Mackintosh is the queen of plot-twists, and Let Me Lie doesn’t disappoint. It’s different from her last two novels though, because although it’s a psychological crime thriller, it’s far more preoccupied with family tensions and relationships.
Anna is the new mother of an unplanned baby. She is exhausted, and emotionally bereft because both her parents recently committed suicide (months apart) by jumping off Beachy Head into the sea below. Anna knew her parents had marital difficulties, but nevertheless believed they were devoted to her, and now she feels lost and alone with her baby, desperately missing her mother’s love and advice.
She feels betrayed by her parents and bewildered by her new responsibilities – she’s inherited the family home and a substantial share of her father’s business. She cannot understand why her mother Caroline chose to end her life just months after husband Tom killed himself. Anna also feels she is being watched, but puts that down to a trick of the mind brought on by exhaustion.
Then, one day, Anna receives a card in the post. The anonymous scrawl reads: ‘Suicide? Think again.’
This chilling message chimes with Anna’s desperate state of mind and she immediately suspects her parents were murdered. She also becomes convinced that whoever is responsible is now stalking her. She needs help, and decides to go to the police.
It’s now that we meet the most attractive character in the novel, Murray, a retired police detective who can’t quite leave his former job alone. So he’s retained a desk job, which bores him rigid and is far beneath his capabilities. So when Anna tells him she suspects her parents have been murdered, his interest is immediately piqued. In a strictly unofficial capacity, he decides to help her.
Murray is a properly fleshed-out character, a totally moral and decent ex-police officer only too well-acquainted with emotional complexity. His beloved wife, Sarah, suffers from acute mental illness and spends a large amount on time in a secure psychiatric unit. Sarah’s mental health issues are a clever sub-plot in Mackintosh’s story. After all, Anna herself is in deep psychological trauma, paranoid about her dead parents; in fact this whole book is about twisted domestic relationships.
The fact that Murray accepts his wife’s illness and is dedicated to making her happy explains his sympathetic attitude towards Anna’s dark preoccupations. The story of Murray and Sarah is tender, although eventually tragic; a welcome (if sombre) antidote to the lack of love emanating from Anna’s family.
The twist – when it comes – is both major and shocking, as you would expect from Mackintosh. All through the book, an anonymous narrator follows Anna, describing herself as no longer alive, dead and invisible. Is this wraith truly a ghost, or a much more sinister being? When we find out, Anna’s perception of truth is totally inverted.
This is a twisty, suspenseful domestic crime thriller, as tense as we have come to expect from Clare Mackintosh.