The Safe House by Louise Mumford

Reviewed by Lotte

This book was unnerving because it was so believable! It’s the subtlety and simplicity that show it really could happen and that’s what makes it a great, unsettling psychological thriller.

Esther and her mum, Hannah, live in a bunker completely off grid. It’s all Esther has ever known – a life of isolation with just her Mum (and of course Mr Wiffles), living inside, with a high spec air filtration system, hazmat suits for going outside, regimented routines etc. For Hannah, this came about because Esther has asthma and she became terrified and determined to keep her safe. Mumford has written this book in a character focused way that shows us both sides – the lengths mum went to keep Esther safe before they even moved to the bunker, the reasons behind her actions and all she’s sacrificed; as well as Esther, how normal it was for her before she realised there was a whole world out there and learning that what she thinks is true might actually be wrong. This all starts to unravel when a stranger turns up, knowing things about Esther. He shows her she doesn’t need to be as cautious as she believes but the suspense woven into the storyline keeps you on tenterhooks just incase – what if mum was right and something will happen. So even as the plot unravelled and different things were revealed it still felt uncertain. Mr Wiffles was a great addition with his whit and humour as well as adding to the distorted reality Esther was living in.

The first half of the book was really good but a little slow, however, I feel that added to this sense of normality that Mumford was trying to create. The second half moved a little faster, so much so that some things felt a little off-kilter, as in, would she really do that after growing up the way she has. The story went from one extreme to another but perhaps that added to the suspense that it could all go wrong. And we truly didn’t find out for sure if Esther was ok or whether Mum was right. There were many twists and turns that added to this suspense and sense of unknown as well as giving us some great shock moments.

This was a good book with a well paced plot and fully developed characters. It wasn’t extreme but the eerie element of realness kept the book gripping throughout.

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this ARC.

Author: Louise Mumford
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release Date: 12 May 2022

Sleepless by Louise Mumford

Reviewed by Lotte:

Sleepless was a great, pacey novel filled with suspense. It moved along at a nice speed with enough content to keep it interesting and enticing. There was plenty of events happening one after the other, which kept my attention throughout. The twists and turns gave the story more depth although some of them were a little predictable.

This didn’t take away from the enjoyment too much though because the plot line was based on a fairly original but conceivable concept. So many people suffer from insomnia and sleepless episodes, so the thought of being desperate enough to try a sleep trial is completely conceivable. And although the tech involved isn’t something yet created – thank goodness – the premise is sound and has potential to exist. This makes it a great read because it is so relatable and applicable to our lives. It was also refreshing to read something that hasn’t been completely over done in other novels. The ideas and story line were new and intriguing which made me want to read the book in the first place and continue reading chapter after chapter once I’d started.

However, it is lacking in the detail I often look for in a book, like information about the specifics of the tech involved, how does it alter REM sleep, how do the discs work etc. It also lacked reaction. So many things happened and yet our protagonist, Thea, barely reacted to them, or reacted very short term and then the next thing came along. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Thea, but I would have loved her more if I’d have seen and felt more from her. I would have also liked a little more from the ending. Without providing any spoilers we have no idea if and how Thea escaped successfully at the end and the way in which the whole situation was tied up left a lot of ambiguity – I have so many questions! This is the only part of the book that felt less feasible. I’m wondering if this is to leave it open for a future book or merely leaving us with a cliff-hanger. Either way I felt like it ended too quickly.

Overall, this was a good read and something I’d recommend if you want to be entertained without it being too heavy in information (something we all need in our reading pile!).

Thanks so much to NetGalley, HQ Digital and Louise Mumford for the opportunity to read this book.

Author: Louise Mumford
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release Date: 10 December 2020