- Author: Anna Downes
- Genre: Suspense/Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Thriller
- Format(s): Hardcover, 368 pages, (Kindle/Audiobook)
- On Sale: July 14, 2020 (US)
- Publisher: Minotaur Books
“I knew you’d be perfect. For all of us.“Scott Denny to Emily
My brief synopsis: Querencia is paradise. Emily could not want for more. As she learns more about the Denny family, living with them becomes worrisome with secrets. Unable to communicate her fears and suspicions to anyone she knows back home, Emily is left to wrestle with her questions alone. The mansion and its inhabitants have secrets and they won’t remain secret for long.
It’s impossible for me to believe that this is Anna Downes’s first novel.
This book has everything you’d dream of being in a suspense/thriller: a naive young adult, Emily, cut off from everything and everyone she knows, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in a French mansion, a strange family, the Dennys, and lots of creepy, unexplained happenings.
Full disclosure: I messaged Anna Downes around the time I reached the 40-50th page because I absolutely could not keep to myself that her prose was remarkable and then later apologizing because I felt I was fangirling a little too hard.
With that being said, my favorite piece of this novel is her prose. They way she used imagery through her words made me feel like I was in France enjoying the life that accompanies privilege (until I looked up and realized I was in the middle of a pandemic with a “stay at home” order and was still in my pjs.
“At the bottom of a wide set of stone steps, she found herself looking at a pristine infinity pool surrounded by sun loungers and enormous glass lanterns. A cushioned daybed and a swing seat were positioned in front of a wall of tall fluffy grass, each stem like a giant feather duster, and a Balinese-style pergola cast its shadow over a poolside kitchen. Everything was angled to showcase the spectacular ocean view. This is insane. Emily’s mouth hung open. Who lives like this?“Emily, Chapter 14
Downes does very well establishing the characters and plot of this novel in ways that don’t reveal too much but just enough, allowing the reader to know the characters early without giving us an edge on being able to guess much about their development later on. The reader can tell that not all is what it seems, but it isn’t what one would predict until the time came for us in the plot to find out. Unable to put this book down, I was eager to know what was going to happen and Downes graced her readers with a level of suspense that I haven’t seen in many recent books. I applaud her skill for developing enduring suspense.
Another aspect of her writing I loved was Emily’s character arc. She transforms in ways that I wouldn’t have suspected her to be capable of from her past and now present situation. She’s relatable (minus the work-in-a-mansion-in-France thing). Who gets that opportunity?! She’s real, personable, and what I felt like I was in college–naive and just wanting to make it.
All in all, Anna Downes is a writer you’re going to want to keep on your radar. I suspect her next novel will be a knock-out and I can only dream of being able to review it ahead of its release because I’m that into her novel.
My sincerest congratulations to Anna on the release of her debut novel, The Safe Place. If you haven’t yet, please grab a copy and check out what I’ve described here.
Emily is a mess.
Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.
Emily is desperate.
Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.
Emily is perfect.
Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.
Welcome to paradise…will you ever be able to leave?
Synopsis courtesy of GoodReads. A special thanks to Anna Downes and Minotaur Books for the gifted ARC in exchange for my honest review.