“The police say it was suicide. Anna says it was murder. They’re both wrong.
Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide.
Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother’s absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her.
Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…”
My Thoughts: There are SO. MANY. thrillers out on the market these days. Some are good. Some are bad. Most are okay. The thing is that when there is a glut in any market, it takes a lot for one particular story to rise above the rest. The odds of that happening with every thriller you read are not very good; for that reason sometimes it is okay to temper your expectations. It is perfectly acceptable to hope for a thriller that will mostly keep you guessing with mostly believable characters and plot and decent writing because they are still entertaining and fill a need for decent books that will get people excited about reading again. This is how I feel about Clare Mackintosh and her latest novel, Let Me Lie.
It may seem that I am damning Let Me Lie with faint praise, but I assure you I am not. Her novels are never going to be Gillian Flynn big. She doesn’t have that flair for the dramatic that splashy thrillers tend to have. What she does have is a consistency to her story-telling with careful pacing and characters that are not larger than life in any way. They are simply ordinary people in rather extraordinary circumstances, and that makes her stories more believable, more relatable, and in a way more interesting.
One of the best things about Ms. Mackintosh’s novels is the fact that she does not rely on plot twists to shock the reader or create tension. Rather, she excels at the use of misdirection, allowing readers to believe one thing before adding a piece of the puzzle that changes your perception of the entire story. She puts this to particularly effective use in Let Me Lie. This sets her apart from the masses of other thrillers because it is a subtle effect that can have even greater reactions than a plot twist. With a twist, you see it coming or you don’t; either way, it is something that shocks you once and from then you move on with the rest of the story. With misdirection, it sneaks up on you no matter what, and instead of being able to move on with the story you find you want to go back and read certain passages again now that your understanding of them is different. Misdirection resonates more and longer, and it requires a special skill to be able to create it.
The unfortunate thing about misdirection is that it is so easy to spoil. Just one wrong word or sentence could be enough for new readers to pick up on clues earlier than intended or to guess the misdirection from the outset. When this happens, the story loses its magic because all of the suspense is built upon the misdirection. Once that is gone, it becomes just another story without the benefit of plot twists or cliffhangers to keep your interest. For this reason, Let Me Lie can never be another Gillian Flynn novel. People would simply not be able to keep the secrets while expressing love for the story and to read it without the secrets is just an exercise in disappointment.
However, reading it with the secrets intact is an exercise in fun. The clever shift in perspective does force you to go back and reassess your understanding of certain clues. It also keeps you from guessing the big mystery, which is always a good thing in a suspense thriller. Even better, the shifts in perspective force you to rethink your understanding of certain relationships and the assumptions we all make based on very little information. This is my third novel by Ms. Mackintosh that I have read, and I do believe it is the one I enjoyed the most while reading. Ms. Mackintosh is honing her skill with every novel, and I look forward to seeing what she has next for us.