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In this gripping new work of suspense from the author of The Double Game, a young woman discovers a nefarious truth at the heart of the CIA's operations in postwar Berlin and goes on the run for her life; years later she's gruesomely murdered along with her husband, and her daughter begins to chase down these startling secrets from her past. West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell o In this gripping new work of suspense from the author of The Double Game, a young woman discovers a nefarious truth at the heart of the CIA's operations in postwar Berlin and goes on the run for her life; years later she's gruesomely murdered along with her husband, and her daughter begins to chase down these startling secrets from her past. West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA's network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen's world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sightlines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.


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In this gripping new work of suspense from the author of The Double Game, a young woman discovers a nefarious truth at the heart of the CIA's operations in postwar Berlin and goes on the run for her life; years later she's gruesomely murdered along with her husband, and her daughter begins to chase down these startling secrets from her past. West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell o In this gripping new work of suspense from the author of The Double Game, a young woman discovers a nefarious truth at the heart of the CIA's operations in postwar Berlin and goes on the run for her life; years later she's gruesomely murdered along with her husband, and her daughter begins to chase down these startling secrets from her past. West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA's network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen's world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sightlines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.

30 review for Safe Houses

  1. 3 out of 5

    Katie B

    3.5 stars I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed this book given I don't typically read very many CIA based thrillers. Now I can't say how realistic it was but it definitely held my interest from start to finish. The action goes back and forth between 1970s Berlin with Helen Abell who oversees the safe houses for CIA agents and 2014 when she along with her husband are murdered on their farm in Maryland and their daughter is desperate for answers. What I found fascinating was given the time p 3.5 stars I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed this book given I don't typically read very many CIA based thrillers. Now I can't say how realistic it was but it definitely held my interest from start to finish. The action goes back and forth between 1970s Berlin with Helen Abell who oversees the safe houses for CIA agents and 2014 when she along with her husband are murdered on their farm in Maryland and their daughter is desperate for answers. What I found fascinating was given the time period of the 1970s and the "good ol' boy" type culture of the CIA, the book was able to explore a bit the unique challenges a female would have faced back then. Helen was an appealing character because she was just this ordinary woman but with this crazy, secretive job. The only real criticism I have of the book was there were a few instances in which I got that "why did the character do that?" type feeling. It's my pet peeve in thrillers when I think even I'm not that stupid to do what the character did. Overall though it was a good thriller and I definitely recommend. I won a free copy of this book from the publisher but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    Safe Houses is an enjoyable dual timeline story that delves into the CIA’s operations in Berlin during the later years of the Cold War. In 1979, Helen Abell oversees the safe houses that the CIA maintains in Berlin. One night she accidentally overhears a strange conversation in one of the houses and then subsequently stumbles into another dangerous encounter. Abell decides to expose those responsible which leads to a decades long vendetta that has severe consequences in 2014 when a son is arrest Safe Houses is an enjoyable dual timeline story that delves into the CIA’s operations in Berlin during the later years of the Cold War. In 1979, Helen Abell oversees the safe houses that the CIA maintains in Berlin. One night she accidentally overhears a strange conversation in one of the houses and then subsequently stumbles into another dangerous encounter. Abell decides to expose those responsible which leads to a decades long vendetta that has severe consequences in 2014 when a son is arrested for the double murder of his parents. As the story progresses, the two tales slowly intersect and weave into a powerful conclusion. My favorite part of the story was the description of Berlin in 1979. The wall is still in place, but much of the United States’ focus has shifted to the Middle East and the tensions in Iran. Fesperman effectively conveys the tension still present in bifurcated Berlin, but also the sense that the worst has passed there. Safe Houses was an engaging and entertaining read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    As much as I love thrillers the sub genre of espionage thrillers is not one that I read very often, but the premise of Safe Houses captured my attention immediately. I’m a sucker for old mysteries colliding with current happenings and the two timelines here ended up coming together in a powerful and intense way. This begins in 1979 in Berlin and follows Helen, a woman who organizes safe houses. What I found most interesting about this portion was the portrayal of powerful men during this era and As much as I love thrillers the sub genre of espionage thrillers is not one that I read very often, but the premise of Safe Houses captured my attention immediately. I’m a sucker for old mysteries colliding with current happenings and the two timelines here ended up coming together in a powerful and intense way. This begins in 1979 in Berlin and follows Helen, a woman who organizes safe houses. What I found most interesting about this portion was the portrayal of powerful men during this era and the manner in which they can choose to abuse said power, it read as very accurate and authentic and was an interesting piece of history that engaged me. Helen was a strong woman in her own right, the kind of character that I respected and admired, and a bit daring for her time. The 2014 timeline begins after Helen and her husband are murdered as her daughter strives to find answers never realizing how long ago decisions impacted Helen’s life thirty five years later. I won’t dive any further into the details of the story as there were several great turns, but I was very impressed by the execution of the plot twists as well as the writing of Fesperman, it was of a high caliber and very polished. Recommended for those who want a different type of thriller and love a strong female lead, lots of action and intensity and a plot that held my attention throughout. Safe Houses in three words: Gripping, Tense and Smart.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill Mackin

