4 stars out of 5
It's rare that a book described as a "psychological thriller" really blows my mind - but this one screwed it up big-time. In fact, it's downright creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky from start to finish. That's even more astonishing given that not a single character is truly likable.
Therein is the psychological appeal; every character is flawed - demented, even; to what extent is revealed only as layers of the good, the bad and the ugly are peeled away when chapters shift from present to past and from character to character. Admittedly, that can be a little hard to follow; in fact, when I first started, my reaction was, "Oh no - not another one where I not only have to keep a bundle of names and relationships straight in my head but also the time period." But in very short order, the author's expert crafting of the story made that much easier (and no doubt it helped that reading as fast as I could because I couldn't wait to see what happened next meant I had little time to forget).
Anna, a U.K. postal carrier, lives alone in her family home and is struggling to overcome something awful that happened in her life 13 years earlier. One day, she watches in horror as an oncoming car hits a motorcyclist, causing him to be seriously injured and lose memories of his past. Anna is shocked at the scene, but she's downright horrified when she recognizes the driver of the car - it's Carla, the woman behind her years-ago trauma. As Anna comforts the cyclist, Liam, she formulates a plan to ingratiate herself with him and thereby ensure that Carla gets what should have been coming to her back then.
But as one might expect, best-laid plans don't always work out smoothly. Anna must deal with Liam's elderly, very protective grandmother (with whom he lives), juggling her mail delivery duties to give her enough time to spend with Liam and staying out of the prying eyes of a next-door neighbor who befriended her as a child. Then, of course, there's Carla; now known as Amanda, she meets with Liam to apologize for causing his accident and strikes up a relationship that threatens to drive Anna over the deep end.
It's a heck of a race to see the story as it evolves through the minds of all the characters - but saying much more would mean giving too much away. If I have any disappointment, it came with the ending; perhaps I missed something, but it seemed a bit confusing even though I read it twice (hence my rating of 4 stars rather than 5). That said, I admit saying "Wow" out loud when I reached the last page. It's an awesome debut novel I'm glad I didn't miss - so many thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for allowing me to read it in exchange for an honest review.
And for those of you who weren't in the room with me when I finished it, I'll say it again: WOW!
Safe with Me by K.L. Slater (Bookouture, November 2016); 376 pp.