When Zoe first discovers a grainy picture of herself in the classified ads section of a newspaper, she’s more than happy to let her friends and family convince her that it’s just a lookalike and a funny coincidence. But then she discovers that another pictured girl has been robbed on the tube, and another has been murdered on the way home. With the realisation that anyone could be watching her, her dismissive attitude to her fellow commuters changes fundamentally and her panic quickly reaches crisis point. Meanwhile PC Kelly Swift is on the case and unafraid to break a few rules to protect the vulnerable women being targeted by the person behind these ads, even if it could cost her a second chance within the police force.
The tension in this story is undoubtedly what makes it crawl under your skin long after turning the last page. It has all the ‘no, don’t do it!’ moments of a damsel walking down a dark staircase to ‘take a look’ (we wouldn’t either!) with ordinary, relatable characters that help to ground the book and heighten the atmosphere. The attacker could be your friend, your colleague, the man opposite you on the train. There are tantalising glimpses of the darker personality in everyone that makes it impossible for us or Zoe to trust anyone. And as the sinister voice behind the adverts starts to speak to us directly, we are powerless to do anything but shudder and shout pointlessly at Zoe to work out the danger that she’s in.
The skill with which Mackintosh writes both criminal and victim is astonishingly good, and her introduction to PC Kelly Swift has got us crossing our fingers that this could be the start of a series for this feisty investigator. Kelly is smart and dedicated to her cases, but a personal and traumatic crime in her family’s past has caused her to develop a dangerous empathy with the victims she works with. It has caused her setbacks in her career before and it threatens to cause further problems throughout this case. Nevertheless, her murky past adds an element of intrigue to her character, and as we learn more about her we can’t help but trust that her risky strategy will pay off in the end.
As with most standout domestic noirs this year, reviewers have been quick to make comparisons to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, and after fighting to stay awake to keep reading just one more chapter we can vouch for its addictive thriller qualities. And similarly there’s an explosive and bloody ending that is so gripping you can forgive some of the farfetched moments that we stray into.
I See You is as creepy as the title suggests, and you’ll be on edge from start to finish. The tension will be unbearable; you’ll stay up all night desperate to work out who’s behind it. Chances are you’ll have it all devastatingly wrong.
Our verdict: Read this on the train. Go on, we dare you.