Written by Clare Mackintosh — The simple things in life can transform into something terrifying when put in the hands of someone with a warped imagination. Take Alfred Hitchcock and his birds for example, or Stephen King’s car, Christine. Both take the day to day and turn it into your worst nightmare. The same can be said for Clare Mackintosh’s latest, which carries with it great expectation. The author’s debut novel, I Let You Go, was Crime Novel of the Year 2016 at Harrogate and was in my top five books of 2015. Like Christine, I See You has transport at its heart.
The daily commute to and from the workplace is a part of many people’s lives. It can be a nuisance and an absolute pain but it is a necessary evil. Could it be the death of you, though? When Zoe Walker idly scans a free newspaper on her tedious train journey to and from work in London she never expects to see her own face looking back at her from the personal services ads. What the hell is going on?
The website – findtheone.com – and phone number that accompany the photo prove to be dead ends. Unfortunately, as Zoe delves deeper, she discovers that another woman featured in the same ad slot hit a dead end too… literally. Tania Beckett was 25 and a teaching assistant who travelled home regularly from work on the underground and the bus. Now she has been found strangled in a park in Muswell Hill.
Zoe takes her suspicions to the police, but she is initially dismissed as a crank. Luckily, British Transport Police PC Kelly Swift has a much more sympathetic ear and a professional interest because another of the ads featured the photo of Cathy Tanning, who had her house keys stolen from her bag while she dozed on the underground on her way home from a hard day at work.
A simple case of pickpocketing has turned sinister. Cathy now believes someone has been in her property and is watching her. Kelly is back in uniform after her stint in the ‘dip squad’, where she was involved in investigating Cathy’s case. Now she is on other duties and should back off but, as we soon discover, Kelly is a dedicated and talented officer who isn’t a woman to always play by the rules. By hook or by crook, she is determined to be a part of the investigation, Kelly is a great, multi-layered character and I’d love to see more of her!
The faceless figure who is placing the ads appears sporadically, taunting you with sneaky little asides that just ramp up the tension another notch. That sense of disquiet is really unsettling and believe me, this book will have you looking over your shoulder as you read it. I feel sorry for anyone who actually tries to read a few chapters on a bus or train – I’m not sure I could concentrate on the story while I’m assessing the threat level posed by every other passenger! Best to get home, lock the doors, draw the curtains, make a brew and settle down to enjoy.
This psychological thriller is as claustrophobic as an underground tunnel and as unpredictable as a Transport for London timetable, with enough twists to give a corkscrew a run for its money. Mackintosh showed her sneaky side with I Let You Go and it’s in full view again here. Don’t take your eyes off this road or you may well miss a vital turning. And that final destination? You might be surprised. For as any seasoned commuter knows, the journey isn’t over until someone releases the door locks and you can step onto the platform.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars