Audiobook Review: Safe House by Chris Ewan

12 12 2012

Safe House by Chris Ewan

Read by Simon Vance

AudioGO

Length: 10 Hrs 53 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Safe House is a smart, well paced and highly enjoyable thriller with just the right amount of twists to keep things interesting. Ewan proves he knows how to tell a good story without relying on clichéd tricks and smoke and mirrors, just a solid plot with engaging character. This is my first experience with Ewan, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last.

Grade: A-

Listen up kids, I’m going to let you in on a bit of a secret. No matter what your parents tell you, or what that Public Service Announcement that some television station plays between their latest sitcoms espouses, sometimes peer pressure is good. Of course, if your peers are encouraging you to recite the ancient spell they found in a dusty old book written in Latin, or if they want to taunt the mysterious new kids at school for his pale skin and fang like teeth, then your problem isn’t peer pressure, your problem is really crappy peers. I for one, find most of my peers within the book blogging community to be quite lovely, and when I hear them talking about a book or an author that has brought them joy, I feel pressure to share in that experience. Despite the fact that we have very different tastes, and that she has an obsession with a certain British narrator, whenever I hear Jennifer of The Literate Housewife talk about a book or series she loves, I pay attention. For the past year or so, I have witnessed her enthusiasm over a series of books called "The Good Thief’s Guide to [Insert City Name]" Now, my initial reaction was that I thought it was an interesting idea to write a travel book for people who enjoy the act of theft, yet are generally good, but that really isn’t the type of book that usually interests me. Of course, with a bit more research I discovered that this was actually a fictional series with a gentleman thief and mystery writer as its protagonist. Even further research led me to the discovery that this same author, Chris Ewan, had a new standalone thriller coming out with an intriguing plot, that had also landed on another of my favorite bloggers "Best of 2012" list. This is the kind of peer pressure I can get behind.

After a motorbike accident on the small Isle of Man, Rob Hale wakes up in the hospital with signs of a possible traumatic brain injury. When he questions the doctors about fate of his passenger, a beautiful women he had just recently met, he discovers that she never made it to the hospital, in fact, there is no evidence she even really existed. Despite assurances that this mysterious blond was just side effect of his injury, Rob is sure she exists and is in some sort of trouble. I have always enjoyed tales of unreliable memory where a lone protagonist is forced to question things he just knows are true and this is what initially drew me to Safe House. Yet, what I discovered was a solid thriller, with some really engaging characters and a unique setting that gave it a real intimate feel. While the plot was, like most thrillers, a bit overly complicated at times, it all falls together nicely. Chris Ewan writes with the sort of everyman flair that I really enjoyed. He takes a main character that is basically just your mundane regular Joe, and puts him in a situation where on the surface he seems totally out of his league, but by the sheer force of his will, manages to make things happen. I really enjoyed the fact that Rob wasn’t any sort of highly skilled operator, and while there were conspiracies on top of conspiracies within the plot that forced him into risky situations, he wasn’t like some loose ship in a storm, he acted when he needed to. Not to say that it was easy for Rob, Ewan puts that poor guy through the works, heaping mental and physical abuse on him, and not even rewarding him with a gratuitous love scene. At least the poor guy had a good dog.  Ewan adds a lot of color to his tale through his peripheral characters, particularly Rob’s parents and grandfather, yet deftly incorporates them into the overall story, making each moment of the matter. I also really enjoyed the action in this novel. This wasn’t the over the top, car chase and shoot em outs that plague modern movies, but smart subtle, yet sometimes quite brutal action that moves the story in the right directions. Safe House is a smart, well paced and highly enjoyable thriller with just the right amount of twists to keep things interesting. Ewan proves he knows how to tell a good story without relying on clichéd tricks and smoke and mirrors, just a solid plot with engaging character. This is my first experience with Ewan, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last.

So, I have things to say about Simon Vance, and since it’s been a while since I reviewed one of his audiobooks, I thought this would be a good forum. I personally think that the reason Simon Vance does so well with his narrations is he enjoys winning Audies, Earphones and starred reviews, as well as bringing hours of entertainment to his loyal fans through his masterful storytelling. There, I said it. This is actually my first time listening to Simon Vance narrate a book that isn’t speculative fiction, and I was quite interested to see how someone who I trust to bring fantasy worlds to life handles the real world. Vance does a wonderful job with Safe House. What I really liked was the introspective tone he gave to Rob’s character. With all the wildness of the plot, Vance used his voice to ground the character, allowing us to experience his thought process. It was almost as if Rob was the port in the storm for us, and Vance built off that to allow us to keep everything in perspective. My favorite moments in the audiobook were the bits of humor that surfaced throughout the production. There was one particularly moment, when Rob was trying to extract important information from his unfocused grandfather that was just priceless, and impeccable performed. I also loved that Vance seemed to capture the flavor of the Isle of Man. There was almost a leisurely pace to his reading, letting us know that this was no city thriller, and that the character’s are going to take there time and figure this thing out. I really enjoyed Safe House, and while I may not be ready to join the Simon Vance cult, he’s definitely someone I trust to tell me a darn good story.

Note: Thanks to AudioGo for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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