    Good story. Not the best, but enjoyable.

  5. 3 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    One night along the Cuban coast that adjoins the United States naval base at Guantanamo a body washes ashore. The body that of an American serviceman is found by a Cuban police officer on patrol. The officer rushes down the hill to chase away an iguana, recognizes that the body he has located is American and realizes how important his find is. So begins Dan Fesperman’s THE PRISONER OF GUANTANAMO, a book that will capture the reader’s attention immediately and maintain interest as the plot contin One night along the Cuban coast that adjoins the United States naval base at Guantanamo a body washes ashore. The body that of an American serviceman is found by a Cuban police officer on patrol. The officer rushes down the hill to chase away an iguana, recognizes that the body he has located is American and realizes how important his find is. So begins Dan Fesperman’s THE PRISONER OF GUANTANAMO, a book that will capture the reader’s attention immediately and maintain interest as the plot continues to unfold. Fesperman’s main character is a former Marine and FBI agent named Revere Falk who was fluent in Arabic and was employed by the Pentagon as an interrogator at Guantanamo. After introducing the reader to the interrogator’s craft, Fesperman discusses a Yemeni detainee named Adran al-Hamdi, who Falk has worked very hard to establish a working relationship with in order to obtain what he believes to be important intelligence. Al-Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and was considered a major “head case.” Once the American corpse is identified as SGT Earle Ludwig, the Pentagon asks Falk for assistance with the investigation into his death. Falks’s running commentary throughout the novel provides interesting insights into the American approach at GITMO to obtain intelligence and the relationship between the various US intelligence agencies. As the story progresses Falk is forced to revisit his past, particularly an error he made as a young Marine dealing with Cuban intelligence in Havana. As Falk’s investigation into Ludwig’s death develops it appears that he may have been murdered. At this point a number of new characters are introduced. Pam Cable, Falk’s girlfriend and fellow interrogator, Tim Bokamper, an old friend and FBI agent, and Gonzales Rubiero, an American who lived in Miami Beach, but spied for the Cubans. Each of these characters plays an important role in addition to the two representatives that the Department of Homeland Security dispatches to GITMO forcing the story in a different direction. Fesperman provides a number of important insights as the novel builds. The reader is taken inside al-Hamdi’s head to experience how detainees reacted to their imprisonment. In addition, Fesperman examines Cuban-American relations particularly in the post 9/11 world. “Little Havana,” in Miami Beach is explored in the context of the post-Cold War period and is very accurate. The key aspect of the novel is how its component parts fit together. How does Falk’s career as a young Marine fit into the investigation of Ludwig’s death and the reaction of other federal agencies? How does Ludwig’s death relate to Falk’s interrogation of al-Hamdi? What role does Cuban intelligence play in the events surrounding Ludwig’s death and what is their interest in al-Hamdi? Finally, why do people close to Falk’s investigation begin to disappear? Fesperman weaves his answers very carefully as the reader tries to make sense of certain aspects of the novel that seem to unfold in a world of jihadists, Cubans, and other misshapen secrets. For example, were there “higher ups” in Washington looking for links between Fidel Castro and al-Qaeda as a pretext for who knows what? The problem for Falk is that every time he feels he has figured out what was going on the tables are turned and he grows even more confused. This was my first experience reading one of Fesperman’s novels and as a result he has created a new fan! I am looking forward to reading THE WARLORD’S SON another of his books as soon as I can.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    Thank you so much Knopf for providing my free copy of SAFE HOUSES by Dan Fesperman - all opinions are my own. This espionage thriller is told in dual timelines, alternating between 1979 and 2014. It starts off in postwar Berlin, where Helen Abell oversees safe houses for the CIA Network. One night she enters one of the houses and inadvertently stumbles across something horrible and has the tapes to prove it. Fast forward thirty five years to 2014 where there is an arrest for a double murder. Hele Thank you so much Knopf for providing my free copy of SAFE HOUSES by Dan Fesperman - all opinions are my own. This espionage thriller is told in dual timelines, alternating between 1979 and 2014. It starts off in postwar Berlin, where Helen Abell oversees safe houses for the CIA Network. One night she enters one of the houses and inadvertently stumbles across something horrible and has the tapes to prove it. Fast forward thirty five years to 2014 where there is an arrest for a double murder. Helen and her husband are tragically killed at their farm in Maryland and their daughter is looking for answers. These two compelling storylines eventually intersect and lead to one incredible ending. Fesperman’s writing is top-notch and I am impressed with how well he seamlessly switched back and forth between the two timelines. The plot is original and I love Helen as a character. The male dominated time period seemed spot on for a woman working for the CIA in the 1970s and I especially enjoyed those chapters within the historical backdrop of Berlin. Switching perspectives between Helen in the seventies, and her daughter Anna looking for answers to her mother’s murder in 2014, made this a true page-turner. Another aspect I loved are the clever female characters and how they persevere through a male dominated field. I haven’t read many spy thrillers, but Fesperman’s style has convinced me to read more. I’m afraid they have a lot to live up to.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Park

