Title: Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
She’s the most famous murder victim in America. What if she’s not dead?
Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows flees her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied — by a man and a teenage girl.
A simple mistake at the front desk… but soon Cara realizes that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving natural life sentences for her murder.
Cara doesn’t know what to trust — everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?
In Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah, a British woman escaping from her family problems stumbles onto a mystery at an upscale resort in Arizona.
Overwhelmed and angry about her family’s response to an unexpected life-changing event, Cara Burrows books herself a two week vacation at a posh Arizona spa. Exhausted after the long flight, she arrives at the Swallowtail Resort and Spa in the middle of night where she is inadvertently assigned to a room that is already occupied by a man and a teenage girl. The next day, she overhears another guest report her sighting of Melody Chapa, a young girl whose parents have been convicted of her murder despite the fact her body has never been found.
Trying to avoid thinking about her own troubles, Cara googles the infamous case and she is stunned by the realization that Melody Chapa bears an uncanny resemblance to the teenager she briefly saw the previous night. With the help of fellow guests, outspoken florist Tarin Fry and her beleaguered daughter Zellie, the trio have barely scratched the surface of this intriguing case when Cara and the resort’s front desk clerk Riyonna Briggs inexplicably vanish. Tarin pressures local detective Orwin Priddey and his erstwhile partner Bryce Sanders to take Cara’s disappearance seriously after former prosecutor turned abrasive talk show host Bonnie Juno suggests Cara left of her own volition. Is Cara’s unexplained departure connected to Riyonna’s disappearance? More importantly, is there a link between the missing women and Cara’s sighting of Melody Chapa?
Cara is a rather unlikable and unsympathetic character. She is impatient with everyone and intolerant of Americans whom she judge to be excessively friendly and guilty of hyperbolic overstatement (all of which begs the question: why go to America if you disapprove of Americans???). It is also a little hard to forgive her somewhat callous attitude towards her family and her reason for the trip is rather selfish and completely avoidable. While Cara’s reason for immersing herself in researching the circumstances of Melody’s disappearance and her parents’ murder conviction is self-serving, Cara is eventually truly concerned about the case.
The first part of the novel focuses on prickly Cara, her family situation and her internet research into the Chapa case. The information about Melody’s case is revealed through on line articles, YouTube clips and a handful of segments from Bonnie Juno’s television show. The second part of the story concentrates on Tarin’s efforts to keep the investigators motivated to search for Cara. Detective Priddey plays his cards close to his chest as he quietly questions witnesses and follows leads. Bonnie Juno inserts herself into the investigation and loudly (and frequently) proclaims the Chapas’ are guilty as sin and behind bars where they belong.
Keep Her Safe is a rather engrossing mystery despite a disagreeable lead protagonist and the slow moving storyline. An intriguing and creative premise make it easy to overlook some of the more improbable elements of the plot. Sophie Hannah throws in some brilliant twists and turns at the novel’s conclusion that are absolutely stunning. All in all, an entertaining, twist-filled mystery that fans of the genre will enjoy.