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Book Nook - 21-05-2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to [email protected]

A Cop’s Eye View
Clare Mackintosh quit the police force to make a career as a successful writer of crime fiction. Her latest Let Me Lie, is not as engrossing as her last, I Let You Go, but it sets up an intriguing premise.

Successful car dealer, Tom Johnson, suddenly drowns himself at the town’s suicide point of Beachy Head, making sure his body stays underwater by carrying a bag full of rocks. Seven months later, his wife, Caroline, commits a copycat suicide by throwing herself into the water at the same spot in the same way. Their daughter, Anna, is devastated and is helped in trying to overcome her grief by her counsellor boyfriend Mark, uncle Billy, friend Laura (who was also her mother’s goddaughter) and her infant daughter Ella.

On the first anniversary of her mother’s suicide,  Anna gets a card that says, “Suicide? Think Again” and her life starts unravelling. She now believes her mother was murdered, and possibly her father too. Murray Mackenzie, the cop who meets her at the police station, is retired and working as a civilian volunteer.  Even though an anonymous card is not enough to prove foul play, his instinct tells him that there is more to the Johnson couple’s suicides than the police officers on duty noted.

On his own time, and defying warnings from the chief, he starts investigating the case. Mackintosh has given Murray more attention than the whiny and quite unappealing Anna, who at twenty-six, cannot get a grip on herself. Murray cares with great tenderness with his wife, Sarah, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, and is in and out of a mental asylum. But when she is relatively normal, Murray discusses his cases with her and she often sees what others have missed. The novel could have easily been about Murray than Anna, who does not contribute much to the story, except bouts of hysteria.

The book kicks to life halfway through, and then races towards an unpredictable climax, but the reader has to stay patient, and hope the author will add some twists... which she does. Maybe a little too late.
Let Me Lie
By Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 400

Excerpt of Let Me Lie
Death does not suit me. I wear it like a borrowed coat; it slips off my shoulders and trails in the dirt. It is ill fitting. Uncomfortable.I want to shrug it off; to throw it in the cupboard and take back my well-tailored clothes. I didn't want to leave my old life, but I'm hopeful for my next one-hopeful I can become someone beautiful and vibrant. For now, I am trapped.Between lives.In limbo.They say sudden good-byes are easier. Less painful. They're wrong. Any pain saved from the lingering good-byes of a drawn-out illness is offset by the horror of a life stolen without notice. A life taken violently. On the day of my death I walked the tightrope between two worlds, the safety net in tatters beneath me. This way safety; that way danger.I stepped.I died.We used to joke about dying-when we were young enough, still vital enough, for death to be something that happened to other people."Who do you think'll go first?" you said, one night when the wine had run dry and we lay by the electric fire in my rented Balham flat. An idle hand, stroking my thigh, softened your words. I was quick to answer."You, of course."You aimed a cushion at my head.We'd been together a month; enjoying each other's bodies, talking about the future as though it belonged to someone else. No commitment, no promises-just possibilities."Women live longer." I grinned. "It's a well-known fact. Genetic. Survival of the fittest. Men can't cope on their own."You grew serious. Cupped my face in your hand and made me look at you. Your eyes were black in the half-light; the bars of the fire reflected in your pupils. "It's true."I moved to kiss you but your fingers held me still; pressure on my chin as your thumb pushed against bone."If anything happened to you, I don't know what I'd do."The briefest chill, despite the fierce heat from the fire. Footsteps on my grave."Give over.""I'd die, too," you insisted.I put a stop to your youthful dramatics then, reaching to push aside your hand and free my chin. Keeping my fingers tangled with yours, so the rejection didn't sting. Kissing you, softly at first, then harder, until you rolled backward, and I was lying on top of you, my hair curtaining our faces.You would die for me.Our relationship was young; a spark that could be snuffed out as easily as coaxed into flames. I couldn't have known you'd stop loving me; that I'd stop loving you. I couldn't help but be flattered by the depth of your feeling, the intensity in your eyes.You would die for me, and in that moment, I thought I might die for you, too.I just never thought either of us would have to.
Clare Mackintosh’s second book, a psychological thriller, I See You, was a bestseller. It is so scary because it could be true, and happen to any woman who commutes to work. The very idea of being scrutinised by an invisible  stranger is creepy.

While taking a train to work, most women read, listen to music or doze off; hardly any suspects that she is being stalked and that too remotely. Zoe Walker, a forty-ish mother of two teenage kids, is on her way home from work, when she turns the pages of a newspaper and finds her own picture staring out of a ‘Personal’ ad that lists a website

Her family—live-in boyfriend, Simon, and kids—convince her that it must be a lookalike. Then, she sees the photo of another woman in a similar ad and when she is found murdered, Zoe calls the police. The only one who takes her seriously is Kelly Swift, a detective who is suffering a punishment posting in the transport department for the crime of hitting a child molester during an interrogation. Kelly is unusually sensitive because her twin sister was raped when in college. The sister has chosen to forget the incident and get on with her life, but Kelly cannot get it out of her mind.

Kelly wheedles her way into this investigation and when she and Zoe start digging into the strange website, they uncover something too shocking to believe—that someone sells details of women’s daily commutes to subscribers on the website, so that they can stalk those women. It’s a bizarre dating tool for some men, and for the psychos an easy route to rape and murder.

Mackintosh carefully builds up back stories of Zoe and Kelly and minor characters, like Zoe’s friend Melissa, are properly fleshed out.  Quite a few red herrings are strewn about, and the sense of danger is always palpable.  Zoe’s boyfriend has been lying to her, her son is weird, her daughter is dating an older man, her ex-husband, a cabbie, is still on call when she needs help and her boss is not very nice.

The suspense is nail-biting and, at a time when women are being stalked and attacked all over the world, the book is also a cautionary tale, indirectly advising women to keep a check on their surroundings during their commute to and from work, and never trust strangers.
I See You
By Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 372
Clare Mackintosh’s debut novel, I Let You Go, was a bestseller and award-winner, picked for TV series and had translation rights sold to over 30 countries. For the cop-turned-writer, it was a big deal, and established her career as an author to watch for, and her next two books did not disappoint.

The book’s opening scene grabs the reader by the collar and never loosens that grip.  At Christmastime in Bristol, a  hit-and-run accident kills a five-year-old boy named Jacob, who, just for a moment, let go of his mother’s hand. His mother looks on in horror and later, is unable to note the car’s number or any other details.

Detective Inspector Ray Stevens, who is in charge of the case is angered by the callousness of the driver who knocked down a child and did not even stop to help. It does not make it easier for them, when the mother of the child vanishes without a trace, probably traumatised by the death of her child and the hate spewed on social media accusing her of being a bad mom.

The cops get quite a public battering for not being able to trace the car and arrest the driver. The efforts of Ray and his deputies to keep the case open when the absence of any leads gets them an order to save expenses and close the file, are interspersed with the story of Jenna Gray, who leaves home after the accident and is haunted by it. She goes to a remote coastal village of Penfach to rebuild her life in anonymity.

She befriends the owner of a trailer park, adopts a stray dog and starts dating a kindly veterinarian. She also makes a career of sorts, drawing messages in the sand and taking photographs from a cliff, for tourists looking for keepsakes. But she keeps her past sealed off from her new friends and does not want to return to the city.

Jenna is not who she says she is and has a shocking connection to the accident that killed little Jacob. When the cops land at her door, Jenna’s troubled life is laid bare.

Mackintosh knows just how to layer the suspense, time the twists and keep the reader on tenterhooks.  With this novel, she joined the ranks of popular crime novelists.

I Let You Go
Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 387

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