I See You

End Date:  August 26th

Author:  Clare Mackintosh

Published:  2015

Genre:  Mystery / Suspense

Pages:  372 (paperback)

Selected By:  BillMo

Average Review:  Scoring Liked Book

“When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there.  There’s no explanation: just a website, a grainy image, and a phone number.  She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe.  But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

“Is it a mistake?  A coincidence?  Or is someone keeping track of every move they make…”

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BillMo:  Scoring Great Book

This was a really good book that kept me on the edge of my seat – I couldn’t wait to find out exactly “who done it”!  I found the characters and story-line believable, so much so that I think I need to change up my routine so no one can find me.

Sadly, the main character – Zoe Walker – annoyed me more than anyone else in the story.  I really don’t know how I’d handle things if in an identical situation, but she did some really stupid things that had me wondering how Darwin’s survival-of-the-fittest theory didn’t wipe her off the map early in her life… but I guess, in a weird way, she’s lucky to have made it to adulthood to even be stalked to begin with.

I got really irritated with a supporting character, PC Kelly Swift, because she did things that should have gotten her butt fired.  I would read passages and be like, “Whaaaat in the heeeeeeck did you just dooooooo??!!”  I just don’t understand her – I mean, a little piece of me does, maybe, but I haven’t received the training she supposedly has, and I’m not aware of any sort of fine-print in the legal books that says it’s OK to do shit just because it feels right.  She blabbed her mouth and could have totally impeded the investigation – and what was even more irritating was that she specifically told the idiot she blabbed to, “Hey, I could lose my job if you blab what I blabbed” – and if a detective told me something like that, I’d make sure to zip my trap shut.  (Of course, the idiot she blabbed to went and blabbed it all around to everyone within earshot, including PC Swift’s supervisor, so… yeah.)

Sorry to leave such a short review for my own selection, but I really don’t want to give anything away – the best thing about this book is what you don’t know.  So I’ll wrap it up with:

The author did such a good job with the paranoia aspect that I really suspected just about everyone to be the culprit.  If you like a good mystery, this is definitely the book for you, and I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good whodunnit without a lot of gore.

 

BillMo’s Favorite Character(s):  Nick Rampello.  It was a hard choice, because I didn’t really relate to anyone completely, but he was intelligent and wanted to protect everyone the best way he knew how; the nature of his job required him to refrain from becoming too personally involved with the victims, and he stuck to this and remained professional.

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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Lady Esbe:  Scoring Liked Book

This book is definitely more my speed.  I quite enjoy a good crime novel and this is a pretty good one, even if I despised the main characters.  The novelty of the crime or the crime syndicate, to be exact, is riveting and quite frankly scary if someone ever thought to do this in reality.  The twist in the end wasn’t really all that big of a twist for me; in fact, it made sense to me in that last diary page from the perpetrator that shows people highly underestimate folks when they don’t take into account their capabilities and motivations.  All in all, I enjoyed the speed at which the book progressed, but as for characters and development, the two main female characters drove me absolutely insane.

I’ll start with the first person, intended victim, Zoe Walker.  You know me, I’m not one to pull punches and it bothered me that some of the story was told from her perspective.  I know the method was to allow us the insight, fear and concern by the intended victim.  Zoe’s mealy mouthed, whiny oh woe is me attitude was enough for me to wish she be truly attacked and quickly to end our suffering.  She is quite the mousy, self-absorbed person that would make themselves a victim.  Yes, she’s targeted and undoubtedly, the perpetrator(s) feel that she is deserving.  While no one deserves being placed on display as if they were a desirable handbag for anyone to purchase and do what they will with, I couldn’t find very much to empathize about with Zoe.

