Safe House

Safe House

4.5 2
by James Heneghan

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Northern Ireland. In 1999, one year after the Good Friday peace accord, sectarian violence still runs rampant in Belfast and the hatred between Protestant and Catholic runs deep. Liam O'Donnell's father is a peacemaker to the Catholic community. When twelve-year-old Liam's parents are brutally murdered in front of him, he is frozen in place. But when he sees the face… See more details below


Northern Ireland. In 1999, one year after the Good Friday peace accord, sectarian violence still runs rampant in Belfast and the hatred between Protestant and Catholic runs deep. Liam O'Donnell's father is a peacemaker to the Catholic community. When twelve-year-old Liam's parents are brutally murdered in front of him, he is frozen in place. But when he sees the face of one of the attackers, he is forced to run for his life. Escaping, he finds shelter with a neighboring family. Taken to a police safe house, Liam is betrayed and forced to run again, from the very people who are supposed to be protecting him. Can he escape from his pursuer? Is there anywhere to turn for help? A thrilling tale of suspense set against a background that is brought brilliantly to life, Safe House is a story told from the heart.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Sherri Forgash Ginsberg
Safe House tells an intriguing story of a murder that takes place in Ireland in 1999. In the opening pages, two masked men enter a house and shoot the husband and wife in cold blood. The young son hears what is going on. Frightened beyond belief, he manages to embark on a hazardous journey of survival. This murder is seen as part of the struggle in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics that has gone on since 1170 AD, when the King of England also declared himself the King of Ireland. The story illuminates a topic that rarely makes it into YA fiction. It will appeal to reluctant readers, especially males.
VOYA - Dotsy Harland
Twelve-year-old Liam Fogarty is jarred awake at 1:00 a.m. by the sound of gunfire. It is 1999 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and his Catholic parents have just been brutally murdered by militant Protestants in a random retaliation killing. Before Liam manages to escape, he gets a good look at one of the murderers, placing himself in grave danger. This man, whom Liam dubs the "Mole" because of his distinct features, tracks Liam relentlessly, causing the police to take him to a secret "safe house" staffed by a Catholic couple, where he is to remain until the killers are caught. But one of the couple accepts a bribe to turn Liam over to the Mole, who turns out to be a corrupt police officer. Liam makes a daring escape, and in the process, the Mole is injured and arrested, freeing grief-stricken Liam to start a new life with family friends. Because of his crisis, Liam realizes that both good and harmful people exist among Catholics and Protestants, and that there is no black and white. This stark, tight thriller starts off with a bang and does not stop racing until the Mole is caught. Heneghan's juxtaposition of Liam's terror with comforting flashbacks of his gentle, intelligent parents keeps the reader tense but sympathetic. To help teens understand more clearly the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, the author provides a helpful appendix of important dates in Irish history. Heneghan's poignant adventure story will be relished by most teen readers.
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Liam Fogarty's father worked for peace in his community in Northern Ireland, but that doesn't prevent his being murdered in his bed, along with his wife, one cold July night in 1999. Liam wakes when the masked men break down their front door, charge up the stairs and start shooting. He peers out of his room just as one of the men removes his mask and so Liam begins running for his life. Even though the police try to help at one point, no place is really safe until the killers are caught. Set in Belfast, a year after the Good Friday Agreement had restored rights to the Catholics, this story offers a young boy's perspective of the continuing violence. Liam's participation in a community program, the Youth Circus, designed to bring Catholic and Protestant children together, saves him in more ways than one. The skills he learned there help him escape his relentless and murderous pursuer. The friendships and values he gained from the program are what save him emotionally in the end. A two-page chronology at the end of the book helps readers put the action in a larger political and historical context. Although we are made aware of the terrible waste and loss resulting from sectarian violence, the book offers a hopeful message that the younger generation can find a way to live together peacefully. A very accessible book that will appeal to male readers, it also offers good supplemental reading to any discussion on conflict resolution, study of this historical period, or religious conflicts—a timely yet enduring subject .
School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up
In 1999, in Belfast, Liam Fogarty's parents are murdered by intruders. Because he gets a good look at one of the gunmen, the 12-year-old is also a target. He initially takes shelter at a friend's home. After narrowly escaping being shot through the window there, he is placed in a police safe house, only to have his location betrayed. Using his wits and his talents as a gymnast, Liam is able to outrun his pursuer and return to a semblance of normal life. Readers share the boy's loneliness through his flashbacks to his parents and thoughts of his recent involvement with an interdenominational Youth Circus (particularly his budding friendship with Nicole, a Protestant girl). There is plenty of action and a reasonable amount of tension, although experienced readers will quickly work out the identity of Liam's would-be assassin. Heneghan has tackled the highly charged and complex issue of the Troubles in Northern Ireland with a bias that smacks of naïveté. An appendix listing "dates that Liam memorized in school" immediately prompts the question, "and what dates did Nicole learn in school?" To do justice to the overwhelming issue of this conflict, a novel needs to be spot-on in tone and character. Safe House falls short of that goal.
—Kara Schaff DeanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Readers will be drawn by the fast action and the breathless escape adventure, but they'll also respond to the politics of war in Belfast...True to the boy's viewpoint, the betrayal and terrorism is very close, especially in the unforgettable images of what is lost."
Quill & Quire
"Teachers in particular will find this text useful."
"An awesome book filled with thrills and adventure...impossible to put down."
Canadian Literature
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Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

They had him. He fell to the floor. The big man kicked him in the ribs.

"He saw me!" said the big man. "He saw me. I know he did."

The boy scrambled backward, petrified, his back against the wall.

The big man pointed his gun, his finger tightening on the trigger.

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