    This was a fantastic spy thriller that I really enjoyed.  The story is told in two parts one based in cold war Berlin and one in 2014.  The Cold War has always held a lot of intrigue for me, not least because my dad was posted to Germany when the wall was still present.  The tension is created naturally in this timeline as the there is a general feeling of mistrust and fear amoung the residents. My favourite character was Helen who is the only women in an all male team.  She’s struggling to do he This was a fantastic spy thriller that I really enjoyed.  The story is told in two parts one based in cold war Berlin and one in 2014.  The Cold War has always held a lot of intrigue for me, not least because my dad was posted to Germany when the wall was still present.  The tension is created naturally in this timeline as the there is a general feeling of mistrust and fear amoung the residents. My favourite character was Helen who is the only women in an all male team.  She’s struggling to do her job properly or get noticed.  Her boss I very sexist and doesn’t believe woman are capable of doing agent work, an opinion that is echoed by a lot of her colleagues.  I really admired her determination to try to make a difference and make the best of the situation.  I did also feel sorry for her as the lack of confidence her colleagues had in her must have been hard to handle. This was quite a fast paced book for me and I really enjoyed watching the story unravel. I was pleased that Helen decided to try and solve the case and really wanted her to succeed.  I kept reading, turning the pages faster and faster as the mystery was solved. This is the first book by this author I have read and I really look forward to reading more from him in the future.  If you like fast paced crime thrillers that have a bit of a classic feel to them you’ll like this book. Huge thanks to Abby and Knoff publishers for my copy of this book via Netgalley and for inviting me onto the blog tour.

