Mackintosh’s sophomore effort, I See You, is a tense follow-up to her first (I Let You Go).
Her plot is perfectly measured, her characters well-drawn in the tale of a
London commuter whose busy everyday life morphs into a waking nightmare. Zoe
Walker is a divorced, working mother of two children: 19-year-old Katie and
22-year-old Justin. Simon, her lover of two-years, has moved in but is still trying to gain acceptance from the children. A journalist, Simon is patient--and crazy about Zoe.
The only problem thus far is Zoe’s relationship with ex-husband: Matt still loves her. Zoe holds Matt in high regard as well, perhaps even nurtures feelings for him. The years after the divorce were made more bearable by the presence of neighbors Neil and Melissa West. Melissa owns a string of tea shops; Zoe, a bookkeeper, does her books. Melissa also generously offered the sometimes troublesome Justin a job. In all, Zoe’s only worries are the usual problems of work, family and finances--until her commute becomes fraught with fear and the certainty that she is being watched.
It begins the day Zoe notices a throwaway paper, her eye caught by the small image of a woman’s face, a phone number, and the heading: “Find.The.One.com.” The following day, Zoe finds a new edition, this one with her own image. Though her family agrees the image does resemble her, they don’t take her concern seriously. As other women’s images appear on other days, she wonders who they are, why they have been chosen,
and if they are in danger. Walker has a right to be frightened. She is being stalked: “Routine makes you feel safe. Routine will kill you.”
While the victim travels the usual path from home to work and back, PC Kelly Swift has a similar journey, assigned to “the Dip Squad”--trolling public transportation
and arresting lawbreakers. Mostly occupied with petty crimes like theft, Kelly lives a solitary existence.
She has a strained relationship with her sister and a traumatic past that has affected her ability to do her job. Zoe contacts Kelly, fearful that the first woman’s face she saw in the paper is the same as a crime victim recently in the news. After much cajoling of her supervisor, Swift is allowed a temporary assignment on the North West Murder Investigation Team,
which is currently investigating a spate of attacks on women. Kelly may be an asset in a case that has grown to include a murder. Meanwhile, Zoe endures a number of stressful encounters on the way to work, growing more frightened
and certain she is being watched.
The mystery builds a to an incipient collision as commuters pass from train to train: strangers blind to anything but destination, driven by the narratives of Zoe Walker and Kelly Swift--one an increasingly paranoid commuter, the other devoting herself to protecting the public while working through her own issues. Deeply intuitive
and wary of letting the past intrude into the present, Kelly frantically assembles the pieces of a deadly puzzle, a killer ready to strike again. I See You presents a unique take on the age on anonymity, a thriller made of everyday existence: the ubiquitous gathering of strangers on public transportation, oblivious to those nearby, consumed with cell phones or other distractions, always in a hurry, going from one place to another. Look around you. Study the faces of strangers. Is anyone watching?