I Let You Go is impossible to discuss in great detail without revealing any wrath-inducing spoilers. Like Gone Girl, this is a novel that relies quite heavily on a series of twists and giving the game away would take away much of the enjoyment.
If enjoyment is the right word, that is. I Let You Go is Clare Mackintosh’s first novel and it is an astonishingly accomplished debut: well written, well paced and well structured. However, the novel touches upon several hard- hitting subjects, namely domestic violence and the death of a child. The level of detail is unflinching.
The novel gets off to a heart-thudding, heart-rending opening when a five-year old boy is killed in a hit-and-run incident. The narrative then splits in two with one strand following a character dealing with the aftermath of the accident, and another detailing the police investigation. Mackintosh was a member of the police force for 12 years, spending some time in CID. The sections depicting the police investigation are thus written with the detailed clarity of somebody who really knows what they are talking about. For me, these scenes really lift the novel, setting it apart from the other thrillers currently flooding the market. This aspect of the book is highly authentic and the detectives, DI Ray Stevens and DC Kate Evans, are vividly realised, compelling characters. I can’t recall seeing investigations depicted in such realistic detail in fiction before and this is what makes I Let You Go worth checking out, along with the sheer quality of the prose.
I did find the central plot a little disappointing, however. The main reason was that, although the novel is billed as a psychological thriller, there is a distinct lack of psychological complexity here. For instance, the central antagonist is rather one-dimensional; their psyche and motivations are unexplored. There is no sense of ambiguity either: everyone is either good or bad, it seems. The novel held my interest, but I would have liked things to have been a little less clear cut, less black and white.
And then there are the twists. They are a mixed bag. One wrong-footed me and left me feeling slightly winded (which, just to clarify, is a Good Thing). Another towards the end stretched the bounds of credibility just that bit too far, I reckon. That said, the conclusion was truly gripping and made my heart race. It was also pretty satisfying, though I did think the epilogue could have been done away with as it had the whiff of ‘daft horror film for teenagers’ about it.
All in all, this is a well-written, pacey thriller that, although lacking in psychological complexity, is a compelling read.