fire to a house in the woods, killing the entire Troyer family in their beds, the locals turn on her once again. And when rumors circulate about her very public argument with Paul Troyer, they take it as proof that she killed them.
Devastated that anyone could think her capable of such an atrocity, Jessie knows that if people don’t believe she’s innocent, more lives will be in danger. She turns to Ruth: new in town, and an ex-FBI agent, Ruth could be the exact person Jessie needs to smoke out the killer. But can she trust her with her life?
Days later, another house linked to Jessie is set ablaze. Falling to her knees in the scorched remains, Jessie finds something buried in the ash which she immediately recognizes. The murders must be linked to the death of someone very close to her, and, terrified, she realizes the killer is coming for her…
As local wildfires take hold of Eagle Falls and the town is evacuated, Jessie drives at high speed toward the fires, knowing she must put herself in unthinkable danger in order to catch the killer. When she finally faces the person who wants her dead, will she have the strength to take them down first?
I liked Ruth from the moment we meet her as she’s struggling to fit into her husband’s hometown. We learn she’s recently retired from the FBI though only forty years old and it’s a while before we learn more about the turning point for her departure from law enforcement.
Jessie is a tad prickly. I obviously hadn’t read the backcover blurb before starting so didn’t understand the references to her credibility or the cause of her obsessiveness until we discover exactly why she’s been ostracised by the town. We readers are (of course) privy to the truth and know she’s been treated unfairly but left to wonder if it’s that her ex partner has the town dazzled by his hero status and outgoing personality or if there’s some more sinister or conspiratorial reason Jessie didn’t receive the support she should have from the police and local authorities.
There’s initially no obvious link between the fires that kill a local family (then another couple) and Jessie. But (given her reputation) when she becomes inadvertently involved AND has links to both sets of victims, she becomes the key suspect.
Jessie is very obviously railroaded here and again Larkin leaves it up to readers to decide if the sheriff and his offsider really do believe her to be guilty – and she really doesn’t do herself any favours in terms of her actions – or if there’s something else behind it all and they’re part of the cover up.
I thought this book was going focus on a he-said / she-said scenario and was pleasantly surprised by the turn it takes, bumping this to a 4-star read.
It’s set amidst a backdrop of bush or forest fires (one of several similarly-themed books I’ve read in a row) though Larkin draws on something deeper… the symbolism of fire being used to punish and cleanse.
Ultimately this was a satisfying read with a lot of surprises thrown in – many of which I did not see coming.
The Safe Place by LA Larkin will be published by Bookouture and available from 9 November 2021.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.