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Review: ‘I See You’ by Clare Mackintosh

June 23, 2016
I See You

I had heard such wonderful things about Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go (which I have yet to read), that I jumped at the opportunity to read I See You which promised a just as interesting premise, and had been described as “an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller”.  A quarter of the way through the book and I was still waiting for something to happen.

Instead of a thrilling, fast-paced jaunt through a dark underworld I was treated to long passages about boring police procedure, parenting problems, financial accounting and misogynistic bosses.  Every character was hinting at something, but nothing really progressed or went anywhere.  I didn’t care who was hungry and who had skipped dinner; the entire first quarter read like a boring treatise on everyday life.  I found myself skim reading just to get it over and done with.

The pace certainly doesn’t pick up much as the narrative progresses.  There was no sense of impending dread, no excitement, no tragedy. The characters lacked depth and I felt myself completely unable to engage in their lives. Everyone felt like caricatures of their archetypes. Teenagers with ‘you wouldn’t understand man’ attitudes, unfulfilled housewives, philandering ex-husbands, struggling writers and troubled cops with tragic pasts and rogue ways who take issue with authority. The victims were nothing but faceless plot elements, something that I abhor in crime writing. I should feel sympathy for the victims, and sadness at their misfortunes, but instead, they were just names with no voice. There was nothing new in I See You, and nothing that made me desperate to read on or invest myself in the characters’ lives.

But worst of all? It was predictable! Everything followed on rails to a formula that was all too familiar. There was an appropriate number of red herrings from the 3/4 mark so you knew who to eliminate as a suspect. When the antagonist surfaced they were given little to no legitimate and believable reason and ability for the crime, and the final plot twist was given away by a rather jimmied in explanation of a particular character near the end of the novel. This explanation (without giving anything away) highlighted a certain skill set making the ‘surprise’ ending exceedingly unsurprising, while also managing to invalidate some of the descriptions of the character earlier in the book.

I really wanted to like I See You. I might even still try I Let You Go. You can’t become such an overnight sensation if you have nothing going for you. Maybe I just started with the wrong book?  I did see a talented writer buried beneath all the formula. Clare Mackintosh ‘s dialogue was convincing and her prose was fluent and interesting to read in and of itself. But for me, the plot never came to life. It didn’t build, it lacked depth and the characters weren’t particularly likeable or interesting. I didn’t hang on the story, desperate to read on and know what happened. I didn’t sound out the words in my head or savour them. Instead, I speed read the book in a day. It was just good enough for me to want to finish it, but not good enough for me to care that I had.

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