Cover Image: Safe and Sound

Safe and Sound

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Member Reviews

Another suspenseful page turner from Laura McHugh.
The rural small town is stifling and creepy, and at times feels inescapable. The setting of McHugh’s books always feels like a character of its own.
I grew to like, and root for, the three heroines of Safe and Sound. And in turn, despise a couple of the villains (I could SMELL them thanks to her vivid descriptions).
LOVED this dark mystery that kept me guessing till the end. I highly recommend!
Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy. .

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A fairly good read. Decent writing, fast paced. The story fell apart at the end for me though and then the actual ending was unsatisfying to say the least. The plot itself was a bit too predictable but still handled well.

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Soul-stirring story of family that presents on the surface as a mere tale of generational poverty, toxic, familial dysfunction, and the tendency of humans to repeat that which is demonstrated for us.

The characters in Safe and Sound are so fully realized, it’s hard to imagine they are not based on someone real. It’s even harder not to become invested in them upon learning the paths they walk.

The three main characters Grace, Amelia, and Kylee are brought into a family fueled by dysfunction, and further complicated by suppressed memories and a fear of being or ending up alone. At least EVERY boogeyman didn’t get to slink off unnoticed like a thief in the night.

Despite the trigger warning for those sensitive to situations related to childhood sexual abuse, I was impressed with the way this played out (at least in some ways). For example, without long abuses of preamble, there were occasions of reckoning for certain monsters in the story… Hence, Safe and Sound was not just a tale of victims and the crimes or injustices against them or their dysfunctional families. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Last note: Selfishly, if there were one thing I would change/add/remove… I would consider an epilogue to tell readers who have become so invested in these characters a little more about what comes of them.

Special thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley for the amazing digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

#safeandsound #thriller #domesticthriller #suspense #nailbiter #must-read #pubday042324 @lauramchugh @bookshell_f

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3.5 stars. The storyline: Two sisters, Amelia and Kylie, try to resolve the mystery behind the disappearance of their cousin Grace, who mysteriously vanished some years back while she was babysitting them and they were sleeping. I definitely enjoyed a few of the author’s previous novels, and although I enjoyed this one with its intriguing storyline, it missed the mark a bit for me. The general plot was aided by the interesting twists/turns that surfaced throughout, but the ending was a big disappointment to me. It seemed very anticlimactic and just plain rushed — and somewhat weird. Nonetheless, I look forward to reading other books by this author.

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Wowowow what a story!!! I was hooked from page 1 & read this in a day. What a great story- loved the POV and lots that I didn’t see coming. An excellent story that I’ll definitely recommend to mystery/suspense fans.

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Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this novel. It's about two sisters in a small town in Missouri that try to solve the disappearance of their talented cousin Grace years prior, on the cusp of her escape to college. The story is told from the point of view of the sisters and Grace on two different timelines. Most of the same players are present in both timelines, so the sisters try to work out who did it with all the same skeevy men who are still there. As someone from a small town that devours its females, this really brought up all the feelings. Grace had been a smart, determined, empathic woman in a town full of men that could only see her light and want to possess it. The only person who ever looked out for her was a grade school teacher, and that was brief and ineffective. Everyone else just questioned her desire to leave without seeing her talent, or even her humanity. Such a clear and well-written tale of the family values that cover a lack of decency in small towns, and the inability to see people clearly where everyone has long been reduced to categories. A tough read but very good.

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The book starts with a vigil for Grace Crow who vanished from home 6 years ago. Grace had been about to leave town on a college scholarship. The blood-stained kitchen is a creepy clue that something horrible had happened to Grace.

The story is told in two points of view. Grace's younger cousins Amelia & Kylee are also desperate to leave their small town of Beaumont, Missouri. They vow to find the truth when human remains are discovered at a nearby farm and people think it's Grace.

Other parts of the story are told by Grace in the months leading up to her disappearance. Several family members and close friends are hiding secrets. The ending was a shocker.

I received a digital ARC from Netgalley and Random House. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of Safe and Sound and thank you to Miss Laura for writing another amazing book, I’ve been dying for her to release something new!

Safe and Sound follows 3 cousins, one missing and presumed dead and 2 reeling in the aftermath of their cousin going missing and desperately trying to figure out what happened to her six years after the fact.

Laura McHugh really knows how to deliver a gut punch of a novel. This book was so emotional, hard to read, and triggering at times. We follow some very heavy topics such as child sexual abuse, so def know that going in. It was very heartbreaking to read about and had me cringing and wanting to cry at parts.