  8. 3 out of 5

    Dave

    Safe Houses is a terrific espionage thriller that is part espionage story from a divided Cold War Berlin in 1979 where everyone is on edge, isolated, nervous, ready for action, and a more modern-day murder mystery. Fesperman does an excellent job of tying together these two threads and the shadowy characters and lethal black ops agents at work. The focus is on what powerful people can get away with, particularly with vulnerable female agents who have nowhere to turn to. And what gets swept under Safe Houses is a terrific espionage thriller that is part espionage story from a divided Cold War Berlin in 1979 where everyone is on edge, isolated, nervous, ready for action, and a more modern-day murder mystery. Fesperman does an excellent job of tying together these two threads and the shadowy characters and lethal black ops agents at work. The focus is on what powerful people can get away with, particularly with vulnerable female agents who have nowhere to turn to. And what gets swept under the carpet only to re-emerge decades Later. Not really a bang-bang shoot-em-up secret agent story for the most part, but nevertheless very very compelling. The focus on strong female leads and women's workplace issues may prove particularly appealing to women. Many thanks to Penguin Publishing for providing a copy for review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda Zagon

    “Safe Houses” by Dan Fesperman is a captivating, intense and intriguing novel. The Genres for this novel are Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Fiction. The timelines for the story starts is West Berlin in 1974, and through different narration, continues to the present. The story takes place in many countries. The author describes the characters as complicated and conflicted. Some are courageous, and some are calculating. There is a trace of a theme of good and evil. There is corruption, betrayals, “Safe Houses” by Dan Fesperman is a captivating, intense and intriguing novel. The Genres for this novel are Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Fiction. The timelines for the story starts is West Berlin in 1974, and through different narration, continues to the present. The story takes place in many countries. The author describes the characters as complicated and conflicted. Some are courageous, and some are calculating. There is a trace of a theme of good and evil. There is corruption, betrayals, twists and turns and adventure. Helen Abell’s job in 1979 in West Berlin, is to oversee the CIA Safe Houses that field agents go to. One evening, when Helen is in one of the safe houses, two unexpected people arrive and have a conversation in code. Helen is hiding, but is secretly taping this. Another night Helen is witness to something else she shouldn’t see, or hear. Helen also has a tape of this, and now finds that she is in danger, and learns to escape and seek the information she needs and wants that has put her in this position.Little does Helen know that those tapes she has with her will be extremely significant for years to come. Thirty years later, Helen and her husband are murdered by their disabled son. Her daughter comes back to finalize arrangements, and wants to seek the truth. There are deep secrets and Helen’s past causes great danger to her daughter. I recommend this novel to those readers that enjoy a face-paced novel packed full of suspense. Happy Reading !!!

  10. 3 out of 5

    Helga Cohen

    I heard the author speak about the book, Safe Houses on an NPR interview and knew I had to read it. It was an intriguing espionage thriller that is told in dual time periods, alternating between Cold War Berlin in 1979 and a modern-day 2014 murder mystery. Helen Abell oversees the safe houses that are maintained by the CIA in Berlin. While doing an inspection one night, she accidentally overhears a strange coded conversation in one of the houses and a dangerous encounter at a later time. She att I heard the author speak about the book, Safe Houses on an NPR interview and knew I had to read it. It was an intriguing espionage thriller that is told in dual time periods, alternating between Cold War Berlin in 1979 and a modern-day 2014 murder mystery. Helen Abell oversees the safe houses that are maintained by the CIA in Berlin. While doing an inspection one night, she accidentally overhears a strange coded conversation in one of the houses and a dangerous encounter at a later time. She attempts to expose the dark truths but a powerful man in the agency is out to stop her. We see the sexist culture of the CIA and secrecy and attempts at cover up in this male dominated culture. Helen and a few strong women emerge and form a sisterhood to protect each other and plan on exposing the corruption. Years later in 2014, Helen Abell’s daughter becomes involved in trying to find the answer to the mystery of the double murder of her parents on a Maryland farm. With the help of an investigator they dig deep to expose the mystery surrounding her mother during the Cold War and the mystery of her murder. The two stories interconnect and interact in a powerful conclusion. I found the dual timeline and the espionage plot mixed with a modern day murder captivating reading. I really enjoyed this fast reading thriller novel.

