I have a thing for blue covers. Admittedly, the last six or so books I’ve read have had covers and spines that fall somewhere between sky and prussian. So naturally I was thrilled when Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go was proposed as our book club selection. I heard something about unsolved mystery and hot summer read and was good to go! But when I fully read the synopsis on my tablet while downloading the title on my Amazon app, (sorry, no $22.00 new-release hardcovers for me unless they are from one of my must-read authors, are the next in a series I’m obsessed with, etc.), I realized that the title, at least in part, refers to a mother letting go of her child, resulting in said child’s death. (Insert audible sigh). As the mother of a selectively wild and reckless two-year-old, this was the last type of literary world I wanted to immerse myself in. But I gave my little man a squeeze, skimmed the intro. so I wouldn’t be unnecessarily traumatized, and began my journey of confusion and eye-rolling.
To be fair, the plot is solid for a crime thriller. This is not my favorite or even fourth favorite genre, but I like to keep an open mind and diversify my reads. So without giving away too much, we have a child killed in a hit-and-run accident, lots of cop jargon and behind the scenes stuff, a remote beach village in Wales, and a darker sub-plot involving domestic violence and the extremes it can lead victims to in order to escape from their tormentors. The settings are well-described and I actually found myself enjoying the cliffs, the simultaneously isolated and intimate sea-side town, and the names and messages scrawled in the sand. However the limitations of the piece made it impossible for me to become fully lost in it.
I expected to be confused in the beginning of the journey, before all the clues came in, but the revelations came with further confusion in some instances and ultimately disappointment. For a realistic crime thriller, some elements of the story are just too “coincidental” and seem cheaply slapped together. I would have settled for less dramatic happenings over soap opera-esque “aha!” moments. There is something to be said for subtlety. I also felt deliberately mislead by certain sections of text in order to create more surprise further on and rather than interpreting it as “mystery”, I couldn’t help but view it as less-than-stellar writing.
I found nearly all of the characters a bit hollow and off. I tried to tell myself that it was a British thing or a crime author thing, but ultimately I couldn’t forgive it as either. The cast is simply unremarkable and not fully fleshed out. with the exception of the lead detective’s wife, I found no characters sympathetic or relatable. And I really tried, considering the sad subject matter.
I don’t regret reading this book. It was a foray into a genre I tend to ignore and overlook. I appreciate the knowledge of the UK criminal justice system Mackintosh brings to the table. I simply like my reads a bit more, dare I say, literary.