This was very fact paced, and I loved the alternating chapters between grace/kylee/amelia. I loved the setting of the small town were majority of the people in it are struggling with poverty and/or addiction. It just felt so realistic, maybe because it’s similar to how I grew up. We even get a mention of a frito chip pie and I thought my family was the only one who made that! Laura always just finds a way to make me feel so connected to her books/stories.

My only complaint and reason for not giving a 5stars is the ending. In a way it felt very underwhelming (but also made me happy in a way) and confusing. The last chapter just didn’t make any sense for what Kylee and Amelia had just been through and was just unrealistic. It felt like there should’ve been another chapter.

Still, def worth a read!

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arc review

Safe and Sound focuses on two sisters, Amelia and Kylee, and their cousin, Grace. Six years ago while babysitting her little cousins, Grace disappeared leaving a bloody handprint behind. While the annual vigils shrink in attendance, Amelia and Kylee haven't given up on finding out what happened to their beloved cousin.

This book may be a good fit if you enjoy:
- sibling-focused stories
- quite a few suspects
- getting mad at sh!tty men

This book is dark and uncomfy at times. Grace, Amelia, and Kylee want out of the tiny town of Beaumont where the typical life is maybe graduating from high school, popping out some kids, and working at the local meatpacking plant. They're made to feel crazy for wanting to see what else the world has to offer. Some of the characters -- especially some of the men -- are garbage human beings, but I was rooting for the main characters' strength and resilience.

Overall, this was a quick and entertaining read despite some parts being tough to stomach. I appreciated there were quite a few characters worth cheering for. The overall plot and twists were good even though I personally wished for different outcomes for some of the characters.

Rating: I liked it! (3)

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ebook early in exchange for an honest review.

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This was my first novel by this author and I loved it. A dark twisty thriller. So many suspects I wasn't sure who was truly involved. The characters and story were believable. I highly recommend.

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Kylee and Amelia are sisters who are trying to get buy in a no-future Missouri time. Kylee is in her junior year of high school. Amelia works at the local Waffle House with an insufferable boss who is most likely trying to get into her pants. Their mom is a stripper. Their older cousin who they idolized, Grace, has been missing for years. Amelia has been saving money to try to get the girls free from repeating their family’s history of being stuck in low-end jobs. Meanwhile, they are trying to figure out what happened to Grace.

The character development was good, but the thriller aspect of the story fell flat for me. I do not like thrillers that use child sexual abuse as a plot point; even though that is a very serious issue.

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This book y’all ! It walked into my life, F’ed ish up, and walked out lol What a phenomenal read. Safe and Sound kept me constantly on edge and then the ending left me visibly shaken. Now this book is not for the faint of heart, and I would take the TW very seriously. That’s a side, it’s one hell of a ride that you’re not going to want to miss.

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Sisters Amelia and Kylee have been taken care of by their cousin Grace. She keeps them safe while their single and distant mother works, until one day she goes missing while babysitting. Now, teenagers themselves, they are desperate to leave their small town but want to find the truth about Grace.

I loved this one! Dark and traumatic at many times, it is hopeful with the two sisters and the reliance they have on each other. There are some evil characters in the story, some truly generous and amazing characters, and some characters just playing the cards they were dealt. I will always love an amateur investigation story, especially with young adults trying to beat the odds of their past and future.

“Folks want to think it’s strangers you gotta watch out for, but a place like this, we eat our own.”

Safe and Sound comes out 4/23.

Safe and Sound comes out 4/23.

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Laura McHugh is officially on my radar. I devoured “The Wolf Wants In” and her new book “Safe and Sound” kept me on edge to the very end. Laura writes in a style that is deeply creepy but full of emotion and kindred spirits. It’s easy to feel close to her characters (or at least the ones we like!)
Meet sisters Amelia and Kylee, who will soon graduate high school and hopefully get out of the sad little town they’ve grown up in. The hollow loss of their favorite cousin Grace when they were younger doesn’t make them any fonder of this town full of secrets.
Bones are found in the woods which reignite the sisters’ hope that they’ll finally know what happened to Grace. The more they question, the more walls they hit. It seems that others in the town want to keep Grace where she is, and would like for these nosy sisters to take it down a notch, get married, have kids, and work in the meatpacking plant.
Amelia and Kylee have other plans, but their blind luck and bad choices put them in so much more danger than they ever conceived. Well written with likable characters living in a miserable little town that makes the perfect stage for Laura’s newest best seller.
Thanks so much to Random house Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is April 23, 2024.

