Recently I’ve Read … Miss You by Kate Eberlen

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Miss You, Kate Eberlen’s debut novel, is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, there is a whiff of runaway bestselling hit about it. This is helped in no small way by its more than passing resemblance to other recent mega selling love stories, namely One Day and Me Before You. For the most part, though, Miss You is able to stand on its own two feet and add something to the genre.

The novel centres around Tess and Gus, two people who are absolutely made for each other. The only problem is … They keep missing each other.

For most of the  24 hours I was glued to the pages of this novel, there was nothing I wanted more than for Tess and Gus to meet. Eberlen’s writing skillfully brings these characters to life, they live and breathe. She made me laugh and cry along with them.

The ‘miss you’ of the title refers not just to Tess and Gus’s frequently thwarted meetings, but to the fact that both are living in the aftermath of loss and dealing with grief. Eberlen depicts the often sad and messy nature of everyday life with a pleasing lack of Richard Curtis gloss, which, for me, really lifted this novel and gave it an identity distinct from other recent blockbuster love stories.

But towards the end, Miss You runs out of steam. I really lost the sense that Tess and Gus belonged together as we got swept up in the peaks and troughs of their individual lives. I also had to suppress a howl of frustration at the ending (for fear of alarming my family), which was overly saccharine, ill-judged and poorly paced.

That said, there is much to enjoy about this novel and if you are looking for an absorbing love story with characters you can root for, you can certainly do much worse.

Recently I’ve Read … I See You by Clare Mackintosh

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I See You is Clare Mackintosh’s follow-up to her immensely popular and successful debut, I Let You Go.

I Let You Go was recently named as the Theakston Old Peculiar crime novel of 2015, vanquishing, in headline-grabbing fashion, J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith.

Interestingly, I See You occupies similar territory to Galbraith’s third Cormoran Strike novel, Career of Evil: the vulnerability of women in everyday life. For my money, Mackintosh sees Galbraith off in this bout too.

Mackintosh’s writing is as accomplished here as it was in her debut but I think that the plotting this time round is much more sophisticated and the book generally has greater depth. I Let You Go was astonishly assuredly written for a debut, but lacked moral ambiguity and pivoted around some often pretty daft plot twists.

I See You feels that much more believable for two reasons. Firstly, there are the three-dimensional characters, skillfully rendered by Mackintosh, who feel like people you could bump into in the street. Secondly, there is the chilling plausibility of the plot, which hinges around a website that sells details of women’s daily commutes. Some of the website’s customers use these details to stage seemingly accidental encounters in the hope of a dinner date and some romance; others have far more sinister intentions.

The power of the plot lay in the way it reflected my own life back to me. Like Zoe, there is a whiff of Groundhog Day to my daily life: I get up at the same time each day, leave the house at the same time, take the same route to the train station, stand in almost the exact same position on the platform … You get the idea. Mackintosh’s wicked sucker punch here is that, because I share Zoe’s adherence to routine, so too could I share her nightmare. For what Zoe realises is that this adherence to routine makes her vulnerable; she is easy prey for a potential stalker. Or worse. And how many of us are? The only thing that might wrong foot a potential stalker of mine is an occasional dart into Boots on my way to the office. The genius of I See You, then, is to take something as mundane as the daily commute and show how the apparent security of a routine is actually imbued with danger. The best crime thrillers leak off the page and make you re-examine the world around you and I See You is a fine example of this. Moreover, this novel shows that Mackintosh is no one-hit wonder and strongly indicates that she is well on her way to joining the elite band of crime writers who can be relied upon to produce superior page turners.