Free Press Journal

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh: Review


Title: Let Me Lie

Author: Clare Mackintosh

Publisher: Sphere

Pages: 390

Price: Rs. 399


“The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.”

These words on the front cover of the book draw you in and you can’t put it down till you have finished it. Author, Claire Mackintosh is a relatively new entrant into the world of crime novels, but her expertise in weaving complex stories with unexpected twists as also the ability to, as yet, not repeat herself has gained her innumerable fans, including this one. Mackintosh’s 12 years in the police force and that insider’s view helps and shows through in her work.

The novel is about Anna Johnson, who is dealing with the double suicides of her parents. The book starts with one year having passed since Anna’s mother, Caroline and father, Tom take their lives in identical fashion – jumping off the cliff at Beachy Head in East Sussex just months apart. Anna, who has recently had a baby – Ella – is struggling to come to terms with their loss. Anna questions her parents’ deaths, but probing into the deaths may threaten her and her family’s life.

It’s the anniversary of Anna’s mother’s death when she receives a mysterious note that adds weight to her suspicions and makes her believe that her parents may have been killed. She takes the note to the police and there meets retired detective Murray Mackenzie, who is drawn in by the case and decides to help Anna dig into the past and solve the cold case.

Mackintosh loves to misdirect readers and there aren’t too many authors who can flummox you while keeping you firmly captivated with unusual twists. If there is one critique of her work, then it would be with so many well-fleshed out and believable characters inhabiting this book, it was slightly unrewarding to see some of the melodramatic villainous characters. But all in all, it is a book that isn’t loud or runs of the mill.

The novel starts in the voice of Caroline’s character saying, “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.”

The book also takes a very sensitive approach to deal with how the people left behind cope with suicide. She also deals with a deft touch on mental health issues. The book being in the domestic noir genre, Caroline’s relationship with Tom and Anna’s relationship with her former therapist Mark are also essential to the plot. But the one that stands out is between Murray and his wife. Murray’s wife, Sarah, has a borderline personality disorder (BPD) who has tried committing suicide several times. While many may have used this plotline as a distraction or ended up handling the domestic scenes rather casually, the author here depicts Murray and Sarah’s relationship beautifully.

So if you want to find out what happened to Tom and Caroline Johnson and are wondering how their deaths aren’t either suicide or murder, pick up a copy. I know I did and didn’t regret it.