I Let You Go
Clare Mackintosh
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Buy *I Let You Go* by Clare Mackintoshonline

I Let You Go
Clare Mackintosh
384 pages
May 2016
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on I Let You Go.

Mackintosh adds her own voice to the current fresh crop of authors writing psycho-thrillers with I Let You Go, a rather surprising treat anchored from different narrative perspectives with just enough twists to keep us reading long into the night. Propelling what is essentially an average British police procedural into a clever and tense rumination on domestic violence, I Let You Go is partly narrated in the first-person voice of sculptor Jenna Gray. After a terrible traffic accident, Jenna decides to high-tail it out of Bristol and seek anonymity in the picaresque Welsh town of Penfach.

Attempting to make a new life for herself (and with only the kindly manager of the Penfach Caravan Park for company), Jenna is plagued by terrible nightmares that cut through her sleep and jolt her awake. The accident plays a relentless loop inside her head: the headlights on wet tarmac; the drizzle; an empty road; little Jacob running; the squeal of wet brakes; the thud as he hits the windshield. As Jenna’s dreams become more intense, she can still hear the sickening crack of Jacob’s head on the tarmac and see blood pooling beneath his head: “All I can see when I close my eyes is his body, still and lifeless in my arms.”

The Bristol CID, lead by DI Ray Stevens and Kate, his senior colleague, try desperately to find the culprit of the Fishponds hit-and-run, the person who killed five-year-old Jacob and then heartlessly drove away from the scene. Distracted by recalcitrant Tom, his 12-year-old son, and his frustrated wife, Mags (once a detective herself who wants to go back to work), Ray embarks on a futile mission, spending many weeks working with Kate, sifting through evidence, and tackling a hostile police bureaucracy who are all too willing to ground Ray and Kate down with every new twist and turn in the case.

As the plot unfurls, of critical import is Ray and Kate’s first interview with Jacob’s mother: “it happened so quickly. I only let go for a second. The car came so fast.” They also work to collate the forensic crime scene evidence from DI Phil “Stumpy” Crocker, who tells Ray and Kate that wet weather meant there were no tire marks. One positive link to the crime is that piece of plastic and fragments of glass were found embedded on Jacob’s body. Even with this evidence, the investigation is gradually scaled back to make way for other more pressing jobs. The weeks go by, and there is no fresh intelligence. Then the victim’s mother, the only witness to the crime, disappears. Kate draws a blank with cross-border enquiries. The nail in the coffin comes from Ray’s boss, who orders him to close the Fishponds case. Apparently management wants it buried because the police have failed to solve it.

Mackintosh quickly ramps up the tension, focusing on Ray and Kate--their first adrenaline rush, their struggle to reign in their fledgling attraction, and their mutual agreement to keep working on the case after hours--while also focusing on Jenna’s new life in Penfach, where she thinks she’s walked away from one life and started another. Escaping with only precious photos (“a new mother drowning on love and on exhaustion”), Jenna remains haunted by Jacob, whose death is still making the front-page news. Jenna is torn between revealing too much to Patrick, a kindly vet whom she befriends after rescuing a stray dog. Jenna can’t tell Patrick her story about Jacob and the accident, about never really being free from what happened and running away because she “couldn’t see any other way of surviving.”

Overlapping Jenna’s voice is sinister Ian Peterson, who envelops the young artist in a cycle of abuse begun the night of their marriage. As Jenna unravels under the stress of the lie built to cover up an inexcusable crime, Mackintosh creates a portrait of a victimless woman too blinded by love to see the cracks in her relationship and, later, too ashamed to admit that she stayed too long with the man who hurt her so much. The action moves from Bristol to Penfach when Ray and Kate get the final crucial break in the case. As Kate’s professional instincts are sharpened, Jenna juggles with her private need to finally tell the truth. Ray finds himself torn by the needs of his home life, always more comfortable as a detective than dealing with the daily demands of his wife and children.

While the beach at Penfach Bay provides a stunning scenic backdrop to Jenna’s violent drama, it is in Bristol that the investigation climaxes in a final, critical disclosure that puts the pieces of the puzzle firmly into place. Mackintosh wraps it all up with a rather manufactured plot twist set on Penfach’s wild, dramatic cliff tops, where a ghost writes Jenna’s name in a revelation that will surely test her mettle and perhaps set the stage for a sequel.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2016

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