I’m posting my review featuring the British version of the book, which has the original (and MUCH better) title of Did You See Melody? rather than the sanitized and bland as hell US version of Keep Her Safe. YAWN. What were you thinking, US publisher?
This is one that’s been on my shelves since spring 2018 when Sophie Hannah came to the Tucson Festival of Books as part of promoting it, and I got to escort her around campus. I’d never read any of her books, but she was on a mystery/crime writers panel*, that was very good if my memory serves, and I was intrigued to finally pick up one of her books that I’d been seeing around GR for years. I read her first book first, of course, Little Face, and thought it was weird and sort of wasted a good premise. I’m glad to say I liked this one much better so I will not give up yet on reading her books.
*Her favorite crime writer is Tana French, which endeared her to me quite a bit.
This book is actually set in AZ, as apparently Hannah had stayed in a resort or two here, and took the opportunity to stay in more as “research” (lol) for this book. We do have very nice, ridiculous resorts here. Unfortunately, she does get a few details mixed up about what kinds of things go on in which cities (Scottsdale and Paradise Valley are not hippy-dippy new age places*, do not care about vortexes or crystals, and do not offer Jeep tours — all of that is Sedona, which she also clearly visited, because the end of the book does take place there). She does also at the beginning of the book probably focus a little too much on the alien (to her and her protagonist) environment of AZ, and Phoenix in particular), although it was vaguely amusing to see the place I’ve lived for the majority of my life through outside eyes. Her American characters, especially at the beginning of the book, also didn’t ring quite true in their dialogue, but as the book got going, I found myself ignoring or forgetting this kind of stuff, because the story became more and more compelling.
*They are commercial places full of (sometimes extravagantly) rich people, cactuses, and the occasional environmentally unsound supremely green lawn.
The premise here is that lifelong Brit Cara Burrows has fled England after a fight with her family. She just needs some time alone with her own thoughts, and chose the furthest place she could think of, a fancy resort in Paradise Valley, AZ. On the first night she’s there, exhausted and jet-lagged, she’s assigned to an already occupied room by mistake, where she wakes up who she at first thinks is a man and his teenaged daughter, but later realizes (after another hysterical guest claims to have seen her as well) that the girl was in fact, Melody Chapa, the most famous murder victim in the United States, whose parents have both been in prison for her murder for going on eight years.
I appreciated that this book didn’t just have Cara bumbling along trying to be a detective on her own. Her actions struck me as realistic, in the circumstances. I liked the cast of characters Hannah put together, particularly Tarin, the brash mom here on vacation who is more competent than anyone else there. I also loved the parts where Cara read up on the case, as she dug into old videos on YouTube, and write-ups of what happened. It was like reading a true crime story stuck inside of a fiction story. I also thought the book had just the right amount of twistiness.
The very last page of the book was a bit weird, but it wasn’t enough to put me off. I liked it!
[3.5 stars, rounded up]
P.S. Here are some pictures of the Sanctuary Resort at Camelback Mountain, which the Swallowtail Resort in the book seems at least partially modeled on: