The first thing that fans of Sophie Hannah may want to ask is whether Keep Her Safe follows in the author’s tradition of intelligent, often witty, page-turning psychological thrillers. The answer is, of course, yes—the author has perfected a formula for success that continues unabated with her newest book.
Hannah is a big Agatha Christie enthusiast who has extensively researched that author’s works and even penned two novels of homage to the famed Hercule Poirot. She has said that she tends to follow in Christie’s psychological footsteps: "She always started with, 'How can this thing be happening, isn't it strange?'” This is Hannah’s M.O. as well, and the puzzle in her latest story starts from something off-kilter.
Cara, an Englishwoman, books a stay in a five-star American spa as a way to temporarily escape her family and come to terms with issues that are driving her apart from her husband—her unborn child, for one thing.
While in the exotic, albeit weird, luxury of her surroundings, she sees something that surely is impossible that harkens back to a notorious 2010 crime that was the focus of the American media: when youngster Melody Chapa was abducted and murdered, and her body was never found.
If Cara’s right, then she's just seen Melody, now seven years older and living under a new identity, alive and well at the very spa where Cara’s staying. Cara tries to discover the truth, but as she researches the history of the famous crime and finds herself at the center of a very American phenomenon—a trial by media involving the FBI, local law enforcement and an aggressive, hotshot TV reporter named Bonnie Juno.
Along with a glut of off-beat characters, spa denizens and hangers-on, Cara delves into the much-publicized crime while unwittingly putting herself in danger. Keep Her Safe may stretch some readers’ credulity factor to the limit, but there’s no doubt of the author’s ability to weave a fascinating, complex plot that stacks up the building blocks of tension and dares readers to question the reliability of several narrators.
Hannah’s penchant for describing every towel, pool dimension and luxury amenity at the Swallowtail Spa may test some readers’ patience and endurance, but the story picks up as the book continues, and once you’ve read all the flashbacks, journals and court documents, there’s the pleasure of a final denouement that’s clever and well worth waiting for.