How do you revisit a painful past when you’re trying to move forward? How can you question the circumstances of an event that detectives marked as undeniably conclusive? Is your doubt paranoia, or should you always trust your instinct? Why would two happy partners commit suicide? These questions and more form the basis of Claire Mackintosh’s latest thriller ‘Let Me Lie’.
The story is told from a few perspectives. For the majority of the narrative, we’re taken through the sequence of events from within the mind of Anna, a middle-aged woman who’s mother and father separately committed suicide in identical circumstances. All evidence points to the same set of events – both parents drove to a local lookout, parked their cars, left their possessions on the grass leading up to the cliff face, waited until high tide and jumped off the cliff, leading investigators to conclude that they had drowned and been washed out to sea. Anna is quite obviously overcome with grief, mostly due to the fact that there was no indication in either parent that something like this would occur. Anna has questions, mostly about the perceived life that her family had, but also surrounding the details of the suicides. That doubt is only amplified on the first anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna receives an anonymous letter stating that if Anna thinks the deaths were suicides, she should think again. Was it murder? Who sent the letter? Why now? Anna embarks on a personal mission to uncover more about the letter, the suicides and ultimately, her family.
The second perspective is from that of Murray, a semi-retired detective from the local police department. Murray was well-known for being meticulous, smart and determined – one of the top detectives in the area. When Anna goes to the police with the letter, and a plea to re-open the investigation into her parents deaths, Murray takes on the case in his spare time (knowing the police would not be interested in re-opening a clean cut closed case). As he starts to investigate, he also begins to question the official narrative. Just who knows the truth to the stories, and why have they stayed silent all this time? Who can be trusted, and who is more dangerous than they seem?
The first third of ‘Let Me Lie’ is quite impressive. There’s a perfect amount of mystery and suspense to the story, as we unravel the layers of the lead characters and their supports. There’s a seemingly supernatural element to the first third which plays out well and really grabbed my attention (more on this below). It was fresh and original, and drew me into the story. Then we get to the middle third, and things start to unravel. As the plot twists and turns and we learn the truth about Anna’s mother, the mystery has somewhat subsided and we’re left to regroup on the 180 degree the plot has just taken – and not in a good way. I was really disappointed with the direction the story went, especially what then we learn about Anna’s father. I didn’t expect it, which is positive in a sense, but it just didn’t feel all that genuine. It raised way too many questions in my head about how any of the detail of the first third of the story could have been conclusive with this new information. By the time we get into the final third, my attention and care factor had dropped so low that I struggled to finish the book.
One or two final twists (yeah, there were a few…) were decent and well handled, but all in all I found the story to be a bit of a mess. There was too much good content that wasn’t delved deeper into. Murray’s relationship with his depressed wife Sarah, who was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, is an absolute highlight and should have played into the main story more, instead of just being a side plot. Missed potential for a really interesting twist on the normal crime thriller.
The supernatural element I alluded to earlier was another huge missed opportunity to take the story down a more fantastical road, but again it was an after thought and in the middle third where we learn a lot more detail, it completely rules out the supernatural side that we thought was occurring in the first third, and this is undoubtedly where the story lost me.
Mackintosh, who by all accounts is quite an accomplished writer given the list of accolades and positive reviews for previous works, really misses the mark here. The book was set up perfectly to have an edge against the generic crime thriller genre. The plot and characters had enough spark in their stories for the reader to truly care about their journey, yet even the finale is predictable and lifeless, albeit with a small twist which was a nice touch. There is absolutely no doubt that Mackintosh is a great writer, and with her police background we get a very detailed look into the police professional world at a level not all that common in crime writers. But with her choice of creative direction in this novel, ‘Let Me Lie’ is probably one you could skip.
Mackintosh has two releases due in 2019 – ‘A Cotswold Family Life’ is out in February, and ‘After The End’ will hit shelves in June.