  11. 3 out of 5

    Jessica

    Full review to follow on tour date - 7/2

  12. 3 out of 5

    Gare Billings

    SAFE HOUSES by Dan Fesperman is a thrilling espionage mystery novel that alternates between 1979 Berline and present time Maryland. Going into this one, I knew I was in for something menacing and unlike anything I've ever read. I was 100% correct. As this was my first novel that kind of dipped its toes in the whole spy/espionage genre, I was intrigued and heavily surprised with how Fesperman was able to not only transport me into such unfamiliar territory, but also guide me so efficiently along SAFE HOUSES by Dan Fesperman is a thrilling espionage mystery novel that alternates between 1979 Berline and present time Maryland. Going into this one, I knew I was in for something menacing and unlike anything I've ever read. I was 100% correct. As this was my first novel that kind of dipped its toes in the whole spy/espionage genre, I was intrigued and heavily surprised with how Fesperman was able to not only transport me into such unfamiliar territory, but also guide me so efficiently along this journey I was totally unprepared for. I have to say, going into this one I was a little weary on the whole espionage plot line as I have never read anything like this before. Fesperman guides his reader with ease and did a fantastic job of adding in details and characters that your fan of this genre will completely understand, but doesn't go too heavily into this genre for fans that are new to this experience. I also loved how the present day timeline was more of a mystery and kind of broke up the espionage plot that could get a little heavy at times. His writing is fluid, detailed, and tightly constructed. I really admired the way that Fesperman not only built these two fantastic plots, but the way that he blended them together was seamless and gorgeous in its prose. While I'm unsure if this genre is something I will get into further down the line, it was a great break from the average thriller and mysteries that I am used to reading. The espionage plot was easier to get than I expected, the family dynamic and blend of the stories together was nothing short of spectacular writing, and the female characters were two women that I will consider to not only be badass, but exceptionally written. I really enjoyed this novel and the reading experience it provided me and would highly recommend this novel for someone looking to step out of their comfort zone or for the readers that enjoy this genre alike. Special thanks to Alfred Knopf for providing me with this copy in exchange for my honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Martz

    Dan Fesperman can write, I'll certainly give him that. His 'Safe Houses' is one of my recent favorites, with both fine writing and a great plot. 'The Prisoner of Guantanamo' is likewise well-crafted, but the plot, although interesting and quite tricky, is a bit muddled. It's one of those books where you struggle to figure out what's really going on as the main character is doing the same. Falk, the lead character, is an ex-Marine working for the FBI as an interviewer of detainees at Gitmo back in Dan Fesperman can write, I'll certainly give him that. His 'Safe Houses' is one of my recent favorites, with both fine writing and a great plot. 'The Prisoner of Guantanamo' is likewise well-crafted, but the plot, although interesting and quite tricky, is a bit muddled. It's one of those books where you struggle to figure out what's really going on as the main character is doing the same. Falk, the lead character, is an ex-Marine working for the FBI as an interviewer of detainees at Gitmo back in the early aughts. He's fluent in Arabic, which automatically makes him suspect in the eyes of the military guys on the base (one really positive aspect of the book is its educational aspect... I knew little about Gitmo and now know a lot more). He has a young Yemeni prisoner he's working on but is pulled into the investigation of the drowning of an American soldier who is found washed up on the beach on the 'wrong side' of the fence- in other words, in Cuban territory. The base commander wants results, but so do the various other acronyms (CIA, FBI, JIG, DHS....) who descend on Gitmo in short order. There seems to be a spy-hunt going on, but there's also an unusual level of interest in the drowning investigation. 'The Prisoner of Gitmo' is a bit too muddled in the end. Falk solves the case of the drowned solider, but nobody really wanted him to, as hidden agendas were popping up all over the place. Motivations were almost too well disguised- a character would appear and would act counterintuitively, confusing both the reader and the main character. The plot resolves itself in the end to an extent, but keeping the players and their respective agendas straight was a bit too much effort. Fine writing and a good plot at a high level, but a bit too much there, there.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    Original and entertaining espionage thriller!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Helen Abell heard something she wasn’t supposed to hear at the beginning of Dan Fesperman’s Safe Houses. In fact, she hears two things she wasn’t supposed to hear. Also, she was taping the people speaking in one of the Berlin safe houses she monitors for the CIA. Even worse: some of the people who were saying things they shouldn’t know she has incriminating tapes. This is the set up for a thrilling mystery that spans almost four decades and two continents... Read the rest of my review at A Bookis Helen Abell heard something she wasn’t supposed to hear at the beginning of Dan Fesperman’s Safe Houses. In fact, she hears two things she wasn’t supposed to hear. Also, she was taping the people speaking in one of the Berlin safe houses she monitors for the CIA. Even worse: some of the people who were saying things they shouldn’t know she has incriminating tapes. This is the set up for a thrilling mystery that spans almost four decades and two continents... Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Argum

