The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

If you like your books twisty… my review of ‘No Longer Safe’ by A.J. Waines

on March 16, 2016

no longer safe picNo Longer Safe. A.J. Waines. Amazon Media. January 2016.

When Alice receives an invitation from Karen, her charismatic University friend, to stay in a remote cottage in Scotland, she can’t wait to rekindle their lost friendship.

But two more former students arrive – never friends of Alice’s – and as the atmosphere chills, Karen isn’t the warm-hearted soulmate Alice remembers. Barely is the reunion underway before someone is dead and the fragile gathering is pushed to breaking point.

As the snow cuts them off from civilisation and accusations fly, Alice finds herself a pawn, sinking deeper into a deadly game she can’t escape.

NO LONGER SAFE is a chilling Psychological Thriller that delivers a delicious sting in the tail.


This was my first time picking up an A. J. Waines novel, but it certainly won’t be my last. In an overcrowded genre where it’s getting harder and harder to be original, this book managed to keep me guessing up until the very end, AND mess with my head like crazy. I had no idea who to trust, and I still don’t after finishing the novel. And that’s exactly how I like my thrillers.

The story follows 27-year-old Alice, who’s stuck in a bit of a rut, life-wise. She still lives with her parents (who she feels are perpetually disappointed in her), she’s stuck in a dead end admin job (when she really wants to be a teacher), and she’s lonely, having drifted away from most of her friends over the years since her early twenties. This includes Karen, the vibrant best friend from her university days, who Alice has always idolised, seeing her as the saviour who brought her out of her shell, treating her like a person rather than the sheltered ‘weird girl’ her upbringing branded her at school.

Out of the blue, Alice receives an invitation to spend two weeks with Karen in a remote cottage up in Scotland, and Alice jumps at the chance. She hasn’t spoken to Karen since leaving university: despite her many attempts to contact her, her letters have always gone unanswered by Karen. Until now.

When Alice arrives at the cottage, it becomes clear Karen isn’t quite the bubbly, colourful person Alice remembers from university. She’s putting on a front, and it’s clear she’s struggling – her baby daughter Mel (the product of an affair with an actor she met whilst au pairing in Los Angeles) has a severe respiratory condition, and although Karen claims Mel’s on the mend, it’s obvious to Alice that Karen’s life isn’t nearly as wonderful as she’s making out.

The holiday gets off to an unsettling start when Alice manages to knock herself out, accidentally smashing her head against a cupboard door on the first night. The splitting headache she can’t seem to sleep off is only the beginning of Alice’s troubles; the idealistic fortnight she’s envisioned with Karen is well and truly shattered on the second day, when two more university friends of Karen’s, Jodie and Mark, show up at the cottage. Alice is naturally shocked to see them, having been led to believe it would just be the two of them catching up. Jodie and Mark are equally confused, as Karen neglected to tell them Alice would be there either.

It’s at this point that we get a chapter from Karen’s perspective, and we find out that she’s brought everyone there for a reason. She has plan. She’s excited! Of course, we have no idea what she’s up to, what her motives are, and whether or not we should be worried. But we probably should be…

From the minute Jodie and Mark show up, there’s an uneasy atmosphere – it’s clear that Alice feels uncomfortable around them, and they don’t want her there either; in the hierarchy of their group, Alice is at the bottom of the pile – the tag-along, as it were – and although Alice feels she’s changed a lot since university, they don’t seem to see it that way, and still treat her like she’s a nobody they can get away with pushing around. Despite all of this, Karen still seems to be on her side, and Karen’s the reason she’s there, so everything’s going to be okay… or is it?

What I loved most about this novel was the creeping sense that something isn’t right. Jodie and Mark are obnoxious people (although I warmed to Jodie slightly as the story progressed), and it’s obvious that at least Mark is hiding something, because he’s shifty from the word go, barely concealing how desperate he is to leave the cottage at any given opportunity. It’s less obvious Karen is hiding something (although we know from her chapters that she is) and she’s a very difficult person to figure out. Until the reveal, I had no idea why Karen had brought everyone to the cottage, which to me is the sign of a very good mystery indeed!

Things only continue to get creepier. When Alice wakes up one morning to find a man dead on her bedroom floor, with no idea who he is, how he got in, or what happened to him in the night, the plot takes an almighty lurch into the sinister fast-lane. Suddenly the story becomes about so much more than the strained relationships between these four unlikely friends (the cracks in which are beginning to show with everyone cooped up in the cottage, unable to get away from each other)… It rapidly becomes about fear, and guilt, and morality flying out the window, and not knowing who to trust anymore, including yourself, your friends, and the handsome stranger you’ve recently met and may or may not be falling for. From this point onwards, the pace picks up and I was on the edge of my seat trying to work out what had happened to the dead man, who was hiding a guilty secret, and why the hell the police weren’t showing up after Karen insisted she’d called them hours ago.

The isolation of the remote setting, and the isolation of Alice herself (as the outsider whose friendship with these people rests on a knife’s edge with misplaced trust on one side and a serious abuse of it on the other) is what makes this story so frightening. Alice doesn’t have anybody to share her fears with, because if she does, she’ll end up implicating herself, so she struggles alone as the sense of a threat she doesn’t yet understand closes in around her. And in a cottage with no telephone, in the middle of nowhere, who will even hear Alice if she screams out for help into the surrounding silence?

I can’t say very much more about the story, because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but if you like books with so many twists and turns that, if they were part of a road, you’d get all kinds of carsick, this one’s definitely for you. I finished this book with a head full of WHAT AND WOAH AND OMG NO! And as I mentioned before, that’s exactly how I like my thrillers.


 

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17 responses to “If you like your books twisty… my review of ‘No Longer Safe’ by A.J. Waines

  1. Ooh this does sound exciting! Great review 😀

  2. rakioddbooks says:

    Sound awesome! Great review, I’ll add this book to my list. Thanks!

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  4. ravenandbeez says:

    Oh my god this book sounds so amazing! I am definitely reading this. Great review btw

    • mudandstars says:

      Aww thanks! 🙂 It was really good – I’ve read so many psych thrillers so I nearly always end up predicting the ending, but this one genuinely shocked me! Hope you enjoy if you decide to pick up the book 🙂 look forward to seeing what you thought.

  5. Annelise Lestrange says:

    Sounds a true blast! =OOO Loved your review, darling ❤

    • mudandstars says:

      Aww thank you! It was pretty awesome. I love books where you couldn’t have predicted the ending at all. I was really shocked when I got to the last page!

      • Annelise Lestrange says:

        I can totally relate, haha! This isn’t my usual genre, but when I select mystery/thrillers/similars, I want something to take my breath away too ❤

  6. Lizzy says:

    Brilliant review! This sounds terrifying but I’ll definitely be looking out for a copy

    • mudandstars says:

      Aww thank you! Yeah it was pretty creepy, I really enjoyed it. Definitely a very similar premise to In a Dark Dark Wood, but the ending of this one was actually pretty awesome. 🙂

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