Saturday, May 9, 2020

No Longer Safe by A.J. Waines – Book Review

Book: No Longer Safe
Author: A.J. Waines
Number of pages: 377
Publisher: Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Publication Date: 4 February 2016

I've wanted to read A.J. Waines for years. I've featured Waines on my blog a few times through blog tours. I finally decided I'd start with No Longer Safe, which having finally finished it, I have some mixed feelings about it.

I started with this book because in one of our interviews Waines said: "In No Longer Safe, ALL the main characters have psychological ‘issues’! Some of these are clear from the start, other ‘defects’ start to emerge as the story progresses. Like ordinary people, the fictional characters try to hide their behaviours and coping strategies, so the reader comes up against lies, secrets and deception. In No Longer Safe, no one is who they appear to be…"

How's that for enticing a reader?

It worked for me. And Waines was right; you could easily see the characters' traits the moment they open their mouths.

No Longer Safe is narrated from two first-person perspectives; that of Alice, a naïve and shy young woman who idolized her university friend Karen, and Karen, a conniving woman, who used Alice but also helped her get out of her shell.

The main view point is Alice's, while Karen gets a few short chapters to give some backstory and the other side of things. Karen's chapters feel like she's writing in her diary.

No Longer Safe opens with Alice getting an invitation from her once-upon-a-time friend Karen Morley, to spend two weeks in a remote house in the Scottish highlands. Karen claims she wants to reconnect after several years' disappearance. Alice immediately jumps at the opportunity and heads to the location Karen had sent her.

"You made me feel so safe, without any sting of judgement."

However, once she arrives, Alice senses that Karen isn't as friendly as she used to be and soon discovers that two more people had been invited. So it's not exactly some a happy reunion. Not to mention, the two other friends, Jodie and Mark, are an odd pair from university days that Alice doesn't like.

One night, Alice wakes up to find a dead man in her room and Karen convinces her that they need to cover it up. Throughout the novel, the reader is unsure what happened exactly. Who killed him? How? Why?

The pace in No Longer Safe is quite slow. And the chapters, though there are 58 of them, are too long, in my opinion. Yes, there are short ones; those from Karen's perspective and the later chapters when the speed picks up. But I found this to slow down the already long novel.

From chapter 1, the reader can feel that Alice is infatuated with Karen and that she has an inferiority complex:

"You were my inspiration, the person I wanted to be."

"If you were a Porsche, I was a clapped out Morris Minor – with an emphasis on the 'minor.'"

Character development is different in No Longer Safe. How? Let me explain without spoilers. We see that Alice, the main narrator, begins to realize how gullible and trusting she'd been at university but is now, slowly, discovering that her so-called friends weren't what they appeared to be. She understands that Karen had been using her.

One of the comments I wrote about Alice, while reading No Longer Safe, was "infatuated with a complex, yes. Stupid and doesn't notice things, no," which plays in Alice's character development both compared to university days and during the course of the novel.

As the story progresses, Alice reflects on things that have happened at university, including what Karen told her once that struck with her: "This could be useful one day – never give up leverage easily, Alice."

There tons of quotable lines, images, ideas, and dialogue in the novel.

Despite the pace, I enjoyed reading the novel. Alice is relatable. She's a shy girl who was infatuated by the popular girls at university. She was willing to do things for them to be part of their clique. Now, years later, she's still willing but she's also growing, maturing.

In a way, I felt that No Longer Safe is all about character. The ending was jarring for me and in a way had me thinking of another psychological thriller I read a while back, which is Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. Don't get me wrong, the novels are completely different but sometimes you make connections or get this feeling that one book or story reminds you of another.

Overall rating for No Longer Safe by A.J. Waines: 3.5 to 4 stars. Yeah, I can't really decide. I'm still struggling with the ending. The pace definitely put me off but the characters are rich in issues and complexities.

"Am I safe? Am I really safe here? Or were things about to get even worse?"

You can check out an excerpt from Chapter 6 from No Longer Safe on Nadaness In Motion.

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