    I received a free copy of this book from Penguin First To Read. Told in two parts, 1979 Berlin sees a woman working a mostly clerical CIA job struggling to break out of the box that her sex and her superiors attitude has placed her in. When she accidentally discovers two big secrets and has tapes to prove it, an adventure for her life begins. In the other part, we see the modern day aftermath of her death as her daughter works to figure out what happened and who her mother really was. A spy thri I received a free copy of this book from Penguin First To Read. Told in two parts, 1979 Berlin sees a woman working a mostly clerical CIA job struggling to break out of the box that her sex and her superiors attitude has placed her in. When she accidentally discovers two big secrets and has tapes to prove it, an adventure for her life begins. In the other part, we see the modern day aftermath of her death as her daughter works to figure out what happened and who her mother really was. A spy thriller where no one is exactly what they seem but also a story of women. Really engaging and full of good twists.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tracy (The Pages In-Between)

    Thank you to Abby and Knopf Books for inviting me on to this blog tour and providing me with a free book. All opinions are my own.  I rate this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I normally do not read a lot of spy/espionage thrillers, it's never been a type of book that caught my attention. But when Abby Endler brings a book to your attention, and invites you on to a Blog Tour, I don't care who you are, you do it. And because of that, I feel like I got to read and enjoy a book I normally never would pick Thank you to Abby and Knopf Books for inviting me on to this blog tour and providing me with a free book. All opinions are my own.  I rate this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I normally do not read a lot of spy/espionage thrillers, it's never been a type of book that caught my attention. But when Abby Endler brings a book to your attention, and invites you on to a Blog Tour, I don't care who you are, you do it. And because of that, I feel like I got to read and enjoy a book I normally never would pick for myself.  I really enjoyed the alternating, time jumping chapters. I think Esperman depicted the good ole boy aspect of the CIA perfectly, and when I think of how it must have been back in the 70's I'm betting it's dead on. Helen was a great character, she knew right from wrong, and she wasn't afraid to fight for it, even if it ended her life.  Not a lot of books can tackle alternating, time jumping chapters, without causing some slight confusion, but I feel Esperman executed it well, and I appreciate that he added in Anna, Willard, and Henry. This side of the story gave an added depth to the book. Which was very appreciated. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I am glad I joined in on this Blog Tour. 

  18. 4 out of 5

    Judith Baller-Fabian

    One of his best. It was a look into Guantanamo like nobody else has given. I really like this author and have read most of his books. I'm delighted to have found one I haven't read, yet.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anita Boeira

    I’m a sucker for spy stories, especially women spies. There are two main storylines in this book, and Helen’s was by far the most intriguing for me. Couldn’t put it down.

