I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh
CBTB Rating: 4.5/5
I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh tells the story of a mother reeling from the tragic death of her son. On a dark evening, walking her son home from school, a mother's worst nightmare comes true: he slips from her grasp and runs into the road, where he is hit by a speeding car. But the car doesn't stop—it drives off into the night, leaving the mother to watch her son die in her arms. I LET YOU GO follows a mother hiding out in a secluded cottage, attempting to heal from her son's untimely loss, and the two detectives tasked with finding the boy's killer. This story is tragic, heart-wrenching, shocking, and gasp-out-loud good.
This book is best discussed just as the author structures it: in two parts. Part One is atmospheric, contemplative, and emotional; Part Two is dark, raw, and shocking. The little details in the first half of the book that might seem tedious as you’re first reading them become hugely important in the book’s second half. Mackintosh uses Part One of the book to lay the foundation for a big reveal that the reader won’t see coming. The twists that define and propel the second half of the book are made possible by Mackintosh’s fastidious character development in the book’s first half.
Let’s discuss the book part by part.
Part One of this book is all about stage-setting. The reader is presented with various perspectives on the book’s central crime: a hit and run accident where a young boy is killed, and the driver never stops to help. We see the accident from the mother’s perspective—we witness her heartbreak, her worst nightmare come to life, and her inability to cope with her guilt at not being able to protect her son from this tragedy. We see the accident from the perspective of the police officers tasked with finding the boy’s killer—we see how this case has consumed the lead detective’s life, causing him to undermine his personal relationships and ignore his family in a single-minded search for justice. We feel the reverberations of this tragedy, and watch as our story’s characters struggle to carry its weight.
The book’s first half is emotional and heavy. Characters isolate themselves and show terrible judgment as they each try to cope with their individual burdens. At some point right before the book changes gears (and trust me, you’ll know when this is happening), I did find myself wondering what this story was marching along towards. Part One moves at a slow pace, carefully crafting a world all its own. The most satisfying thing about this book? Watching that world come crashing down as the book shifts into Part Two.
Part Two of this book is sharp, twisted, gripping entertainment. One of the reviews on the book’s inside cover states that I LET YOU GO “[w]ill actually make you gasp out loud.” Guess what? It absolutely did.
To say that Part Two of the book is like a rollercoaster ride doesn’t do Mackintosh’s writing justice. Her story twists and turns, but each move is calculated and precise. To me, Part Two felt like a giant game of Jenga, with Mackintosh calculatingly removing block after block, watching her characters (and her readers) wobble this way and that. Even when you think she’s pulled the last piece out from under you, and surely her story can’t withstand another twist, she does it. And then she does it again.
I was surprised over and over by Part Two—I never saw its twists coming. But that’s not what impressed me most about this book. What impressed me most was how thoroughly Mackintosh prepared for Part Two’s twists in Part One. Trust me when I tell you, there’s a lot going on in Part Two, but it all falls into place. Every puzzle piece finds its home—granted, not how you had ever expected it would, but it does. I absolutely refuse to spoil the twists found in Part Two, so I’m going to keep my Part Two praise limited to generalities. I highly recommend reserving a whole afternoon to read Part Two, or you’ll end up like I did: hitting some crazy plot twists right before bed, and staying up way too late to finish it!
It’s too soon for me to release an official list of “2016’s Most-Anticipated Thrillers,” but I can promise you that when I do, I LET YOU GO will be making (and possibly topping) that list. Congratulations to Clare Mackintosh on an impressive, addictive debut, and thank you to The Berkley Publishing Group for introducing me to a new thriller favorite.