BookBrowse Reviews I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

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I Let You Go

by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh X
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2016, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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A thriller with a killer twist, I Let You Go tracks a mother whose life is shattered when her son runs into the street, and the two police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run.

Sometimes it's a reach to see how a book becomes an international bestseller. Other times – well, other times there's Clare Mackintosh's I Let You Go, and from page one you're asking yourself, where has this terrific book been all my life?

As far as Mackintosh is concerned there is no shame in the fool-me-once maxim. No sir. No shame at all. Indeed, she fooled me, not once but several times, and with each one I felt delightedly bested by an author who has such cunning that, as another reviewer said, I immediately had to go back to the beginning to check on what I might have missed. I had to figure out how she'd lead me by the nose down one path, only to ultimately find that it wound around into another and bit me right in my puzzle-solving smugness.

The story is a mystery, yes, but it's a gripper; by which I mean that the plot revolves around the heart-wrenching loss of a child. The grief is palpable and Mackintosh's description catches in my throat even as I re-type it here:

Exhaustion overtakes me and I curl up in a ball, wrapping my arms around my knees, and pressing my face against the rough denim of my jeans. Although I know it's coming, the wave of emotion engulfs me, bursting from me with such force I can barely breathe. The grief I feel is so physical it seems impossible that I am still living; that my heart continues to beat when it has been wrenched apart. I want to fix an image of him in my head, but all I can see when I close my eyes is his body, still and lifeless in my arms.

Five-year-old Jacob is tragically killed by a hit-and-run driver, leaving a now-childless single mother, hardened veteran Detective Inspector Ray Stevens, his rookie Detective Constable Kate Evans, and the entire Bristol community enrobed in the mystery of who could do such a thing. Here is the scene: It's near Christmas, the late afternoon weather is dark and rainy. Jacob and his mother are walking home from school. She lets go of his hand for a nanosecond. He darts into the street. His body flies into the air, face slamming into the windshield of a speeding car, then thudding onto the pavement and, finally, ending up in his screaming mother's arms. The car – of indeterminate color and make according to sketchy witnesses – races away into anonymity.

Everyone responds according to how they deal with tragedy. The media and the community alternate between laying blame on the hated driver and the mother for letting go Jacob's hand. Detective Inspector Stevens, a mid-forties family man in a worn-around-the-edges marriage with a daughter and a troublesome teenaged son, is all business, setting his crackerjack team to the task of finding the driver. Even so, he still finds time – perhaps too much time – to embark upon an inappropriate relationship with his subordinate, Kate. As for Kate, a 30-year-old career-minded single woman, she is dead set determined to solve her first real case since joining CID. And Jacob's mother? She simply disappears, walks away from her home to nobody-knows-where.

And that's all I'm going to tell you. It's all I can tell you without spoiling it. The narrative ranges from third person to first person. Mackintosh's representation of dogged police detection feels authentic as leads take shape and then vanish. All the characters that matter are credible and are anchored in a 21st Century reality that crackles with life. The pacing is spot on and once rolling will nail you in place until the final page. And rest assured, Mackintosh's tactics are not the sneaky kind practiced by some authors who whip up a deus ex machina solution in the final scene. Rather, she exercises the elegant sleight of hand that a savvy author can pull off by playing our own assumptions for all they're worth.

Bravo, Mackintosh!

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review is from the June 1, 2016 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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