Posted on April 9, 2016
No Longer Safe by A J Waines
When Alice Fleming receives an invitation to join an old university friend, Karen Morley, on a two week vacation in Scotland she is delighted that her friend has got in contact again. It has been six years since they left university and they have had no communication since. Alice remembers Karen as being kind and a good friend and is chuffed to have been asked to spend the holiday with her.
When Alice arrives at the cottage, which is in the middle of nowhere and nothing to see but snow, she is not expecting quite what she finds. The cottage is very cold with no modern comforts. It has no telephone land line and an unreliable signal for a mobile phone.
They are pretty much cut off from everything and Alice wonders why Karen has chosen this remote location – especially as Karen’s nine month old daughter Mel has been unwell in hospital and needs an oxygen mask to breathe properly.
Alice is even more surprised when two other people from their university group arrive – Jodie and Mark. She is peeved by their appearance as Karen had not told her there would be anyone else there; she expected it to be just the two of them.
As they settle into an uncomfortable routine problems begin. Mark’s behaviour is erratic and he is very controlling of Jodie, his girlfriend. He tells lies and keeps secrets. Jodie shows two sides to her personality. She is compliant and subdued in Mark’s company but becomes independent and enthusiastic about her dreams for the future when he is absent. Karen, Alice realises, is not the person she was at university.
At one point Alice asked herself “what were we all doing here?” She realises they are all strangers now, forced together by Karen, with her own reasons for wishing them all to be together.
Back in their university days Alice had a deep desire to be liked and Karen and Jodie exploited this by using her for their own needs. However Alice has clearly come a long way in shedding her downtrodden personality and manages to stand up for herself a lot more than she used to and Karen feels her plans threatened by this change in Alice.
When Alice meets Stuart the mystery begins to unravel and Alice gets closer to working out the mystery and the reason why Karen has invited her old friends to join her for the holiday.
In No Longer Safe AJ Waines’ experiences as a psychologist have led to interesting and clever plotting with lots of twists and turns and the occasional red herring. The story is narrated mainly by Alice and occasionally by Karen and towards the end you begin to question who is telling the truth and who is lying; who is sane and who is unbalanced.
The characters are all very distinct and work well for the story, although Alice can sometimes be a little frustrating in her naivety. There are a few aspects of the plot which I hoped she would latch on to a little sooner but perhaps that is just her personality.
A great book to read – one that you’ll not want to put down until you reach the final page.
AJ Waines was born in 1959. Before becoming a full time novelist she worked as a Psychotherapist for fifteen years – spending some time working with ex-offenders from high security institutions. The experiences she gained in this work have given her a comprehensive understanding of criminal and abnormal psychology.
Also by AJ Waines: The Evil Beneath, Girl on a Train and A Dark Place to Hide
You can follow AJ on Twitter: @AJWaines