Hello everyone and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy. I hope you’re all doing well. This post is going to be a review of Clare Mackintosh’s excellent novel ‘I Let You Go’. I haven’t had much time to read anything for pleasure recently – I’ve just started back at university (my second year) and the workload is pretty intense. I’m constantly reading for my course (English Lit and Creative Writing), so it’s hard to find time to read any extras. However, I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages (as I mentioned in my Top 10 Books on my TBR list), and I finally found some time to read this. Here goes…
Clare Mackintosh’s ‘I Let You Go’ was a Sunday Times bestseller, and won the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year (2016). It was the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015; “[A] sensational debut…an astonishing intensity that drags you in and never — ever — lets you go…”, said the Daily Mail. I stumbled upon this book via Pinterest (many times, in fact), and it’s been really highly raved about. I managed to pick myself up a copy of this in a charity shop for £2.50, and I’d been desperate to read it for ages.
‘I Let You Go’ was first published in late 2014 and is Clare Mackintosh’s debut novel. Prior to that, Mackintosh spent 12 years working in the police force (which is clearly evident in this novel), before leaving in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant. The book is loved by many, including writers such as Peter James: “Compelling with an astonishing twist”, Samantha Hayes: “One of the best books I’ve read this year”, Paula Daly: “A disturbing thriller that barely loosens its grip”, and many more.
From the moment I picked up ‘I Let You Go’, I was immediately gripped. The prologue begins with the death of five year old Jacob, who is tragically killed in a hit-and-run incident. We see his mother’s utter devastation at her sons death, as she begs him to wake whilst the car drives away. This flooded my head with a million questions. Why would somebody kill a five year old and drive off? It made no sense to me, and I was determined to keep reading and find out exactly why this tragedy occurred.
Chapter One introduces the reader to Detective Inspector Ray Stevens, who is assigned to the hit-and-run case. Mackintosh’s characterisation of Ray is absolutely remarkable. It’s clear to me that Mackintosh was indeed on the police force for years, as Ray’s character is convincing and believable. I found myself feeling very sympathetic towards those on the police force, as Ray battles with regaining the balance between his job and his emotions towards the case. I also felt that I learnt a lot about the police force and the steps that are involved in solving a crime. We discover a lot about Ray’s home/family life, and I felt that this was a really nice touch.
Mackintosh’s shifts between perspectives and narrative voices is excellent in this novel. Part One switches between Ray’s and Jenna’s perspectives, and Part Two then introduces Ian’s perspective. The narratives are all equally interesting and important in this novel, and all of the characters are expertly constructed.
I found Jenna to be the most relatable character, as she attempts to run away and start a new life for herself after the hit-and-run. I absolutely hated her at first (you’ll see why if you read it), but gradually it becomes clear that she has many secrets, and there’s so much more to her than I first anticipated. Jenna is racked with all-consuming grief, and the novel truly explored the themes of death and remorse in great detail. As her and Ian’s relationship is slowly revealed (Part Two), the reader gradually gains an insight as to what happened that fateful night of the accident. By the end of the novel, I really related to her and felt a deep sympathy towards her. I began to consider what I would personally do if I was in Jenna’s situation – and I really love books that make me reflect on my own life! It definitely is a psychological thriller.
And finally, Ian. Ian is the cruel, cold “villain” who did a good job at making me hate men like him. His sadistic streak and callous nature absolutely repulsed me; but of course, I had to keep reading. Mackintosh’s construction of Ian was very clever indeed, and I believe that being able to write from the perspective of somebody like him takes sheer skill. Experiencing the events of the novel from his perspective was…interesting to say the least.
The book is jam-packed full of suspense and foreshadowing. At certain parts of the novel, I physically shivered, and sometimes I could even feel my skin crawl. I absolutely could not have put this down if I tried. I raced through this in about two days, which is pretty remarkable considering all that’s going on in my life at the moment – you can tell I really must have loved it! The novel addresses many difficult issues, such as violence, love, anger, alcoholism, death, tragedy and so much more. It isn’t an “easy” read by any means, but the best books aren’t (in my opinion)!
Let’s talk about the twist. THAT TWIST! It was absolutely astonishing, and I never saw it coming. I think I actually physically gawked at the open page, before dropping the book in my lap. Obviously I’m not going to give it away here, but I assure you that you’ll be thoroughly shocked at what gets revealed. When I began the book, I had so many questions floating around in my head, and throughout the novel I was forming more and more questions. But eventually the pieces of the puzzle all fit together, and the tension reaches an almighty climax, in the most bizarre and shocking way. And I was also very happy with the ending. It was conclusive and satisfactory, and I was glad that Jenna was beginning to find peace.
This novel has everything that I love in a book: gripping and suspenseful with an astonishing twist, carefully constructed characters and a shocking story. I felt a wide array of emotions whilst reading, such as anger, shock, sadness, empathy etc. You can really tell how much effort Mackintosh has put into her writing, and it really does pay off. I absolutely loved this book, and I’ll 100% be purchasing her second novel ‘I See You’.
For me, personally, I’m not really a fan of the typical “crime” and “whodunnit” genre, in which police just attempt to catch a criminal. I find that incredibly dull and it really doesn’t appeal to me. But this book is so much more than that – and I believe that so much that this book is going straight on my “favourites” shelf. I highly recommend that everybody reads this book. I guarantee you’ll love it!
Happy reading 🙂