The Isle of Man, a small, self-governing British crown dependency in the Irish Sea, makes an intriguing backdrop for "Safe House," Chris Ewan's first stand-alone thriller. The book works as both an emotional story of a family dealing with a tragedy and an action-packed tale of a young man caught up in an elaborate kidnapping.

Heating engineer Rob Hale's job takes him to a farmhouse where two men are staying, along with a chatty young woman named Lena, who begs Rob to come back for her on his motorcycle.

He does, but just after catching the end of the island's annual motorcycle races Rob and Lena have an accident. Rob remembers the ambulance taking Lena away, but when he wakes up in a hospital, there is no record of Lena. The police maintain Rob was the only one brought in, and no one is living in the cottage he claims to have visited.

Determined to find Lena, Rob teams up with Rebecca Lewis, a private investigator, hired by his parents to look into the recent suicide of his sister, Laura.

While a link that emerges between Laura and Lena seems too coincidental, Ewan keeps his plot full of plausible twists and turns. Though Rob makes a credible hero, Rebecca emerges as the star of "Safe House" -- a strong, independent woman with more than a few secrets.

Minotaur

$25.99, 448 pages