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Monday, 13 July 2015

‘I Let You Go’ by Clare Mackintosh

Published by Sphere,
7 May 2015:
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5415-1

A young woman takes off into the night after the kind of tragic hit-and-run accident that is every mother’s nightmare. She holes up in a remote cottage, and over the next few months the scars begin to heal and she settles into the community: makes friends, starts a business, meets the local vet, and love begins to blossom.

Meanwhile, back at the scene of the accident, an ambitious detective constable and her boss are investigating. She is young and sparky; his marriage has gone stale. The inevitable lurks on the sidelines. They find no useful evidence, and despite their best efforts, the investigation stalls – until an anniversary appeal throws up a surprise witness. The narrative is turned on its head, a third voice enters the picture– and that’s when the pace hots up and things really begin to take off.

On the face of it, Clare Mackintosh’s assured debut is more two-layered romance than psychological thriller, at least for the first half of the novel. The chief way the author holds our interest is by creating two intriguing characters, each with a distinct voice: Jenna, the fleeing woman, and Ray, the young DC’s boss. She builds their lives around them: Ray’s troubled family life and his itchy relationship with DC Kate, Jenna’s growing friendship with her taciturn landlord Iestyn, motherly caravan park owner Bethan, and Patrick the vet.

But I Let You Go is a thriller after all, and though the police side of things goes much as you might expect, nothing in Jenna’s life is as it seems.

It isn’t always an easy read, but it rapidly becomes a compelling one. It follows a pattern which has become familiar since Gone Girl: unreliable narrator, the past impacting on the present, dark secrets waiting to emerge; but it certainly isn’t a clone of last summer’s must-read book. The characters are well-developed individuals; the mean streets of Bristol and the idyllic Welsh coastal village are equally well-drawn; the writing is skilful and well-balanced; and the plot has enough twists enough to satisfy the pickiest reader, not to mention a final kick that sent shivers up my spine.

It’s a sure-footed debut which augurs well, and I look forward to seeing what Clare Mackintosh does next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Clare Mackintosh is an author, feature writer and columnist. She has written for The Guardian, Sainsbury's Magazine, The Green Parent, and many other national publications, and is a columnist for Cotswold Life and Writing Magazine.  Clare spent twelve years in the police force, working on CID, in custody and as a public order commander, and has drawn on her experiences for her début psychological thriller I Let You Go. She is currently writing her second novel, out next year.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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