OK, I admit it. This is yet another crime novel set in Bristol. I believe that now makes three for this blog. If you have little knowledge of the UK, you must be envisaging that Bristol, the city I went to school in, is some kind of latter day Gotham City. A hotbed of crime and criminality, where children go missing or are killed with little concern for the future of society. Nothing could be further from the truth, but clearly there is a movement going on in the same city that back in the early ‘90s brought us the trip-hop phenomenon in music (think: Massive Attack, Portishead et al). Is Bristol now the go to UK destination for crime writing?
When I started reading this book, I really didn’t think it was going to be up to much. The Husband had bought it for me on a trip to the UK last year, for the very reason of its setting and in no small part due to how much I had loved both What She Knew and The Daughter. The beginning of I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh, describes the hit and run in which five year old Jacob is killed and provides the crux of the story. It is the job of Detective Inspector Ray Stevens to find out who is responsible, but given a shortage of evidence, he knows that this is either a ‘no hoper’ or that it will take a miracle. In the meantime, we are introduced to Jenna a heartbroken woman who is leaving Bristol to try to start afresh somewhere new.
I have never been a big fan of police dramas on TV and the same is true in books. Thankfully Macintosh writes very well and, given her previous career in the police, knows her stuff. I enjoyed the first half of the book in the way that one enjoys a holiday read, no real clout, but a good enough story to keep you going. Oh, but then there’s the twist! About halfway through the novel something changes, that leaves the reader breathless and it’s just brilliant, after which it’s plain sailing to the end of the book. Better still, it’s a ‘take my book away from me and die’ scenario. The story is by turns frustrating, moving, unbearably sad and fantastically exciting. Irritatingly, there’s really nothing that I can tell you about it, as I don’t want to spoil the journey.
The characterisation is great, from the middle aged police officer whose marriage has perhaps lost a little of the spark it once had, leaving him tempted by the young ambitious office who reminds him of better days, to that of Jenna, a character so damaged by loss, that you wonder how or if she will ever find her way again. The pacing works brilliantly and reflects the mood of the police team and then that twist.
Well, all I can say is, that it’s three out of three for the Bristol crime writers, as far as I’m concerned.