- Security TWENTY
- Women in Security
Author RJ Bailey
ISBN No 9781-4711-5716-5
Review date 19/06/2019
No of pages 438
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publisher URL http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk
Year of publication 08/12/2016
Safe From Harm, by RJ Bailey, published 2017 by Scott & Schuster. Paperback, 438 pages, ISBN 9781-4711-5716-5, £7.99. Visit www.simonandschuster.co.uk
A work of fiction makes a change, and highly enjoyable one, writes Mark Rowe.
The thinking behind Safe From Harm is so good, other publishers and budding authors may come to ask why they didn’t think of it. You have the close protection officer, the bodyguard, as the entry into whatever VIP world you choose as your subject. Make the hero a heroine - a female CPO, which while still far from the norm, is perfectly believable - and as Safe From Harm points out, a woman CPO in some situations has advantages over a man, such as being able to relate better to women and girls.
Bloody after Hampstead
As Safe From Harm is a thriller, it would be wrong to give away the details of the story. The heroine, Samantha Wylde, is early on bereaved. She takes a bodyguarding job for the wealthy Pakistani family the Sharifs, particularly looking after Nuzha, the daughter: “She turned out to be the kind of 12-year-old you only read about - polite, diligent, hard-working, maybe a little too serious.” A typical and even routine CP job of driving in large and expensive cars, liaising with the ‘residential security adviser’, picking children up from school in Hampstead Garden Suburb. And when Sam gets home, she has to be as quick in her thinking as a mother - when her daughter asks for permission to go to a sleep-over, is it as innocent as it sounds? Life turns bloody. Samantha has to be a good CPO and protect the principal, and their family - but what about her own family? The style (first-person) and content throughout are impeccable. The author plainly knows everything from Gander airport in Canada, to recent laughably misnamed ‘peace-keeping’ missions such as Bosnia, to why the CPO asks for a driver airbag to be disabled: “If you get rammed by hostiles, a face full of giant gas envelope tends to impair your response, not to mention blocking your vision. Everyone else in the vehicle can get a free bouncy castle, but you, the driver, want to be able to see and steer out of trouble.”
Who is it?
While it shouldn’t be a distraction from the enjoyable read, who is the author? Is the initials, as with JK Rowling, an attempt to hide the gender of the author? But which gender? Is it a writer who’s done plenty of research, or someone who’s done the job of close protection, and who has taken to writing? With an Army background? “I’d seen macho save-the-little-lady behaviour like that on the battlefield,” the heroine says near the end. “It never ended well.” The author is at home around the reality of close protection, the small world known as ‘The Circuit’, and the lingo (POI, for example; ‘person of interest’). While the work demands that you do a ‘casual 360 of the area’ when a pregnant woman asks you a question, forget about ramming and driving your way out of trouble; you strive to avoid it in the first place. The book is masterly on the nuts and bolts, such as cars - important for the CPO to do their job, and maybe stay alive if attacked - and with self-defence fighting, such as Krav Maga, as with the inner life of the narrator, and the other characters; the hidden deceit and evil of people.
The book closes with Wylde giving up the Sharif job and smoking in her car, waiting to ask someone some questions. But she doesn’t expect all the answers. “Only some. Real life is too confused, too untidy to deliver me neat, bow-tied solutions ...” Which leads the book neatly into the sequel, already on the stocks for 2018, when Sam Wylde (with SIA licence, naturally) accompanies a client on ‘an extended business trip abroad’. By land only, as the client has a fear of flying (why do they always have to be like that?!). The publishers plainly and justifiably have high hopes of this character becoming a successful series of books, and I can well see readers becoming (and as importantly, staying) loyal.
Private security people may enjoy the book for more than the sheer pleasure (with such opening chapter lines as ‘he looked good for a man I thought was dead’); they may pick up some ideas, such as using an RAC van as cover if you want to do some investigation work. But the author does not tell you how to get such a van!
And the urgent cover does the book justice too.
Safe From Harm, by RJ Bailey, published 2017 by Scott & Schuster. Paperback, 438 pages, ISBN 9781-4711-5716-5, £7.99. Visit www.simonandschuster.co.uk.