Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: I Let You Go

By Jami Deise

When I reviewed J.T. Ellison’s thriller No One Knows in March, I criticized the author for playing fast and loose with the rules for unreliable narration. When unreliable narration works, it makes the reader want to read the book again to see how she missed the clues that the writer planted. When it doesn’t, the reader feels she’s wasted her time reading the book.

 In I Let You Go, Claire Mackintosh pulls off a twist so stunning, that when it occurred about halfway through the book, I wanted to go back to the beginning immediately. With a gentle sleight-of-hand and some subtle tricks with point-of-view, Mackintosh makes readers believe they’re reading one type of story, when actually they’re in another.

The twist is so good, and changes the book so completely, that I struggled on how to write a blurb that doesn’t either give it away or lie to readers. I couldn’t. So I’m doing something I never do when writing reviews: Here’s how Amazon describes it:

"On a rainy afternoon, a mother's life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

 At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them."

Thank you, Amazon.

The book is told from the points of view of Jenna, police detective Ray Stevens, and then, later in the book, a third character whose perspective wasn’t really necessary for the story to be complete. Jenna is completely sympathetic as a woman grieving her dead child and running from her past. Ray, who is torn between a chaotic home life and an attraction to a fellow detective, Kate, isn’t quite as compelling. Ray and Kate are determined to track down little Jacob’s killer, even as months pass and the situation seems hopeless. Ray is married to Mags, who had been a police officer herself before she decided to stay home with the children; Ray is annoyed by the questions she asks about the case. However, I found this minor character to be really interesting, and I wish Mackintosh had spent more time with her. How many career women turned stay-at-home mothers find their opinions dismissed once they stop bringing home a steady paycheck? I would have liked to see her actively pursuing the investigation on her own.

The pacing is slower than I’d expect from a thriller of this sort, as months go by without any real leads on the case, and Jenna attempts to rebuild her life in the quaint seaside village where she’s gone to hide from her memories. When the twist is revealed, events start happening more quickly. An arrest is made, a confession obtained, but Kate has doubts, and keeps investigating. Her doubts keep the reader engaged, even when it seems the story might be over.

The unreliable narrator is a red-hot trend in today’s mysteries and thrillers. My personal test is whether the story works without this ploy. Is the story just as captivating, are the characters just as interesting, if the narration had been straightforward? I believe I Let You Go passes this test with flying colors. Had I known all along what the story was really about, I would have been just as interested in reading this book. 

Thanks to Berkley/NAL for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Janine said...

Great review

Jennifer Tar Heel Reader said...

So excited that I have this one here in my stack! Great review!

Burma Turner said...

I want to read this so bad!

susieqlaw said...

This book sounds like a true thriller!

Paula said...

Well, sounds like a book that gives a thrilling journey.