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Amelia and Kylee are sisters who can’t wait to move away from their small Missouri town when Kylee graduates from high school. As the story begins, they are attending their cousin Grace’s sixth year anniversary of the day she went missing. Grace had been babysitting Amelia and Kylee on the night she disappeared without a trace leaving only a large amount of blood behind. Amelia and Kylee want to find Grace before they leave town.

The characters in the story are believable. The story is divided into character sections with Amelia talking in first person and Grace talking in third person. I do enjoy books that are set up this way.

The story kept my interest throughout. A few people could have been involved in Grace’s disappearance. I couldn’t decide who was involved, if anyone (did Grace leave on her own?), until I was almost at the end of the story. This is great because I don’t normally enjoy books where I can tell right away what happened.

The only thing I would have liked the author to do differently is extend the ending to make it more conclusive. This didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. I will recommend this book to family and friends.

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3.5 stars

Main Characters:
-- Amelia – graduated high school early, works full-time as a waitress at a Waffle House, trying to save up money to leave the small town of Beaumont, Missouri, once her sister graduates high school
-- Kylee – Amelia’s younger sister, not as invested in leaving Beaumont as Amelia
== Grace – Amelia and Kylee’s older cousin, disappeared six years ago, she was babysitting Amelia and Kylee who were sleeping upstairs, and there was blood splattered all over the kitchen
-- Shannon – Amelia and Kylee’s mother, works as a dancer at a local strip club
-- Elsie – Grace’s mother, holds a vigil every year on the anniversary of Grace’s disappearance
-- Levi – Grace’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance, the current year is the first vigil he has missed
-- Tyson – Levi’s older brother
== Jimmy – Elsie’s live-in boyfriend, 20 years younger than she is, only a few years older than Grace

Trigger Warning: child sexual abuse

Grace Crow intended to leave Beaumont, Missouri, for good when she went missing. Already offered a full scholarship to college, she regularly told Amelia and Kylee to stick together and to get out before it was too late. Grace disappeared before she got the chance to leave, so Amelia takes her advice seriously. She graduated high school early so she could start working to save money. She regularly reminds Kylee to keep her grades up and focus on school so they can leave as soon as she graduates and, as Grace always told them, never look back.

When human bones turn up at a construction site, everyone’s minds immediately turn to Grace. Has she finally been found? It’s pretty early in the book that we find out the bones are not Grace’s, so not a spoiler, but they seem to be the impetus for Amelia to start digging into who the bones belong to, are they related to Grace, what really happened the night Grace went missing.

This story moves pretty slowly, and I don’t think that’s a positive here. A high school senior vanishes, blood all over the kitchen, no one saw or heard anything, and no clues to her whereabouts remain. Boyfriends, teachers, neighbors, her aunt’s strip club clientele…literally anyone could be a suspect. And the ending comes with a great unexpected twist. I certainly never came close to guessing what happened. But the police don’t seem to be investigating the case after all these years, and honestly, I have to believe they could have solved this if they had tried even just a little bit.

Based on the twist and the subject matter, I would have expected this to be categorized as suspense or a thriller. It’s general fiction, however, and I agree with that categorization. The narration is dry up until the end. Amelia spends so much time talking about how Grace always told them to get out while they can and that’s been her focus. I feel like there was potential for this to be so much better, but it fell flat…until the twisty part at the end, which got so convoluted that you wish the reveal came sooner so the rest of the book would have been a little more exciting.

I toyed with a lower star rating, but this DID really surprise me. Also, an epilogue would have been ideal for this one. There are so many things that require resolution (see spoilers), but sadly, we are left hanging.

***SPOILERS*** SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

So I can’t really lay out why this book falls short of a better rating without spoilers, so here they are.

Three women/girls have gone missing in this small town, and there seems to be zero sense of urgency to solve the crimes. First was a young girl who Shannon and Elsie’s brother Norman took a liking to. The man is a serial pedophile and Elsie’s current boyfriend has pictures to prove he was abusing Grace when she was younger. Instead of telling Elsie, he hides the pictures in a desk…I guess because Elsie was so devoted to her brother that it would be devastating to her. More devastating than the fact that her daughter is gone?!

