Written by Clare Mackintosh — I Let You Go might be Clare Mackintosh‘s crime debut, but as a journalist she is an established writer. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Sainsbury’s Magazine, Good Housekeeping and WI Life. If you’re into suburban or kitchen sink noir, this sounds like a very promising start, doesn’t it? This writer knows the domestic milieu and now she has turned her skills to our favourite genre.
I Let You Go gets underway by deploying the ‘what if’ plotting tool. A mother is happily walking her five-year-old son home from school, blithely chatting about his day while her mind wanders onto plans for the evening ahead. They are nearly home when she lets little Jacob cross the quiet side street on his own. Bang! Out of nowhere a car appears and hits the child, who dies instantly. The vehicle then does a clumsy U-turn and departs the scene. But ‘what if’ she had held onto Jacob’s hand? And ‘what if’ the driver had stopped and helped her?
DI Ray Stevens and his team are soon on the case. Ray is a seasoned cop, but he is impressed by the determination of newbie detective DC Kate Evans, who seems particularly affected by the child’s death. Together they make a formidable team but even after all their efforts they seem no closer to finding the hit and run driver and are encouraged by the top brass to move onto other cases. That’s not about to stop this pair but as their off-the-books snooping progresses, their relationship begins to stray from the strictly professional.
In the aftermath of Jacob’s death, Jenna Gray decides to leave the memories of the accident behind and find another place to live; somewhere she can be anonymous and eke out some kind of a new life for herself. She departs Bristol and ends up in a remote cottage on the Welsh coast. It is basic and quiet and she hopes it will help her to escape from the grief and memories that haunt her nightmares. At first the plan seems to be working… but just as Jenna begins to breathe easier, the past comes flooding back in a most devastating fashion.
If I Let You Go is a book of two halves that fits into the sub-genres of psychological thriller and police procedural, and it is when those two collide that things really begin to happen. It is a deeply unsettling tale that contains the best twist I’ve had the pleasure to experience since the one that left me breathless in Kevin Sampson’s The Killing Pool – and there is no way I’m going to go into details and spoil things for you. The sticky spider’s web of a plot grips from the outset, but just when you think you might have found a way out, Mackintosh pulls the threads tighter and never lets go.
I read this book over two evenings and on the second one I just had to stick things out to the bitter end, so engrossed was I. As 1am came and went there was no way I was putting it down… and no chance at all of me sleeping until I’d reached that final full stop. I Let You Go is scary, tricky, engrossing and downright deceptive. A recommended read.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars