Clare Mackintosh’s novel is a stellar addition to the sort of psychological thrillers that have taken the literary world by storm in recent years, also known as ‘grip lit’ or ‘domestic noir’. Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ which I reviewed a while back, and Paula Hawkins ‘The Girl On The Train’ are some of the most successful novels in the category and if you enjoyed them with their delicately disguised depraved characters and skin crawling plot twists- as I did, this will be an absolute treat.
The novel starts with a devastating tragedy – the death of a young boy. A mother in Fishponds, Bristol is walking home one night with her 5 year old son when he runs ahead of her and within moments is the victim of a hit and run accident. This leads to a criminal investigation that yields no leads for a year until the complexities surrounding who was at the wheel gradually starts to unfold.
I really enjoyed Clare Mackintosh’s stealthy manner of building suspense against her use simple direct language. The author holds her cards close to her chest, releasing little information at a time, yet pushing the action forward and keeping the reader captivated constantly. We explore the professional and personal life of Detective Inspector Ray Stevens who heads the investigation into the accident that led to little Jacob’s death. Ray is a middle-aged man with a wife -Megs (a former police officer turned housewife) who has lost her lustre in his eyes and they have two kids. Ray’s friendship with a younger female colleague of his -Kate approaches flirtation and makes us wonder whether his marriage stands a chance. If you’ve read either ‘Gone Girl’ or ‘The Girl On The Train you will have noticed that crime investigative element tends to be quite significant however I think this novel gives it a brighter spotlight and that in turn helps balance the tone of the story and build tension within the plot.
Jenna’s character is handled skilfully -I thought the author’s use of second person narrative further into the story to introduce a plot twist and a sinister character was incredibly effective. The terror is often visceral in the final part of the story Jenna’s story.
The novel explores themes such as grief, guilt, domestic abuse, death etc It is clear from how evocative the author’s descriptions are of that world and the telling details employed that She must have been in close proximity with that world. Clare Mackintosh happens to be a former Detective Inspector from Bristol and this novel was inspired by a case early on in her career that involved a young boys death from a hit and run which remained unsolved for a long time, as well as the death of her own son (who passed away in unrelated circumstances). There’s something to be said for writing what you know because Clare Mackintosh does it brilliantly.
I recommend the novel to any fan of psychological thrillers. Yes a few bits were easy to predict or too on the nose, such as Jenna’s father rather convenient history of abuse. Nevertheless this book is still a fresh take on the genre with some clever twists. I also like the way the subplots were resolved at the end of the story – casually ,not too neatly tied up with a bow which makes it all the more realistic.
I would love to know your thoughts on the book if you’ve read it!