In Safe Hands is the first of a new detective series following DCI Anna Tate and her team. Warning – this review actively contains some (not all) spoilers. Mostly to do with the fate of the children.
The premise of the story is incredibly promising: 9 infants are dropped off at nursery one morning, but are then abducted by several people and are held to a huge ransom at an unknown location. If the ransom is not paid, it goes up by each day and a child will die.
Sounds good, right? Well, it is. But the disappointing thing is that it’s not great – and it could have been.
The writing in In Safe Hands is pretty hit or miss as each chapter goes by. There are parts that are a bit too cringe-worthy or unbelievable that it pushed the whole novel down to ‘reads like a debut novel’ status. Which is surprising, because this is not a debut author. It’s an experienced author using a pseudonym. Some of the dialogue used between both police colleagues and the parents of the children involved sounded rather forced at times. It just brought me out of the world a fair bit. But the dialogue of the kidnappers in the communications to the police/media was fairly spot-on. I genuinely believed that that’s how they might talk.
“The video from the kidnappers was beyond evil and it had a profound effect on her and everyone else.”
The book was written using short, sharp chapters that really helped move the book along, and switch between our two narrators; DCI Anna Tate and Ruth –one of the parents of one of the missing children. I’m really glad for the short chapters because I personally found that some of the plot-points dragged a little bit. However for the most part, the plot is fairly fast-paced and you get to ‘get on with things’ quite quickly.
I felt like some of the police work was glossed over too. I wanted more situational drama, not personal drama, which is what I got.
It’s a shame, therefore, that there are some blindingly obvious clues as to who some of the kidnappers are in the beginning of the book. All any decent detective – or even beat cop- worth their salt would have to do is notice the tension and inconsistent behaviour of some of the parents to know that something is up, and from there all they’d have to do is look a little bit deeper – just beneath the surface really, not even that deep – to figure things out. It’s just frustrating that the cops don’t pick up on this, especially the supposedly brilliant DCI Tate.
“There was resounding silence as the parents contemplated Tasha’s fate and the kidnappers brutality.”
Speaking of DCI Tate, I felt that her backstory was too much at points. I just wanted to shout ‘Stop! Focus on one major storyline and do that well, rather than having two mediocre ones!’ But I can see why it was put in, as the backstory will continue throughout the series.
Some of the characters I just couldn’t like– at all, and notin a ‘we’re not supposed to like them’ kind of way. In a ‘you are poorly written’ kind of way. This was another contributing factor to In Safe Hands feeling a bit like a debut novel.
Personally, In Safe Hands wasn’t hard hitting enough for me. SPOILER – in my mind, if a story has 9 children as hostages, and the story only takes place over about 4 days and the kidnappers have said children will die each day the ransom isn’t paid I expect at least 2 kids to die. I did not want the ‘happy ending’ that we got.
I thought it was a cop-out. However I appreciate that this might not have been that kind of book, it might be ‘soft’ crime. But I just expected more: more death, more horror, more feeling. I couldn’t really empathise with the parents and no, it’s not because I’m not one – I just didn’t feel much emotion from them. Probably because we don’t get a lot of time with them, except for 2 and a half of them.
But putting my bloodlust aside, In Safe Hands is by no means a bad book, it’s just not quite what I expected or wanted. It’s not a bad story, if you’re after a quick read of a soft-crime style, this is for you. It definitely feels like a ‘holiday’ read or something for a commute, where dipping in and out is ideal and it doesn’t take too much brain power, but it’s a promising start to a new series. I’ll likely continue with it, but I’ll lower my expectations for body counts and grit.
“Sarah howled in pain and staggered sideways, clutching her cheek.”
Thanks to Avon for partnering with me and for providing and advanced copy for review.
How far would you go to save the ones you love?
The first book in a gripping new crime seriesfeaturing DCI Anna Tate.
When nine children are snatched from a nursery school in South London, their distressed parents have no idea if they will ever see them again. The community in the surrounding area in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.
But DCI Anna Tate knows that nothing is impossible, and she also knows that time is quickly running out. It’s unclear if the kidnappers are desperate for money or set on revenge, but the ransom is going up by £1million daily. And they know that one little boy in particular isfighting for his life.
It’s one of the most disturbing cases DCI Anna Tate has ever worked on – not only because nine children are being held hostage, but because she’s pretty sure that someone close to them is lying…
J P Carter is the pseudonym of a bestselling author who has also written sixteen books under the names Jaime and James Raven. Before becoming a full time writer he spent a career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and television producer. He was for a number of years director of a major UK news division and until recently co-owned a TV production company. For a while he was also a part-time professional magician. He’s married and divides his time now between homes in Hampshire and Spain.
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review. I did receive a copy in exchange for a review, but this did not have any effect on my review – all the opinions are honest and my own.
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