I See You, by Clare Mackintosh

>> Wednesday, August 30, 2017

TITLE: I See You
AUTHOR: Clare Mackintosh

PAGES: 372

SETTING: Contemporary London
TYPE: Thriller

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose...A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move...
I See You is Clare's Mackintosh's second book. Her first one, I Let You Go, had excellent reviews. I'm not sure why I started with this one instead, but that might have been a mistake.

Zoe Walker is killing time while on a stalled tube train, reading the free newspaper, when her eye is caught by one of the photographs illustrating an advert for one of those escort/chat line services one often finds in the classifieds. The photo seems to be of Zoe herself. It's grainy and not great quality, but Zoe is convinced, even if her boyfriend and her two grown-up kids tell her it surely must be someone else. It's a mystery. All the advert includes, in addition to the photo, is a phone number (which doesn't work) and the address for a website (which shows nothing but a white page and a box instructing visitors to enter their password.

Zoe becomes obsessed with this, and starts seeking out the advert every day. Every day it has a photo of a different woman, same number, same web address. Creepy, but not quite enough to do anything more. Until Zoe recognises the photo of one of the women elsewhere in the paper, in a story about crime, where the woman is one of the victims. And it's not just her.

The story follows Zoe and Kelly, a police officer with British Transport Police who is the first person in the police Zoe makes contact with. Kelly has been demoted back into uniform after an incidence of police brutality, and she seizes on her initial involment to get a secondment to the team investigating a murder which turns out to be linked.

My main problem with this book was that it required quite a massive amount of suspension of disbelief, and I just couldn't do it. The investigation was fine, with the police taking perfectly sensible steps and being quite logical. Zoe was believably freaked out and suspicious about everything. It was the actual answer to what was going on that I did not believe for a single second. I'm not going to reveal here what it was, so I won't be able to demolish every single completely unbelievable point about it, but trust me, it makes no sense. There's no way that would have worked, no way that the person(s) involved would have been able to do what they're supposed to have done, no way at all.

And to make things even worse, we kind of know what's supposed to be happening (even though we don't know who's responsible and how they've pulled it off) from pretty early on, so that "Nope, don't buy that" response contaminated the entire reading experience. If there had been a great reveal at the end and that was when the reaction had come in, that would have been a problem, but possibly not as bad (actually, that's happened to me a few times with Agatha Christie books I've otherwise liked just fine). But no, I spent all book feeling annoyed.

The dénouement was particularly awful. The villain basically decides to put Zoe through the wringer in a way that created risks for the villain. This is just to torture Zoe, and the reason why the villain is revealed to hate Zoe so much is actually quite offensive. Mackintosh seems to have felt she needed some heart-pounding excitement at the end, and who cares about character believability? Plot is all that matters. And then there's a twist right at the end, which made me groan with its stupidity. Bad, really bad.

I suppose the other thing that didn't help was that I did not like Zoe at all (I may be being unfair to the villain by not buying why this person hates Zoe so much, because she kind of had the same effect on me!). It's not so much the things she does during the book, but the small revelations about the kind of person she is. She seems very small-minded. It's all little details, like a scene where someone shows her how easy it is to access her facebook page (she's basically left it wide open, not having looked at the privacy settings at all). She's freaked out by how easy it is for anyone to see her posts, including this gem "50K a year and they think they've got the right to strike? I'd swap jobs with a train driver any day!" Oh, fuck you, Zoe. Oh, and she accuses the guy who accesses her facebook page of having "hacked her facebook". Idiot. There are several details like this. I despised her.

On the plus side, I did finish the book, and Mackintosh has a writing style that flows well and carried me along fine. But that's all I can say that's positive.



Barb in Maryland 30 August 2017 at 16:14  

Sing 'Amen', Sister. Ugh, Zoe, and the villain and the big reveal at the end. This one really brought home to me that I prefer solid mysteries to psychological thrillers. I want closure. I want the bad guys in jail (or dead, I'm not picky).
I enjoyed her earlier one, "I Let You Go",even though I felt she spent entirely too much time in the villain's head. I had hopes for this one--but 'meh'.

Rosario 31 August 2017 at 06:27  

I think mysteries are more to my taste, as well. Less emphasis on trying to shock the reader, more emphasis on the puzzle.

Is I Let You Go worth reading, or should I just give up on Mackintosh?

Barb in Maryland 1 September 2017 at 02:56  

While I definitely enjoyed 'I Let You Go' much, much more than 'I See You'. I don't think you will miss much if you don't ever read it.

Rosario 1 September 2017 at 07:19  

Thanks! Too many books on my TBR, no sense wasting my time!

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