Playing Safe

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Pan Macmillan, Feb 14, 2013 - Fiction - 200 pages
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Actress Helen Johnson, recently married to an officer in British Intelligence with whom she once worked, feels she lacks the nerve to join him in a further life-and-death assignment such as that she undertook in Whoever I Am, described by The Times as ‘in the Christie thriller manner’. Nevertheless, she still wants to exercise her unusual talents. It is after light-heartedly offering ‘a unique service’ through the advertisement columns of some magazines that she finds herself playing three such diverse parts as the bridegroom’s only relative at a suburban wedding, the girlfriend paraded for the approval of Mama, and the wife of a would-be business executive who must be assessed along with her husband – not on the stage but in real life. She also finds herself innocently in trouble on a scale to send her back after all, and without choice, into another role where not only is her life at stake but her husband’s life also and the safety of their home.

In the psychiatric clinic where Helen must anonymously go both to hide and to seek, can it really be that someone is trying to poison her? Can an internationally sinister development really be taking place alongside the innocent life of the hospital? This is horror enough, but it is when a very special patient is admitted that Helen’s ordeal turns to nightmare and she is force to use her talents, her courage and a desperate ruthlessness in an effort to protect all she holds dear. As in her earlier adventure, ‘the incidental realities are as terrifying as the plot’ (Listener).

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About the author (2013)

An only child, Eileen Dewhurst was self-sufficient and bookish from an early age, preferring solitude or one-to-one contacts to groups, and hating sport. Her first attempts at writing were not auspicious. At 14, a would-be family saga was aborted by an uncle discovering it and quoting from it choked with laughter. A second setback came a few years later at school, when a purple passage was returned with the words 'Cut this cackle!' written across it in red ink: a chastening lesson in how embellishments can weaken rather than strengthen one’s message.

Eileen read English at Oxford, and afterwards spent some unmemorable years in 'Admin' before breaking free and dividing her life in two: winters in London doing temporary jobs to earn money and experience, summers at home as a freelance journalist, spinning 'think pieces' for the Liverpool Daily Post and any other publications that would take them, and reporting on food and fashion for the long defunct Illustrated Liverpool News, as well as writing a few plays.

Her first sustained piece of writing was a fantasy for children which was never published but secured an agent. Her Great Autobiographical Novel was never published either, although damned with faint praise and leading to an attempt at crime writing that worked: over the next thirty years she produced almost a book a year and also published some short stories in anthologies and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Eileen has always written from an ironic stance, never allowing her favourite characters to take themselves too seriously: a banana skin is ever lurking.

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