Aussie Book Review: No Safe Place by Jenny Spence

safe place No Safe Place by Jenny Spence


Review copy provided by publisher

Allen & Unwin, June 2013

 Synopsis- With winter closing in, Elly Cartwright dreams of escaping her inner-city existence for a more carefree life in the country. On a drizzly Monday morning, the view from her tram window is grim, and she isn’t looking forward to yet another mundane working week. But Elly’s week will be anything but mundane, with two people she knows murdered in quick succession and two attempts on her life. Someone believes Elly knows something she shouldn’t, and she doesn’t have a clue what it is. Her search for answers – and a sanctuary to hide in – has her fleeing from one city to another, but it’s not long before she realises there’s no safe place for her to run to…

Review- No Safe Place is the debut thriller by Australian author Jenny Spence. I requested a copy of this novel as I was intrigued by the synopsis and I’m always open to giving upcoming local authors a go.

No Safe Place introduces Elly Cartwright, a middle-aged mother who works as a technical writer in Melbourne but dreams of living in the country, writing fiction. Her ordinary, controlled life is turned upside down when she is injured and her neighbour is shot dead in a drive-by shooting. Her colleague is killed the following day and Elly is the only common denominator identified in these two deaths. Detective Lewis is put on the case to track down the killer. Elly, taking the attempted murder very seriously, goes undercover and begins her own investigation. Why has she become a target? From Melbourne, to Sydney, to country Victoria, Elly is on the run and needs to uncover those responsible for her friends’ deaths before they catch up with her.

There were some elements of No Safe Place that I really enjoyed, but there were some things that just didn’t work for me too. No Safe Place was a little different to the crime-focussed thrillers I typically read as Spence creates a crime plot that is very IT and technically focussed… which to be honest isn’t something I’m really enthusiastic about. I actually did enjoy Elly’s character and her quirky, analysing mind-set and the amateur sleuth role she takes on. Her interactions with Detective Lewis are also interesting. A middle-aged mother working in a tedious role that suddenly gets caught up in a lot of drama and is on the run, was a really intriguing premise for me. I also enjoyed all of her quirky colleagues who loyally jump on board the investigative journey to help her uncover the killer. On the other hand, the crime plot was what let the story down for me. When it comes to computers and data, my eyes kind of glaze over sometimes… (It’s a little frustrating for my husband who is a finance analyst and loves to talk numbers and data!). It’s probably the first time I’ve read a crime novel and not really cared about a resolution for this plot-line in the story. The pacing also made it difficult for this ‘thriller’ to hold my attention. The characterisation and quirkiness of the characters in the story is definitely its biggest strength, in my opinion. Set in Sydney and Melbourne was also a bonus as I recognised many of the places that Elly was traversing.

Overall, I enjoyed Spence’s voice and I liked the characters she created but I just couldn’t get into the world of computers and technical investigations which for me was impaired further by the pacing problems. However, if there were more Elly Cartwright adventures in store from this author, I would certainly consider reading more.

Overall Rating


“It was okay”

No Safe Place can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:



  • Techy stuff sometimes will be too much for me too, it depends how detailed it gets. And I completely understand your love of the Aussie setting, it makes it all the more enjoyable!

  • Ah see I really liked that the author took advantage of today’s tech. I get really frustrated with current mysteries who ignore google, online directories and have their characters lose or break their phones at the precise moments they could be useful. To me that is cheating.

    • I agree with you Shelleyrae, it was refreshing to have a heroine that didn’t make careless mistakes when there’s obvious danger. It makes sense in this day and age to use technology in crime fiction, but it was a little too much detail for me.

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