I loved Clare Mackintosh’s debut novel I Let You Go I really did wonder whether her second book would reach anywhere near the same standard, I’m delighted and relieved to say there is no doubt that it does – if anything I was even more glued to I See You.
Not being a Londoner but having visited my Grandmother there many times over my formative years I am someone who has a great deal of affection for the underground, albeit from afar. When I take a trip these days I admit I’m less enamoured by the endless stairs, rushing on the escalators and sweaty bodies but I have never tired of working out the length of time my journey will take using her prescribed average of three minutes per stop, a ruse I think she employed to make doubly sure that every journey was packed full of maximum learning opportunity, and this was the mental maths section! Childhood memories of feeling the warm rush of air telling me the next tube was on its way and to ‘stand well away from the line or you’ll get sucked in’ will now be replaced with a whole different perspective because of I See You.
The premise of the book centres on Zoe Walker, a woman in her early forties who sees an advert in the London Gazette in amongst the escort services and chat lines which seems to be her picture. Slightly flustered she takes the paper home to her family who are less convinced than she is that it is her picture, but the seed has been sown and Zoe is unable to dismiss it. She tries the phone number which only returns a single tone indicating it is not in use and the website link only has a white square in the centre of a black page. Zoe turns herself into a bit of a Nancy Drew character when she realises that there is a series of similar adverts.
More than that I can’t tell you about the plot because this is one of those books where you rush along a straight road of a plot-line only to have to swerve an obstacle at high-speed before doubling back on yourself and ending back at the beginning. There is misdirection aplenty so that if even like me you manage to work out the smallest of mysteries you feel like whooping as if you’ve passed an extremely difficult exam under pressure.
The tension created in this book is enormous so prepare to do some extreme mystery solving and the author raises it almost subtlety with the scenes switching between Zoe and a British Transport Police officer who is following up on some missing property from the tube. With Zoe unravelling under her suspicions and Kelly Swift trying to convince her superiors that an unfortunate event in the past should not be holding her career back any more than it already has, both women are motivated by their investigations. With the stakes being raised almost imperceptibly this is proper on the edge of your seat reading.
Clare Mackintosh doesn’t just manage an imaginative plot she also manages to portray her characters with real insight making their foibles and motivation absolutely believable in a way that goes far beyond the identikit police officer or victim. We have a wide range of characters from a journalist, local businesswoman, aspiring actress and estate agent all of whom are fleshed out, almost while the reader isn’t watching, and yet without seeming to depend on the preconceptions we may have about their profession, ages or gender. This is an exceptional skill which I think marks this author out from many others who are battling this increasingly popular genre and one which makes her books a joy to read beyond the thrill of the ride.
My advice, don’t miss out go get your own copy of I See You and read it for yourself, although perhaps not on the tube!
I want to say a huge thank you to The Little Brown Book Group who allowed me to read an advance copy of this book, in return I offer this unbiased review.