I Let You Go

I Let You GoI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Genres: Contemporary, Crime
Published by Berkley on May 3, 2016
Pages: 384


About I Let You Go (from the back cover):
On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

There is a big contrast between my feelings for the first half of this book and the second half.  They can be summed up pretty easily.  It took me a week to read the first half of I Let You Go and one evening to read the second half.  For all the difficulties I had getting started on this book, they disappeared once I reached the halfway point.

I was drawn to the premise of this book by the two point of views—the recovering mom and the search for the driver.  It seemed like an inventive way to present a detective style novel since it would be showing not only the investigation, but the mom’s struggles as well.  However, initially it didn’t work quite as well as I envisioned.

There is a big contrast between my feelings for the first half of this book and the second half.

I very much struggled to get into this story.  Several times I contemplated setting this book aside and not finishing it.  Clare takes a lovely artist approach to presenting Jenna’s story, but it falls just short of being truly captivating.  It’s so close and I could clearly see the mood that was trying to be captured, but it just wasn’t there.  This book takes place over the course of two years, but there are weeks and sometimes months skipped between chapters.  I understand why it’s written this way, but needing to reorient to each POV and seeing how little or how much the characters have progressed in that time period was at times jarring.  It kept the pace slow and interrupted the building tension from two chapters prior.  Additionally, the chapters are relatively short and often sparse on details keeping the reader from truly getting to know the detectives, Ray and Kate, outside of their dedication to their job.

In the first half, the only character I truly liked was Ray’s wife, Mags.  She was easy to sympathize with and identify with her struggles.  I didn’t dislike Ray or Kate and I would certainly want them working on my side, but I didn’t feel particularly attached to them.  Ray largely neglected his family and Kate’s dedication felt a little one dimensional and over written.  But there are glimpses of them becoming compelling characters and in the second half, Ray makes steps in that direction.

I was drawn to the premise of this book by the two point of views—the recovering mom and the search for the driver.

From Jenna’s side of the story, there are several interesting characters that grow quite nicely as the plot progresses.  However, Jenna is only mildly sympathetic up to the half way point.  In some ways, the writing designed to show Jenna’s hurt and brokenness by her aloof and jittery personality works, but in other ways it backfires.  The reader needs to feel emotionally attached to Jenna even if the characters do not feel the same towards her.  I didn’t feel that emotional attachment.

But things change at the half way point and this book goes from mildly interesting to intensely gripping.  Jenna who was once distant and bland suddenly becomes mysterious and compelling.  Her past finally starts being revealed with the introduction of a third point of view.  This additional insight makes the second half of this book work exceptionally well.  It adds sympathy and answers in place of indifference and questions.  I cannot even begin to express how well written and intriguing the second half of this book is.

Things change at the half way point and this book goes from mildly interesting to intensely gripping.

In contrast to the first half of this book, the second half flies by.  The pacing picks up as the pieces of the hit-and-run mystery falls into place.  The tension increases with each reveal from Jenna’s past.  The emotional investment that was so hard to make early on is difficult to withhold as the characters come alive and their past and present collide into a beautiful, messy portrait of a broken life.  The whole book starts clicking and it is virtually impossible to set aside.

The ending is strong and satisfying, but there is enough of an opening to allow for another book with Jenna.  However, I like how the book ended (prior epilogue) and I hope it stays there.  I’m not sure there is material to warrant another chapter for her and I like the parts that are open to the reader’s imagination.

I’m so glad I stuck with this book.  Though I do wish the first half was as intense as the second half, it does lay a nice foundation.  But once this book picks up there is no turning back and the ending is certainly rewarding.  If not immediately captured by this book, keep reading.  You’ll get there.

Note:  This book contains mild language and sexual content.  All are with in reason for the story being told.  There are also some difficult scenes late in the book that are emotionally challenging.

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