Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See You by Clare Mackintosh is a dark and claustrophobic thriller in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world.

If you happen upon the personal ads while reading the newspaper, there are plenty of things you might expect to see—a photo of yourself is probably not one of them. Zoe Walker is confronted with a photograph of herself in the classified ads under She calls the number listed to see if she can shed some light on the matter, but it’s dead. She just wants to know how her photo got there, and—more importantly—why. Like all of us, Zoe wants some answers.

However, seeking them takes her on a very dangerous journey, as other women with photographs on the site are becoming victims of violent crimes. A new woman and a new victim each day.

Clare Mackintosh has written a red-hot thriller that plays on a whole range of worries that people have about their everyday habits. If you are in London, you ride the tube; if you are in New York, it is the subway. Same animal, different name. And the questions are the same, too: Do you have to take up so much space? Do you have to eat smelly food in a confined public area? Am I safe? Who is the person sitting across from me? Do they know who I am? Do they care? Are they dangerous? Am I safe?

If you are Zoe Walker, the answer is a resounding no:

“I’ve got some information for you.” Zoe Walker said. She spoke formally, in an abrupt tone that bordered on rudeness, but there was an uncertainty beneath it that suggested nerves.

Kelly spoke gently, “Go on.”

The sergeant appeared, tapping his watch. Kelly pointed to her phone; mouthed         

Give me a minute.

“The victim. Cath Tanning. Her photograph was in an advert in the classified section of the London Gazette, right before her keys were stolen.”

Whatever Kelly had expected from Zoe Walker, it wasn’t that.

She sat down, “What sort of advert?”

“I’m not really sure. It’s on a page with other adverts, for things like chatlines and escorts. And on Friday I saw the same advert, except I think it had a photo of me.

“You think?” Kelly couldn’t stop a note of skepticism creeping into her voice. She heard Zoe Walker hesitate.

“Well, it looked like me. Only without the glasses. Although I do sometimes wear contacts—I use those daily disposable ones, you know?” She sighed, “You don’t believe me, do you? You think I’m some crackpot.”

It was so close to what Kelly was thinking that she felt a stab of guilt.

“Not at all. I’m just trying to establish the facts. Can you give me the dates of the adverts you saw?” She waited while Zoe Walker checked the calendar, then scribbled down the two dates she gave her, Tuesday, 3 November for Cathy Tanning’s photograph and Friday, 13 November for Zoe’s own.

“I’ll look into it,” she promised, although when she’d find the time, she wasn’t sure. “Leave it with me.”

The story is put together seamlessly, instilling a certain uneasiness and paranoia as you don’t know who you can trust. Is it a mistake to let anyone near because there’s a chance they may harm us—even if we think they care about us and love us? What a nasty premise, but the book is far from it. Rather, it is a finely-crafted thriller by an author who continues to put out quality work.

Just when you think you have a character figured out and put firmly in the box marked “good person,” Mackintosh feeds you a line that makes you question your own judgement—not just in the context of the story, but overall. When you think you’re one step ahead, you find yourself two steps behind because you don’t know who you can trust.

Police Constable Kelly Swift is there to ensure Zoe is not on the journey alone. The relationship between the two is finely handled, and their interactions are the glue that holds the story together. They have different histories but share some similarities, and neither fit into stereotypes of crime fighter and housewife—which makes the tale all the richer for it. Some books are difficult to put down. If you dropped this one, it might just bounce back up.

It reappears as my foot hits the platform, and this time there’s no mistaking it. Someone is watching me. Following me. As I walk toward the exit, I know—I just know—that someone has stepped off the carriage next to mine and is walking behind me. I don’t turn around. I can’t. I find the key in my pocket and twist it between my fingers. I walk faster, and then I abandon all pretense at nonchalance and I run as though my life depended on it. Because right now, I think that it might. My breath is shallow, each inhalation prompting a sharp pain in my chest. I hear footsteps behind me; they’re running, too. Leather on concrete. Hard and fast.

Books of this quality always make me wish I had an extra shoulder, as two are not enough to look over.

Read an excerpt from I See You!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.

Read all Dirk Robertson’s posts for Criminal Element.


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