Book Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

i see you via paper trail diary

I See You by Clare Mackintosh, via Berkley Books, out now.

Do you ever think about all the people you see on your commute to and from work? Do you ever raise your eyes up while on the subway and look around? Wonder who these people are, where they’re going? Wonder how their day went, if they’re okay? Most of us go about our business on our commutes, staring at the floor or an ad or a book, losing ourselves to a loud album through headphones, or dozing. A lot of people flick through newspapers, whether they picked them up in the station or from the seat they want to sit on, learning what’s going on in the world while they’re so busy doing their jobs. What none of us expect is to flip past the personal pages in that daily paper and suddenly realize we recognize our own face staring back at us.

In her highly anticipated follow-up to I Let You Go (which I still haven’t read, gah!), British author and former police officer Clare Mackintosh plays with the heebie-jeebies of feeling eyes on your back, the mystery of being one fish in a giant sea that is a city, and tackling the danger that women face, often in secret or under scrutiny.

Zoe Walker is that someone who sees her face in the paper — along with a phone number and a listing for a website, The picture is grainy and zoomed in, and she cannot figure out where it came from. Who got her picture, and why is it in this ad? She’s a middle-aged mum of two young adults with a live-in boyfriend, working for a real estate agent, living a boring, normal life. Zoe knows in her gut that this is incredibly fishy, but everyone around her thinks it’s just some weird joke and to let it go. But when Zoe recognizes other faces in more ads for the site and connects them to theft and even murder, she knows that she has to trust her gut on this one. Could she be next?

I See You rotates through three POVs: Zoe, a young policewoman named Kelly Swift, and the unnamed uber-creep that is watching women all over London. One of the biggest themes of the book, abuse of women, sits largely with Kelly, as the cop who desperately wants to cover the case of connecting the dots Zoe has found, as a way to avenge how her twin sister was raped while in university. The rape haunts Kelly more than her sister, which continually confuses and frustrates her, motivating Kelly forward on her hunt for justice. Zoe is kind of a bland character, and we mostly just see her on high alert because who wouldn’t be if they realized they’re being watched! The creeper’s voice is, well, incredibly disturbing.

If you’re as into the grip-lit craze as I am these days, I See You will definitely get your heart-rate up. I was guessing through the whole almost 400-page book of who the murderous creep could be and how they’re administering such horrors. I don’t want to give away much because it’s better to find it out yourself, but this book will give you the shivers because it feels all too-real. Some grip-lits seem too soap-opera-y to be relatable, but this one comes pretty close. You know that what’s going on could really happen and that’s a huge part of why everything is so upsetting. By the end, I was completely taken off-guard, sweating from not being able to turn the pages fast enough, and yet craving more. These days watching Happy Valley is filling that weird fascination (and it plays out a lot like a grip-lit book), but I’m ready to find the next mystery that’ll keep me on my toes.

I See You will leave its mark on you — for a while, you’ll be more aware of yourself and your surroundings as you set out on your commute, and though it might feel uncomfortable, it’s not a bad thing. Just think of what’s out there.

[I received this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]

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