Clare Macintosh is a favourite go-to author for domestic thrillers. I Let You Go and I See You among others, were easy to read and kept me on the edge of my seat. So I was quick to read a copy of her latest novel, but it is completely different. This emotional book is still fiction but it gets personal–it is based on her own experience of losing a child.
The premise is heart breaking. Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers–unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors have no choice but to make the parents choose between painful treatments to prolong his life or allow him to die naturally. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son. The matter goes to court and what happens afterwards takes up the second half of the novel.
The suspense and intrigue is in how the tragedy plays out and affects people and their relationships. It reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s bestseller My Sister’s Keeper. The first half was beautifully written and I thought this would be a great novel that would be relatable and redemptive for parents in these types of nightmare situations. But with all due respect to the author for writing from the heart, I found the second half repetitive, pointless, overlong and there were confusing bits that I never understood. The narrative arc felt weak and I almost bailed on it many times. As for parents who actually have to make such an impossible choice, I think this would be a very hard and triggering book to read because of what happens, but I can’t tell you why without giving spoilers.
The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.
This is my third domestic thriller by Clare Macintosh and I finally figured out why I like her stories so much–she really makes me care about the characters and that can be rare in a plot driven novel. There are plenty of twists and turns in her books, and a final gasp at the end, but each story is unique–nothing formulaic here. Incidentally, this clever author’s titles always have double meanings.
Losing one parent to suicide is hard enough, but imagine losing the second parent only six months later, ending their life in exactly the same manor–jumping from one of the cliffs at Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, UK. Anna is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unable to comprehend why they chose to end their lives. She has just given birth to a beautiful baby girl named Ella, and is living with her partner Mark in her parental home. With a brand new baby she realizes the strength of a mother-child bond, and is missing her mother more than ever. Why would her mother put her through terrible grief again after losing her father so recently? There’s something that doesn’t sit right with Anna about the whole situation. But is it better to investigate, or just let it lie…
Beachy Head is one of my favourite scenic places in the world, and I have stayed in Eastbourne more than once, so the setting of this mystery really appealed to me. Of course the breathtaking height and views of the sea from these abrupt cliffs also hold tragic opportunity, which is sobering and renders the beauty bittersweet. My favourite of Mackintosh’s novels so far is still I Let You Go, but this and her other one called I See You, are all great choices if you are in the mood for an engrossing page turner.