All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

No Safe Place – Jenny Spence

on June 4, 2013

No Safe PlaceNo Safe Place
Jenny Spence
Allen & Unwin
2013, 321p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher/The Reading

Elly Cartwright is the daughter of hippy idealists who purchased a large parcel of land with friends, dreaming of one day being self-sufficient there. They died before ever realising their dream and now Elly holds their share. She lives and works in the inner-city of Melbourne and now it is she who dreams of selling up and retiring to the quiet and peaceful parcel of land.

Normally Elly’s life is boring – she writes information manuals for software development or programs and professionally formats documents and it tends to be a very low key job. But this week in her life will be unlike any other – after visiting a colleague who codes software, she sees someone hanging around his place. She thinks nothing of it until she arrives home and her neighbour, rushing out to see her about something, is shot dead. The police can’t discount that Elly was supposed to be the target. The next day she returns to her colleague’s place to ask him what he knows, only to find his murdered body.

Elly knows now she’s being targeted because she saw the killer. She flees to Sydney, hoping to blend in whilst doing another job for her employer but it seems as though she may have put herself right into the path of even more danger. Along with her hacker colleagues, she works to discover exactly why Carlos was murdered and what it has to do with something he mentioned to her in passing the day she saw him before she was killed. Even in Sydney the danger is closing in and soon Elly will have no safe place left to hide…even the one she thought was safest of all.

No Safe Place is a debut crime novel for Australian author Jenny Spence and here is a secret little confession – I’ve always wanted to be a computer hacker. I’m relatively useless with technology, I can use my laptop and phone but in terms of using it to get interesting information, or whatever, not a chance. However, it sounds so much fun! Seeing as how I’m not naturally inclined, I live vicariously through novels that involve clever IT geeks who hack into CCTV footage, bank accounts, government records and anything else that they think might be able to provide them with the information they require. Although our main character Elly isn’t a hacker at all, she works with some very talented computer programmers who certainly know what they’re doing. And Elly is about to find out just how much she’s going to need their help.

At first Elly doesn’t believe she could be the target of a random shooting in her neighbourhood that kills her next door neighbour, an elderly lady. The next day, when she discovers her brilliant but paranoid colleague’s dead body, she realised that not only has someone breached Carlos’s security but that she inadvertently happened to see him when she left the previous day. Elly immediately goes into survival mode, leaving behind her Brunswick house and heading out towards Footscray to disappear into an unlikely neighbourhood. She’s got some strong survival instincts and she’s very proactive in the way in which she goes about going into hiding. Although she has people she could’ve gone to, she avoids friends and work colleagues for the time being, choosing to fade into obscurity in a Vietnamese community. When she gets an opportunity to go to Sydney she takes it, thinking that it will distance her from the danger that is currently stalking her in Melbourne.

I love that this book is set in 2 places that are so familiar to me – I adore Sydney and have spent a lot of time there. And now I live outside of Melbourne and really enjoy finding the familiar things about it in books. It makes it so easy to picture things in my mind and track Elly’s movements as she seeks to hide herself in Melbourne and then escapes to Sydney. Her tightknit group of colleagues are a great addition as minor characters who step up to assist her in so many ways. I don’t know if this book is the first in a series or will stand alone but I would love to see more novels from the author featuring Elly and her colleagues. They work so well together in obtaining information and getting it to where it needs to be but they’re not exactly what you’d call friends. They don’t really socialise much and their conversations and interactions revolve around attempting to solve the mess that Elly has inadvertently found herself in. This is evidenced when she asks her colleague Steve what year his girlfriend is in of her engineering degree only to have the babyfaced programmer respond that his girlfriend is actually on the faculty.

This is definitely the type of book you can sit down and read in a single sitting. It’s a great story to sink into as Elly tries to figure out exactly what Carlos was poking around in that might’ve gotten him killed. Elly is easy to like – she’s strong and self-sufficient but she’s not willfully stupid. She accepts help, sometimes eagerly, sometimes reluctantly, but she accepts it all the same and knows that there is strength in knowledge and numbers. Another high part of this novel for me was the way in which the (professional) relationship between Elly and the Detective assigned to the shooting progressed. It’s another reason why I’d love to see more books with these characters, because I definitely feel that there is more left between Elly and Mike Lewis. I liked the way in which he listened to her and wasn’t afraid to put some faith in her theories, which did seem pretty out there. Without that faith, Elly might’ve been hiding forever.


Book #133 of 2013


No Safe Place is book #57 read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

**Please note this review is based on an uncorrected proof and the final version may be different


3 responses to “No Safe Place – Jenny Spence

  1. brendat59 says:

    Great review Bree! I loved this one too 🙂

  2. Sounds great. I totally have to sign up for the reading room now and I’m amazed at how many books you breeze through. Wish I was as speedy

  3. irene bizon says:

    i really enjoyed this book and will look out for the next. discriptions vivid throughout i like visualizing what the author is writing. no safe place is no jardine but non the less it hit the right spot.

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