"I See You" Clare Mackintosh
"You do the same thing everyday. You know exactly where you are going. You're not alone."
Zoe Walker is shocked one day on the way home from work when scanning through the Classified section of the newspaper she sees a picture of herself. The next day there is a photo of another woman, and then again a different woman the following day. And then there are reports of women going missing.....And the uneasy sensation that someone is following her.....Is Zoe right to feel scared or simply suffering from a over active imagination? Who or what is she really frightened of catching up with her?
This has to be the most anticipated novel of 2016 and the most coveted ARC in the history of book blogging! Mackintosh's first novel "I Let You Go" was an overnight success and certainly one of my favourite psychological thrillers with a twist to literally take your breath away. So, can she do it again?
Yes, she can!
We meet Zoe first on her daily commute back home. She's an ordinary, average, mum of two children who are in their late teens / early twenties, with a partner who cares about her and has happily adjusted to inheriting a new fully grown family as part of his relationship with Zoe. But there are hints of unhappiness and stress. Zoe hates her boss, she has financial concerns, she has a new partner and despite the stability and security he offers, she can't shake off the need to be in control of her life and retain some independence. She has an edge of vulnerability as well as an admirable display of independence and resilience. But before we can really begin to assimilate what this might mean for the future of our protagonist, we are distracted with the appearance of the photo of herself that Zoe sees staring right back at her from the newspaper advert.
Our second character, Kelly Swift, is introduced in Chapter 2. She is a police officer, working shifts, living in a flat share with relative strangers and single. She has a twin sister and as the story unfolds there is an interesting sub plot exploring the relationship between the sisters and Kelly's inability to overcome a trauma that befell her sister 10 years ago. Kelly is a worrier, anxious and taking life very seriously - a contrast to her calm, relaxed and more self assured twin. And like the best police officers in crime fiction, Kelly is committed and dedicated with a real sense of justice which often forces her to break the rules and put herself at risk. She is also emotionally fragile and flawed. A fantastic combination, creating a wealth of suspense, tension and anticipation.
There is also a third voice. In italics, it stealthily creeps across the page, as if not truly meant to be there. Wheedling its way into your head with its anonymous voice of terror. Short sections that send shivers down your spine and increasing your already palpitating heart rate! Addressed to you directly there is a palpable sense that actually someone is in the room with you - I caught myself checking over my shoulder several times and today I ran a completely different route to my normal Friday jog! You just never know.......... Who sees you?
Zoe continues to try and dismiss the "coincidence" of her photo. Does she really recognise the other women in the subsequent pictures? Or is she looking for a connection which isn't there? Simon, her partner, is a journalist who "deals in facts, not supposition and paranoia." Zoe's need for Simon's protection, for the need for his sureness, to be with someone "strong and steady" does begin to suggest to the reader that she possibly is behaving somewhat irrationally and over emotionally. Her relationship with her daughter is strained and shows the reader that she does not always handle situations as well as she could. The constant mention of money, interactions with her first husband and her fears for her children's ability to get good jobs and earn some independence, reflect a mother under pressure. She is susceptible and insecure. But is she right to be scared? Or is this some kind of fantasy?
Yes, it's brilliant. Every single chapter is a cliffhanger. Kelly and Zoe are haunted - by their past and by their present. Their terror is catching; the reader constantly pulled between wondering whether it is real or imagined and trying to piece together their back stories as they gradually emerge.
This is much more of a police procedural crime novel than "I Let You Go". It is as sinister and there are the same questions of who to trust, who's telling the truth, what is coincidence and what is genuine. It is an interesting exploration of modern life where we can be tracked, watched, chased and trapped without any inkling. Does technology keep us safe or expose us further?
I thought the premise of the novel was clever, original, relevant and exciting. The ending was quite simply brilliant. It's a cliche I know, but I really couldn't put it down. Just excellent. This book also felt very different from Mackintosh's first novel and shows us how accomplished her writing is and how many more captivating stories must be waiting to escape her imaginative mind. Here, Mackintosh shows off her knowledge of police procedure as the emphasis is more on crime and mystery - but with enough sprinkling of psychological thriller to satisfy all her readers. I would happily like to read another story featuring Kelly on another police job. I'm sure there could be a sequel to this book but I also can't wait for what Mackintosh might do next. Clare Mackintosh has earned her place alongside all the best psychological thriller and crime writers and I'm pretty sure this book will be in the top ten lists for weeks and months to come. Highly recommend (in case that wasn't already clear!!)
Zoe is just like you or me. We've all had the same thoughts she has walking home. We all like routine. We all like our spot on the platform, the tube carriage, the coffee shop. Who's watching you?
"How fast can you run? You're late home from work.....you haven't charged your phone and no one knows where you are....It's just you and whoever is behind you....It doesn't matter how fast you run. Because there's always someone who can run faster."
My enormous thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for approving me an advanced copy of such a wanted title! I am very grateful for the chance to read it and this is my honest review of the book.
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