Review: Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt

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SafeAsHousesSafe As Houses by Simone van der Vlugt (Canongate Books Ltd., 2013)

Blurb: A single mother stands in the garden of her isolated house, hanging out the washing, when suddenly a man appears. When he grabs at her, Lisa runs, but she is not quick enough. Suddenly Lisa and her young daughter find themselves held hostage in their own home. In the following hours and days, Lisa will do the unimaginable to protect her child—all the time wondering why the only witness has not come back to help her…
Simmering with tension and lust for revenge, 
Safe as Houses is a terrifying story of every woman’s worst fears.

 

Lisa is home alone with her young daughter, who is ill, when there’s a knock on the door. A man forces his way inside—and decides to stay awhile with his new “family.”

Senta is lost, and when she comes across a house, she stops to ask for directions. Nobody answers her knock, and when she walks around the house and looks in the window, she sees a woman, a child—and hiding in the corner, a man with a knife. Knowing she has to notify the authorities, Senta runs back to her car and drives away, only to crash her car into the nearby canal.

The setup is fantastic: it’s an intriguing premise with sympathetic characters and a lot of suspense. Unfortunately the book didn’t live up to its potential. Rather than feeling closer and more connected to the characters as the story progressed, I felt more and more distant. The book is written in the present tense, which can bring a sense of immediacy, but for me it just didn’t work in this particular instance. While I knew exactly what was happening to each of the characters, particularly Senta—a good part of her story takes place inside her own thoughts—I didn’t feel like I really got to know the characters or get a sense of what they were thinking and feeling because of the focus on the events rather than on their impact. It’s a psychological thriller that doesn’t quite get far enough into the psychology.

 

This book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

My rating: 3 stars

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