Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

West Berlin, October 1979. Helen Abell is a young American, employed by the CIA to oversee a number of safe houses. She arrives in Berlin, expecting excitement and intrigue, and is disappointed to find the city a ‘Cold War backwater’. But one night she stumbles upon two dark but very different secrets. If made public, they could damage the careers of high-ranking people with powerful ambitions. But Helen decides that the price of silence might be costlier still, so she covertly works to reveal the truth even as she risks her career.

Maryland, August 2014. In a small farming town, a young man called Willard Shoat gets up one night and shoots his parents while they are sleeping. His sister Anna hires a private investigator to help her understand her brother’s motives. Willard has always been slow, but never violent. Could someone have influenced him? As they delve into the events leading up to her parents’ deaths, Anna uncovers a whole side to her mother that she never knew about…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This novel takes place in Germany and France in 1979 and Maryland in 2014. In 1979 Helen is working for the CIA. It was a time when women were considered not suitable to work in the field and were only there to do desk duties and menial work. Helen was responsible for the safe houses in the city and had to put up with constant put downs from her superiors and harassment from some of the men who she had to deal with. There was one conversation that had me muttering under my breath, even more so because I could imagine it being said. I did enjoy the reply though. What I noticed,a lot, was that many of the women who did feature had a bigger influence on the novel than most of the men. Even though they worked behind the scenes. The part of the book set in 1979 was the part that I preferred, Germany separated by the Berlin Wall and its inhabitants living in very different circumstances than they do in modern day Germany.
In 2014, Helen’s daughter Anna wants answers to the murders that her brother has been accused of. She had no idea of her mother’s past and asks Henry to help her. But Henry has a motive of his own.
I get confused by all the different agencies, even more so when they are not UK-based. But that didn’t stop me getting caught up in this novel. The narrative switches often and at first it was at point when it wasn’t at an important time in the story. But as it progressed and the danger levels increased I ached to know what would happen next. Especially with Helen.
It is a long time since I had to put a book down because it made me feel so tense. Only to pick it up again because I couldn’t get to sleep wondering what would happen next. Especially in the final six chapters. I have never read a novel like this before, or one by this author. I will definitely be reading more.

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