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Safe Hands by W A Kelly

29th March, 2024.

Safe Hands

I heartily recommend getting yourself a copy of Safe Hands by W A Kelly, whether physical copy, digital ebook, or listening on audible as it is an absolute treat - especially if you are fan of crime thrillers, even more so if you’re craving a British crime thriller, and absolutely if you want a British crime thriller with older lead characters that’s set in 


Bit niche that last bit but still…

Retired safe cracker and ex-boxer Mickey Blake is living out his days exiled in Spain with his sick wife. When a debt is called in from one low life crook, he is forced to take on a risky job for another low life crook back in England on the coast. With the help of vengeance seeking single mum Hazel, can Mickey keep himself and two families safe whilst solving a mystery AND paying off his debt? 

Actually, I’m not joking about that being a plus point of the novel - I really enjoy a book that can vividly build a world and for me, that’s just as important with a local crime drama as it is with a sci-fi or fantasy novel. It also helps the novel feel different from the early pages due to the simple fact that it’s not set in one of the usual big cities. 


Mickey Blake is an intriguing main character and his past as a boxer and a safe cracker combine with a complex family situation to give depth to the “one last job” set up. With a sick wife at home in their Spanish retreat, Mickey is dragged back to England to settle a debt via a dubious sounding casino job. But something is definitely fishier than the local chippy and Mickey seems right to not trust anyone as he embarks on his own investigation before he’s the next to be battered. (Yeah, ok, sorry, that was bad.)



The usual “detective and junior partner” duo is given a twist here as Mickey crosses paths with Hazel - a single mum with a score of her own to settle. Both of them are blunt, fiercely protective of their families, and it's fun to see them spar and circle each other in a refreshing change to the usual romantic leads. As someone who is - shall we say - 'no longer young', I thoroughly enjoyed reading lead characters who weren't effortlessly leaping and running about without a care about the impact on their knees or whether they'd put their back out. Being middle aged means that these lead characters hae to navigate extra baggage and history, and this presents different challenges and adds a depth to exchanges and situations.


Like the tide retreating to reveal what lies beneath, Kelly skilfully lets the characters divulge their murky pasts and true motivations as we build towards the conclusion of both stories. It hits the spot as a page turning thriller and is immensely satisfying as it pieces together the clues with tension occasionally lifted by some wry, dry, and deft humour. 


The book is a bit of a throwback - in a good way - in that the big set pieces are more analogue than hi-tech and the characters remind me of the  type you’d bump into at the bar buying their scampi fries rather than in the “rustic” bar drinking a cocktail out of a jam jar. And you know what? A crime series set around the East Midlands sounds like a winner to me - chip cobs all round. And with the author working on the sequel now, fingers cross we might get to see Mickey Blake curse his way across our screens.


You can win your very own signed copy of Safe Hands by simply going to social media and following and liking and/or sharing our posts about the latest podcast episode - which features my interview with Wayne Kelly about Safe Hands, and what it was like producing his own book as independent publisher.


There was really only direction I could go in for a biscuit to rate this book with local connections - with the biscuit factory down the road from making McVities I’ve had to go with a Club biscuit - locally made, comforting, a bit of a throwback, and thoroughly satisfying.


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