Turns out, Norman had also abused a girl named Annalise before Grace. He has her name tattooed near his privates, which is how Grace figures it out. Annelise’s uncle suspected Norman but could never prove anything. And at some point Norman had killed her and then buried her in the concrete of Elsie’s pool that he put in while she was gone one weekend.

So Norman is a suspect in Grace’s disappearance, but we find out later that Grace actually killed him by accident in an effort to protect Amelia and Kylee from his abuse. Tyson helped her dispose of his body and belongings, and everyone just assumed he had left town because that’s what he did pretty regularly. He’d leave for months or years at a time, didn’t carry a cell phone because he didn’t want people to be able to reach him, and he would blow back into town to stay with Elsie who doted on him, oblivious to the fact that he was abusing her daughter.

The bones found at the very beginning of the book are from a stripper who had worked with Shannon and just disappeared one day. It was assumed that she left town so never investigated, but I would think once the other two went missing, people might start to get suspicious.

Alan manages the Waffle House where Amelia works, which is also where Grace worked. He’s a total creep, and his cook Javi knows it, but Javi does nothing about it because Alan regularly threatens to have him deported for using a fake ID to get his job. Alan steals meat from the deep freezer and sells it as a side hustle, so he has loads of cash in his home freezer, but apparently he is neither a kidnapper nor a killer. He’s just a creep who never gets his comeuppance.

I suspected both Alan and Javi at one point, but they’re just distractions.

Then we also have to look at Levi and Tyson. Both are pretty heavy drinkers. Levi is quiet, while Tyson is more outgoing. What we come to find out is that Tyson loved Grace as well. Jealous but protective of his brother, after he helps Grace get rid of Norman’s body, he tells her that if she leaves Beaumont (and Levi), he’s going to tell everyone that she killed Norman. They argue, he’s drunk with a knife in his hand, and he accidentally slices her arm open right along an artery.

Since the hospital is too far away, he takes her to their family cabin. His mother Velda had worked previously as an ER nurse, and he figures she can help. Grace is fragile and drifts into a coma. She gets progressively weaker, and Velda decides that it’s too late to go to the police. But just when Velda thinks Grace is about to die, Grace opens her eyes. So for the past six years, Velda has been taking care of the practically comatose Grace at their cabin. How the police never went to the cabin since Grace and Levi were a couple, and how they never discovered her is a mystery to me. All Kylee had to do was look in a window.

At that point, Velda tells Tyson they can’t ever let Amelia and Kylee leave. Tyson starts to choke Kylee, Levi shows up, and shoots Tyson with a crossbow, and then says he’ll bring Grace out so that Amelia and Kylee can leave with her. So for six years he has said nothing, but once they discover her, he kills his brother to let all three of them leave?

And where do Amelia, Kylee, and Grace end up? We have no idea!! The last chapter is them driving out of town after leaving Velda’s cabin. So Grace is alive, several people are dead, and Amelia and Kylee aren’t even talking about where they will go to get Grace some medical help…or how they’ll explain everything that happened. They’re just driving out of town.

A few answers would be appreciated here.

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The mystery of a vanished cousin mixed with the creepy small town vibes where everyone seemed to be hiding something was gripping. The atmosphere was quite tense and the build up in suspense was good but I feel like it dragged a bit and kinda fell off in the end. The ending was quite rushed and anticlimactic and left some loose ends untied.

At times this was also a bit difficult to read due to some triggering themes but overall this was a quick, decent thriller read.

3.5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley for the arc!

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Sisters Amelia and Kylie were asleep when their cousin and babysitter, Grace, went missing leaving traces of her blood behind. Now older teenagers, Amelia and Kylie are determined to do two things, find out what happened to Grace and leave their small, dead-end town. They start uncovering clues, but there the story is more complicated than it once seemed. This mystery will keep readers guessing!

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Laura does it again! Another who done it that kept me guessing till the last chapter. So many twists and turns and possible suspects. I enjoyed the characters with surprising developments throughout the book. You never truly know someone….

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This was a dark, dark story. Bad people doing bad things that are because of their situation in life.
Two sisters in a poor Missouri town try to find out what happened to the cousin who raised them and disappeared one night. I liked the sisters drive to try and rise above their poverty and get a better life for themselves. But of course there is always someone trying to derail the plans.
Fast paced, twisting and well written.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the advanced copy in exchange for a honest opinion.4⭐️

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