To Keep You Safe by Kate Bradley #BookReview @1stMondayCrime

You don't know who they are. You don't know why they're hunting her. But you know she's in danger.

What do you do?

When teacher Jenni Wales sees 15-year-old Destiny's black eye, she's immediately worried. Destiny isn't your average student: she's smart, genius IQ smart, and she's in care. But concern turns to fear when Jenni witnesses an attempt to abduct Jenni from school.

Who are these men and what can Destiny know to make them hunt her?

With those around her not taking the threat seriously, Jenni does the only thing she can think of to keep Destiny safe: she takes her.

Firstly, an apology, I'd hoped to share this review yesterday but couldn't quite manage to read it in time. Many thanks to Kate Bradley and Zaffre Publishing for my advance copy of the book.
With the country currently on lockdown, First Monday Crime had to unfortunately be cancelled yesterday. Nevertheless, I'm delighted to be sharing my review of To Keep You Safe by Kate Bradley, who was one of the authors booked to appear on the panel.

As somebody who works in a school, I can obviously relate to the desire to protect pupils, particularly those who are clearly the most vulnerable. The decision Jenni makes to take Destiny and keep her safe goes against her school's safeguarding policies but she realises that the chronic under-funding of both education and social care means young people in care like Destiny can easily slip through the net. She becomes convinced that the teenager is in danger and so it's perhaps not surprising that when she weighs up the various options available to her, she can't see another alternative other than to utilise some of her skills from her former life in the army to protect the girl.
As the novel progresses it starts to become evident that Jenni's perspective on events may not tell the whole story. This is partly due to her own issues; she has been diagnosed with alexithymia which means she is unable to recognise or understand emotions, and something obviously happened to her in the past which still haunts her and led to her leaving the army. Flashbacks give us a small insight into what happened but there is always the impression that the full truth is just out of grasp while she is unable to completely confront her troubled memories.
However, it's not just Jenni's problems which suggest that this isn't the whole story. To Keep You safe is told from other narratives too and it's Destiny's chapters which are perhaps the most shocking. I don't want to give anything away here, except to say that although there are points where it's impossible not to be horrified by the revelations, Kate Bradley's sensitive, perceptive writing ensures that the reasons why people make their choices is explored with empathetic honesty and clarity.
There are some dark, disturbing topics written about here but it never feels exploitative and is instead a sad but realistic admission that there is a horrible cycle to the pattern of abuse and violence and it's one that is frequently difficult to fully escape from. There are glimmers of hope too, although with an important caveat that naive optimism is as unhelpful and unrealistic as complete despair. To Keep You Safe realises that life isn't all happy endings and is much the better for reflecting that.
The characterisation is excellent throughout and I was particularly impressed with the way in which Destiny is authentically portrayed as a teenager with a genuinely troubled background, rather than being a stereotyped impression of a young person. With its assured, believable examination of contemporary social issues and a fast-moving, exciting and twisty plot, To Keep You Safe is a gripping and enjoyable debut thriller from Kate Bradley. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

To Keep You Safe is published by Zaffre and can be purchased from Amazon, Kobo, Waterstones and Hive but please try to buy from one of our wonderful independent bookstores whenever you can.

There are currently no plans to cancel the First Monday panels for May and June but please keep an eye on the website for further developments and announcements.

About the Author

Kate Bradley worked for many years managing services for people who are marginalised by society; her work has taken her into prisons, mental health hospitals and alongside the homeless. She currently works in education. She holds a first-class degree in English Literature, in addition to qualifications in creative writing and teaching. Kate lives in a small coastal town just outside of Brighton with her husband and sons. To Keep You Safe is her debut novel.
Website  Twitter