Let Me Lie
Clare Mackintosh
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Buy *Let Me Lie* by Clare Mackintoshonline

Let Me Lie
Clare Mackintosh
Berkley
Hardcover
400 pages
March 2018
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Currently considered one of the UK's most prominent suspense writers, Mackintosh promises the reader that they won't be bored at any point by the uncertainty that runs through much of Let Me Lie. Set in Eastbourne (not far from the Beachy Head, Brighton), the serpentine narrative centers on Anna Johnson as she tries to rise above the suicide of her mother and her father, Caroline and Tom. Even in the midst of tragedy, Anna has attempted to get on with her life, finding happiness in her newborn daughter, Ella, and comfort with her former therapist, Mark, who has walked her through the different stages of grief and anger.

But grief is complicated; it ebbs and flows and is sometimes so multifaceted that it makes Anna's heart hurt. Nineteen months later, she remains convinced that her mother didn't kill herself. Over the past year, Anna has learned to keep her theories private and to not give voice to the doubts that lie beneath the surface of her sorrow. She is tired in a way that she's never before experienced, and she is plagued by all of the possibilities from the police reports to the coroner's court. She constantly has visions of her parents, their faces bloated and disfigured from the water: "I see fear on their faces as they fall from the cliff."

Back at Oak View on Cleveland Street, Anna thinks about her father throwing himself off the cliff face nineteen months ago. Seven months later, consumed by grief, her mother followed him. Was it a copycat suicide? Were their deaths linked? After the inquests were held, the coroner recorded the verdict of suicide. The facts were unarguable. Anna recalls sitting with her beloved Uncle Billy, closing her eyes in a mix of anguish and disbelief, convincing herself that her parents were neither suicidal nor depressed, anxious or fearful. Suspecting that they were in fact murdered, Anna turns to retired detective Murry Mackenzie: "they were full of life, full of ambition, they had big plans for the business."

Through a cloud of heartache, Anna stumbles through the startling details of a family in crisis: an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who saw no way out. Murry learns about the threatening card sent on the anniversary of Tom's suicide. As the words swim in front of Anna's eyes like some kind of "sick joke," she is consumed by a white-hot fury long after she's accepted the storminess of her parents' relationship and "the squalls that had passed as quickly as they blew in." It was all over by the time she got home: the police in the kitchen with their hats in their hands, her Mum shaking so violently they'd called a paramedic to treat her for shock; kindly Uncle Billy sitting in burning angst. Laura, Anna's Mum's god-daughter, talks about the text that Tom had sent. Anna maintains that, despite all their ups and downs, her parents had loved each other.

Convinced that Anna is telling the truth, Murry races to unlock the case with the help of his wife, Sarah, who struggles with borderline personality disorder and is currently a voluntary patient in a ward of Highfield Psychiatric Clinic. Murry tells Sarah about Tom and Caroline Johnson, their rucksacks filled with rocks, the witness reports, the chaplain's intervention, and the way Caroline's handbag and mobile phone were placed neatly upon the grass by the edge of the cliff. Finally, he tells her about the anonymous anniversary card, and Anna's insistence that he reopen the investigations into her parents' deaths. At first, nothing about Tom's disappearance seems concerning. He was well-known across town as a successful businessman with no history of depression. The only witness, Diane Brent-Taylor, who was walking on Beachy Head at the time, didn't seen anyone with Tom. Murry is shocked to learn that the woman had refused to give a statement or to attend an inquest.

Anna's unease and paranoia grows. A ghost plagues her, a spirit who seems to be stalking her at Oak View. Trapped in a nowhere land, the voice holds a sinister promise to the question keeping Anna awake at night: "I know our daughter, she would never have believed that you and I would have stepped off that cliff of our own free will." Murry and Sarah set about researching the case of a grieving widow plunging to her death. Thirty years in the job--and the best part of that on CID--Murry believes in Anna. In a whirlwind of serendipity, Anna is swamped by the lies of her parents and a house full of memories, as well as a ghostly figure in the window. Anna cannot lose the feeling that she's being watched.

As in her previous novels, Mackintosh nails it in terms of storytelling, with just enough sinister plot twists to hold the attention of the most avid mystery aficionados. Adding to this sense of suspense is the setting of Beachy Head--a beautiful, haunting, agonizing place that is at once uplifting and destructive. Like other thrillers of this genre, what you see is basically what you get, yet the story works because of Anna's anxious, turbulent, first-person narrative voice. As the twenty years of lies build in Anna's stolen heart, the memories her childhood come full circle in this tense, rather sad drama of lost love, lost hopes, and dark, fatally complicit characters.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Michael Leonard, 2018

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