  20. 3 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I love fiction that includes some political intrigue/espionage, and if it is a mystery/thriller that’s all the better! Cold War timeframe is great if done well (I loved Jake Tapper’s Hellfire Club, for example). So Dan Fesperman’s Safe Houses seemed right up my alley, especially as it was praised by Lee Child as being "One of the great espionage novels of our time," so I was happy to write an honest review in exchange for a copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley. TBH, at first I had I love fiction that includes some political intrigue/espionage, and if it is a mystery/thriller that’s all the better! Cold War timeframe is great if done well (I loved Jake Tapper’s Hellfire Club, for example). So Dan Fesperman’s Safe Houses seemed right up my alley, especially as it was praised by Lee Child as being "One of the great espionage novels of our time," so I was happy to write an honest review in exchange for a copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley. TBH, at first I had a bit of a hard time getting excited about the story. Set in Berlin in 1979, the story involves a young woman named Helen Abell, who works for the CIA  a network of safe houses. She is upstairs at one of the houses, having just checked the audio equipment to be sure it is working, when she begins to overhear conversation between two unexpected visitors to the safe house. The story rolls along through four chapters, when WHAM! we get one of those bombshells that makes you HAVE to read on. But as chapter 5 begins, it is 2014 and there is a man named Henry Mattick in Poston, MD, doing – well, we aren’t sure quite what, and despite some tantalizing clues, his purpose isn’t clarified for quite a while (to say the least). Henry is there at the time of a horrible double murder, and then the story just explodes. The book  moves the two stories along, back and forth between locations and timeframes, and Henry becomes immersed in the double murder, when the daughter of the victims (her parents) hires him to find our why her brother was driven to shoot their parents in their bed. It’s impossible to discuss it further, either in terms of plot or structure, without committing the sin of spoilers, but I will say that -- similar to Jake Tapper’s Hellfire Club -- the afterword for Safe Houses KNOCKED ME OUT. What a great story. I look forward to reading more of Fesperman’s books (how have I never heard of this guy??), and heartily recommend Safe Houses – Five Stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    When I imagine "spy" thrillers, I think of books like this one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The dual storylines were great. They intertwined nicely to lead into one another without overpowering one another. Although, I have to admit that for a while in the beginning, it was the past with Helen that had captured more of my love and attention. Helen was one tough but good agent. It is because of her honesty and stubbornness that lead to her death. In the present there is Anna and her brother, When I imagine "spy" thrillers, I think of books like this one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The dual storylines were great. They intertwined nicely to lead into one another without overpowering one another. Although, I have to admit that for a while in the beginning, it was the past with Helen that had captured more of my love and attention. Helen was one tough but good agent. It is because of her honesty and stubbornness that lead to her death. In the present there is Anna and her brother, Willard. Willard has been accused of murdering their parents. Anna wants the truth. She hire Henry. Together they go down a path that is full of twists. There was a bit of a spark between Henry and Anna but nothing that became a main focal point of the story. As the story progressed the two storylines got more involved with one another. This is such an easy book to read as the story lines and characters are written nicely. This is my first time reading a book from Mr. Fesperman and it won't be my last. You will be "hiding" but that is only because you will want to hide from the rest of the world to read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    AdiTurbo

    Excellent spy novel with a timely #MeToo twist. Three women find themselves hunted by a mysterious man after one of them accidentally records a conversation she should never have heard, as well as interrupted an event of a sordid nature, and I don't want to disclose any other details so as not to ruin anyone's pleasure. The characters are strong and very resourceful women who help and support each other while dealing with the threats to their lives and freedom. The chapters move between the past Excellent spy novel with a timely #MeToo twist. Three women find themselves hunted by a mysterious man after one of them accidentally records a conversation she should never have heard, as well as interrupted an event of a sordid nature, and I don't want to disclose any other details so as not to ruin anyone's pleasure. The characters are strong and very resourceful women who help and support each other while dealing with the threats to their lives and freedom. The chapters move between the past and the present, when one of the women's daughter is trying to find out more about her mother's past. This does not hurt the pace and suspense, since the present plotline is also quite intriguing. This is the second novel by Fesperman that I quite enjoyed. There is something warm and humane in his writing, rather than the coldness many spy novels tend to suffer from. His plots are original and give new perspectives on traditional spy stories. Will look out for more from this author.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelsie

