image I Let You Go: Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go has done really well commercially, and garnered a lot of hype about the ‘twist.’ I think it’s always great when a book gets people talking (especially a debut) so was eager to read it. It doesn’t disappoint – the plot grabs you by the shoulders and keeps you turning the pages at a rapid pace, and the twist is indeed a shocker. What really struck me is how carefully the author must have plotted this book out, as it contains a lot – just when you think you’ve explored everything something else pops up and you’re kept guessing until the end.

I’m going to review this book without giving away the twist, as I think that’s only fair. The moment of realisation is delicious so I would hate to be the one to deprive anyone of that!

The book opens with the night a five-year-old boy (Jacob)  is killed in a hit and run. Jenna Gray is the main protagonist who has moved to a remote cottage in Wales to escape from her life, and Ray and Kate are the detectives working on the case. I found that the pace really ramped up in the second half of the book; once it got going it sped up and increased its hold on the reader; I stayed up all night reading and actually had quite an emotional reaction to some scenes toward the end. The characters are well-drawn and the last third adds a different element to the book (domestic violence) that I hadn’t seen coming and that moves the goalposts a bit. Mackintosh creates a remarkably hate-able character in Ian Petersen; she takes us right inside his mind and gives his narrative such a cold, calculating feel that it does send shivers down the spine. Some of the imagery Mackintosh creates is brutally vivid and even difficult to read at times (but persist, because the story is worth it). I Let You Go brings up quite a few issues, as well, which makes it a great book for discussion (hence the Richard and Judy interest) – from the very start there is the hit and run topic – I Let You Go explores the possibility that Jacob’s mother should be held responsible for letting go of her son’s hand while he crossed the road, and then of course there is the wholly immoral issue of hit and runs in the first place, and what would make somebody do that.

This is a very accomplished debut – the psychological thriller market is a busy one and Mackintosh manages to stand out from the crowd. She captures the dread of Jenna Gray brilliantly and fleshes her characters out nicely; I liked the clay figurines in Jenna’s shed and the fledgling romance between Ray and Kate – while there are quite a few characters in this book Mackintosh manages to make you care about all of them, which is no small task when you’re writing a novel whose main focus is the plot. I’m excited to see what Clare Mackintosh comes up with next.

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