Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh is another unique and twisting psychological thriller from the award-winning, internationally bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You (available March 13, 2018).
Full disclosure: I’m already a huge fan of Clare Mackintosh’s books. I loved I Let You Go and I See You, so I was anxious to dive into this one. Mackintosh is a master of misdirection, and it’s on full display here.
Anna Johnson is a new mom to eight-week-old Ella, and it wasn’t a planned pregnancy. In fact, it was even more of a shocker since the father is Mark Hemmings, her few-years-older boyfriend who was also her grief counselor—the one she saw after both of her parents, Tom and Caroline, committed suicide: her father 19 years ago, and her mother seven months after that. It’s something she’s had a hard time coping with, and she’s had to reconcile this with the joy that has come with having sweet little Ella. She’s very aware of the sometimes-intractable nature of grief.
I stopped seeing a therapist when I realized all the talking in the world wasn’t going to bring back my parents. You reach a point where the pain you feel inside is simply sadness. And there’s no cure for that.
Grief is complicated. It ebbs and flows and is so multifaceted that unpacking it makes my head hurt. I can go for days without crying, then barely be able to breathe for the sobs that rack my body. One moment I’ll be laughing with Uncle Billy about something stupid Dad once did; the next I’ll be filled with rage for his selfishness. If Dad hadn’t killed himself, Mum wouldn’t have done either.
When she receives a card that says “Happy Anniversary!” on the front and “Suicide? Think again.” on the inside, she’s shocked—and convinced that someone is trying to tell her that her parents didn’t commit suicide, that it’s possible they were murdered. Anna is in a tough position. She’s grieving and suspects that something gnarly is going on, but no one really wants to hear her claims that her parents might have been murdered. Especially her boyfriend. After all, she’s just the sad, hysterical woman reaching for impossibility because she’s in denial of reality, right?
Luckily, there is someone that’s willing to listen, but his power is, shall we say, limited. Murray Mackenzie is a former detective who is technically retired, but he loves the work and now mans the front desk for the Lower Meads Police Station. There are no detectives available when Anna comes in to report the letter, so he doesn’t see the harm in hearing her out. He soon reveals himself to be an inquisitive, sensitive sounding board. He also sees a kindred spirit in Anna.
Some people found shared experiences a lifeline. They thrived in group therapy sessions, walking out stronger and better equipped to deal with their emotions. A problem shared…
But suicide support groups didn’t help everyone.
They hadn’t helped Murray.
“I saw a grief counselor.”
“Did it help?”
“I had a baby with him.” Anna Johnson gave a half sob, half laugh. Murray found himself laughing with her.
“Well, that does sound quite helpful.”
The tears had slowed. Anna’s smile was weak, but steady. “Please Mr. Mackenzie. My parents didn’t commit suicide. They were murdered.” She pointed at the torn-up card. “And this proves it.”
It didn’t prove it. It didn’t prove anything.
But it did ask a question. And Murray had never been one to ignore an unanswered question. Perhaps he could take a look himself. Pull out the original files, read through the coroner’s reports. And when—if—there was something to investigate, he could hand over the package. He had the skills, after all. Thirty years on the job, and the best part of that on CID. You didn’t hand in your knowledge along with your warrant card.
Murray knows something of grief: his beloved wife, Sarah, has borderline personality disorder (BPD) and has been in and out of treatment clinics for most of their marriage. She’s also tried to commit suicide many times. Murray will do just about anything for her, and his relationship with his beautiful, troubled wife is one of the highlights of this book. She also is a valuable contributor to the case; she often sees things that Murray doesn’t, and he doesn’t hesitate to share with her in hopes of reaching an understanding that has thus far eluded him.
Of course, the letters Anna is getting are frightening, but not as frightening as when she finds a dead rabbit with its entrails pulled out on her porch. There’s blood everywhere, far more than would come from a little rabbit. Infuriatingly, Mark chalks it up to a fox, and before Anna can take photos, he cleans up the mess! Mark is frustrating—he seemingly means well but never really takes Anna seriously. That is until a brick comes sailing through the window of Ella’s nursery.
Of course, while Murray is digging into the clues, so is Anna. She begins to go through her mother’s things and finds information that just doesn’t add up. And on the peripheral, someone seems to be watching Anna. Mackintosh is a pro at cranking up the tension, and she’s a stickler for detail. Anna’s emotional highs and lows are very natural, and she rounds out a cast of fully realized characters with motivations that, while sometimes twisted, flesh out the narrative as opposed to just propelling it. If you haven’t picked up a book by this stellar writer, now’s the time.
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