Title: Safe Keeping by Barbara Taylor Sissel
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
At the heart of every crime, there’s a family…
My son is a murderer…. So begins this chilling and emotionally charged mystery from highly acclaimed author Barbara Taylor Sissel.
Emily Lebay had always thought of her family as ordinary. Sure, they’ve endured their share of problems, even a time of great trouble—what family hasn’t? But when a woman’s body turns up in the dense woods near their home, and Emily’s grown son, Tucker, is accused of murder, Emily is forced to confront the unfathomable, and everything she believed about her life is called into question.
This isn’t the first time Tucker has been targeted by the police; a year ago he was a person of interest when another woman was found dead in the same stretch of woods. Still, neither Emily nor her daughter, Lissa, can reconcile their Tucker with these brutal crimes. Terrified, convinced there’s been a tragic mistake, Emily and Lissa set out to learn the truth about Tucker, once and for all. And while his life hangs in the balance, what they discover proves far more shocking than their darkest fears….
Safe Keeping by Barbara Taylor Sissel is a beautifully complex and multi-layered novel that is quite compelling. When their adult son Tucker is the main suspect in the deaths of two young women, Emily and Roy Lebay are at odds over more than his guilt or innocence. Roy is ready to wash his hands of their troubled son while Emily cannot fathom deserting him when he needs them most. Siding with Emily, oldest daughter Lissa risks her marriage, and quite possibly her life, in her efforts to prove her brother’s innocence.
When it becomes increasingly clear that Tucker will most likely be arrested for murder, Emily’s and Lissa’s search for the truth about Tucker raises some very unsettling questions. Both wonder if the seeds of violence could have been sown in the kids’ turbulent childhood as Roy struggled with PTSD after returning from Vietnam. After a violent and traumatic incident with Tucker, Emily insisted Roy finally seek treatment and their home life improved. However the family was never quite the same afterwards. Roy and Tucker’s relationship became increasingly contentious, Emily slipped in to the role of peacemaker between them and Lissa became an overprotective older sister.
The family slowly begins to crumble under the stress of the ongoing police investigation. Roy retreats from everyone, Emily tries to pretend everything is normal and Lissa begins her own inquiries into the murders. Revelations about long held secrets expose the family’s dysfunction and an admission from Lissa appears to affirm Tucker’s claims of innocence.
Safe Keeping is an intriguing mystery and the Lebay family dynamics are incredibly fascinating. Barbara Taylor Sissel’s thought-provoking storyline raises interesting questions about nature vs. nurture and the possible role genetics play in violent behavior. The novel’s ending is dramatic and takes an unexpected turn that is impossible to predict. A riveting and suspenseful read that is incredibly poignant and rather haunting.