    I hate reviews with spoilers so you won't read any here. All you'll get is my humble opinion about the quality of this novel. This is was my first Dan Fesperman novel, but I declare it a must-read. I love a story where the author has done his/her research. Mr. Fesperman did his research and delivered a beautifully developed storyline and engaging characters. The plot twists were well thought out. The author managed to make a novel with dual storylines, past and present, easy to navigate for the I hate reviews with spoilers so you won't read any here. All you'll get is my humble opinion about the quality of this novel. This is was my first Dan Fesperman novel, but I declare it a must-read. I love a story where the author has done his/her research. Mr. Fesperman did his research and delivered a beautifully developed storyline and engaging characters. The plot twists were well thought out. The author managed to make a novel with dual storylines, past and present, easy to navigate for the reader. Helen and her daughter Anna were both outstanding leading ladies. I was chosen to read an advance copy of this book as part of Penguin's First to Read program. However, the opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine and mine alone.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    "Fight for those you love." Normally not my cup of tea in espionage style formats but this one captured the genre perfectly in a powerful and intense way. It all began with Helen Abell Shoat a government employee from '77-79. She is part of the CIA's Network of Safe Houses). She overhears codes and witnesses information causing her to panic and flee for help utilizing the assistance of two female colleagues. The repercussion reverberate as she is bombarded with danger at every turn and now her daugh "Fight for those you love." Normally not my cup of tea in espionage style formats but this one captured the genre perfectly in a powerful and intense way. It all began with Helen Abell Shoat a government employee from '77-79. She is part of the CIA's Network of Safe Houses). She overhears codes and witnesses information causing her to panic and flee for help utilizing the assistance of two female colleagues. The repercussion reverberate as she is bombarded with danger at every turn and now her daughter Anna is also in the crosshairs. Risks v Reward! Written commands are instructed, firings are laid out, Cold War antics are in full force, and incriminating evidence is flowing freely through the rank and file order. Will anyone pay the price? Will the US Intelligence Agency known as Pond be part of this process? Will others become blind and death to the antics of the Soviet infiltration in Germany? Grombach is your man - using codes who wishes to keep the Pond going through "Jewelry" fire till it reaches its peak. Beginning in '79 in Berlin ending in 2014 when Helen and her husband both murdered now speak from the grave through their daughter Anna whose determined to uncover long held truths from the past 35 years. Amazing!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim Mullin

    Dan Fesperman, a favorite author of mine has hit one over the fence with his latest book, Safe Houses. An intriguing suspense thriller set in the CIA cold war years; I literally could not stop reading it. I highly recommend it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Not my usual reading genre, but I loved it and couldn’t put it down!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    My first Fesperman book. Except for the gratuitous and sense murder of an old dog I loved it. If I had know he brutally killed the dog, Scooter, I would not have read the book. Seriously, hurting him or just threatening him would have worked. Aside from that a really good read.

  28. 3 out of 5

    Michael Martz

    Dan Fesperman's 'Safe Houses' is easily one of the best spy novels of the year, beautifully written with a compelling story, great characters, and a satisfying ending with a nice twist. If you're a fan of the genre, you'll love this book!

  29. 3 out of 5

    Angela Gibson

    This book had me reading until late (early?) into the morning hours when I should have been sleeping. I was hooked. I finished the book the next day and thought that I was reading a different book. The author writes two story lines, one in 1978 Berlin and one in modern day American small town. The main character, Helen Abell, crosses into both timelines, one as a young CIA spy in Berlin and as a murdered character in modern day. The spy story was phenomenal in capturing the politics and sociology This book had me reading until late (early?) into the morning hours when I should have been sleeping. I was hooked. I finished the book the next day and thought that I was reading a different book. The author writes two story lines, one in 1978 Berlin and one in modern day American small town. The main character, Helen Abell, crosses into both timelines, one as a young CIA spy in Berlin and as a murdered character in modern day. The spy story was phenomenal in capturing the politics and sociology of the late 1970s. The modern story fell short for me, particularly in the last 1/4 of the book. I don't know who wrote the dialogue in that last 1/4 for the private investigator/government agent and Helen's daughter, but it didn't feel as though the same author had written about them for the first 3/4. The spy actions in Europe were intense and interesting; the modern day murder and spying just seemed preposterous. Even with my disappointment with the end of the book, I would read it still because the first part of the book and the Europe spy setting was just that good. I've not read any of Dan Fesperman's books before, but I'll be giving his prior books a chance. Thank you to First to Read for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I listened to the audiobook. It was an interesting story but the ending was meh. I went away thinking, is that the best the author could do?

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