In [Safe Houses], author Dan Fesperman superbly melds a character-strong espionage thriller with a suspenseful mystery that also aligns with the #MeToo movement. As a spy thriller, [Safe Houses] eschews high-tech gadgets to concentrate on the emotional and physical peril of undercover work. As a mystery, it quickly becomes a family drama ... Fesperman supplies plenty of tense scenes, especially during Helen’s younger years, but his affinity for character studies is the novel’s driving force ... Fesperman never allows his characterization to go over the top ... [Safe Houses] is a superior thriller — both on the international and domestic front.
This novel stumbles at the outset ... But that bump in the road having been negotiated, what follows is a smooth ride, a novel belying its historical origins with a #MeToo slant ... The narrative choreography demanded by Fesperman’s split timelines is expertly handled, and... illustrates the kind of weight that the spy novel, in the right hands, is capable of bearing.
Dan Fesperman is no stranger to thrill and intrigue... [Safe Houses] showcases a lean, muscular prose that is able to deliver plot points as cleanly and quickly as a switchblade’s twist ... The strength of [Safe Houses] relies on the author’s deft handling of spy-jinx. The story isn’t bogged down with tradecraft or explanations of how things work. But that’s not to say that one is left wanting more, either. Fesperman uses just enough to progress the plot and keep us wondering what he’s going to do to our two heroines next ... The novel’s strength also lies in its historical and cultural context... [there's] enough description and realism to enthrall me with the historically fascinating past while avoiding the bogging of encyclopedic descriptions ... I’m definitely a new fan; read [Safe Houses] and you will be too (if you aren’t already).
In Baltimore-based spy master Dan Fesperman's latest, the past eerily overlaps with the present via two artfully linked stories ... Like the best espionage novels, Safe Houses brilliantly traces the distance between high moral ground and low. Part of the fun of the book is reading it for a second time and seeing how the narrative seeds of the first part enrich and deepen what occurs in part two.
The level of treachery and betrayal, personal and otherwise, depicted here is byzantine in its complexity and potential to spawn collateral damage. This is a masterfully constructed example of classic le Carré–style espionage fiction, the all-enveloping perfidy burrowing its way into inner lives and leaving the survivors only tentatively able to move forward.
[A] truly gripping work of suspense ... [Fesperman faces] the challenge of making a story feel fresh when so many previous books have already covered that ground. His solution is inspired [in Safe Houses].
Safe Houses contains storylines between past and present and Dan Fesperman writes them in a way that they play into one another perfectly. While reading, questions start fluttering around in your mind about the future storyline. As the book goes on, the two stories become more tightly wound. For me, the 1970’s Berlin portion was the more fascinating of the two – I loved reading about the politics of Europe at that time.