Saturday, 3 September 2016

Book #43

I See You by Clare Mackintosh


When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.
Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

For those not hugely used to psychological thrillers, this is a good one. The plot flicks along nicely, and you find yourself trusting none of the characters as your mind battles to find a culprit. That's all you amateurs need. For me, a psychological thriller should make me feel as though I'm being chased through a maze of mirrors: no idea where to turn next, no idea where the next attack is going to come from, and most importantly, no idea if I'm going to make it out.

In comparison to the giant that is I Let You Go, this is a disappointing sister. It lacks suspense, impact, and doesn't pack nearly half as much of a punch as its predecessor. Most of all, it instilled absolutely none of the panic and confusion that the debut did so expertly.

Mackintosh's characters were boring, flat, and unlikeable. This wasn't for lack of depth; we were given every inch of their history to the point it was unnecessary and utterly dull. The protagonist, Zoe, was completely beige and irritating - the worst type of character to try and support. I was completely apathetic with regards to her domestic woes, pathetic daily struggles, and even the scary situation and her fate. I was just tagging along because I'm nosey.

The other characters were as equally bland, and written as caricatures of themselves. Zoe's children are your typical son who likes to stay in his room, and daughter who gets an older boyfriend, and making her mother feel like she's losing her. Then we have a cheating ex-husband who drives a taxi, and a live-in partner who's the more intellectual, sensitive sort. Groundbreaking.

I liked the modern day premise of using technology to commit crimes; it was clever, and surprisingly still quite original considering how we all use it in this day and age. Everything just seemed so contrived and completely predictable. Readers know how to eliminate suspects; if you're only halfway through the book and someone's having the finger pointed at them - it's not them; if you meet someone and think it couldn't possibly be them - it probably is. We need this to be flipped on its arse in order to shock us. Mackintosh did not achieve this, despite having done so in her previous novel.

Worst of all, the finale was completely disappointing. No shock horror, no heart hammering in your chest, no real good vs evil devotion encouraging you to root for anyone. Just a dull, half-hearted ache in your head that translates to, could someone just die so I can start reading something else?

This isn't like pulling teeth - it's readable, and it's enjoyable to a degree; I just feel Mackintosh has fallen into the success trap, with an excellent debut novel doing so well rendering a need to rush out a second as soon as possible. A real shame; this could have been a belter, but it felt shallow and rushed.

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