We find Zoe as being several years divorced from a man who cheated but apparently loves her still as he is still at her beck and call.  She lives with her two children from the marriage, Justin and Katie, and her live-in boyfriend Simon.  Now this is one of my big points of contention with her character, but in all honesty, holds true for quite a few people in reality as it does in books.  Zoe was so concerned with herself after the divorce and the attention she received from Simon post Matt that she rushed headlong into introducing him into her daily life with her children.  Why?  Why couldn’t he live on his own?  Why is he underfoot and you meet him mere weeks ago when he first moved in?  Mackintosh was able to tap into a very prominent human trait of desperation and selfishness that exudes from Zoe.  As I wouldn’t with an actual person, I couldn’t understand how Zoe would want to protect her children from why she divorced their father, to only expose them to some random man in short order thereafter.  Oh, that’s right, she’s selfish and wants what she wants.

To further my ire with Zoe, her apparent worry for her children is only colored by her failure at being a solid mother.  Justin did get a bit wayward, as many teenage boys without proper guidance, and he’s suffering for that in how his life is unfolding in his early twenties with no real prospects because of his record.  It is clear that he was having a rough time because of the divorce, but then you go off and let Simon move in, because that will solve the problem of his father not being around on a daily basis.  Not only do you let this man move in, he’s constantly going at your son.  I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be discipline, but you don’t properly introduce him to the kids, there is no solid relationship with the kids before he moves in, but when he does, he’s in on the boy child?  What pisses me off most about this situation is that not only does she invite this stranger into their home, but she sides with the stranger every single time either through silence or actively taking his side.

To further my issues with Zoe, not only does she take Simon’s side against Justin, but she goes above and beyond to make Simon feel comfortable?  Seriously?  He starts rows with your son.  Then you ask your ex-husband to cater to Simon’s ego by not coming into the home you share with your mutually shared children.  A scene that absolutely had my hackles up was when they as a family was going on an outing to see Katie’s play.  Matt is a professional cab driver.  Zoe knows he took his trade very seriously.  Giving up his college to provide for his family, Matt threw himself headlong into the job, learning every shortcut, all the traffic nuances, etc.  However, because Simon suggested a route that Matt knew would end in disaster, Zoe begged Matt to take Simon’s advise to appease Simon.  Why is everyone to walk on eggshells for the magnificently insecure Simon?  If anyone who had a right to be demanding in all this was Matt.  However, Matt, being an adult accepted his failures in their relationship and the punishment met out by Zoe.

Zoe cannot let things go.  While she is spectacularly inept at life, she wants to control everything and everyone, but for Simon.  Zoe cast Matt aside at his one-time indiscretion.  She interferes with Justin’s job prospects and her desire to control her daughter is no less fierce.  Katie is an aspiring actress and Zoe is right to be concerned because many have tried and failed, sinking all their eggs into their acting career.  However, her inability to police her own thoughts and what comes shooting out of her mouth at any given time is absolutely abhorrent.  Who, other than a completely self-absorbed idiot, tells someone about a secretarial course just as they are going to an audition?  That couldn’t wait until the heartbreak of a failed audition happened?  Zoe rationalizes everything as only wanting the best for her children.  Clearly not because you do what you want when you want without regard for your children.  Case in point, her dealings with Simon and Katie’s new beau, Isaac.

In Zoe’s eyes, the only wrong Simon can do is not believe in her children.  Why should he when she doesn’t even give them the confidence that she gives Simon?  Lies were uncovered during the course of the novel that should have made her exceedingly angry and distrustful of Simon, since he lied to her for months.  However, Simon sheds a tear and she’s comforting him.  Really?  He’s lied to you for months and only confessed because he was caught, but as soon as he cries, you’re all “oh it’s alright?”  No ma’am.  Yet, you are so willing to believe that Isaac, albeit the circumstances are less than optimal, could be your stalker and more importantly someone willing to use Katie, you do not give a second thought of making accusations against Isaac.  However, when the opportunity presented itself to prove if those closest to her were involved allowing random strangers access to your life and thus placing you in harm’s way, you are ready to believe the worst in Justin, your own son, but not Simon.  Oh, woe is me that Simon would think you didn’t trust him?  That you are violating his trust.  Seriously, I hate this woman.  Her character is so self-absorbed, she can’t see the obvious that she is selfish and no matter what happens, she wants what she wants and everyone should fall in line with her wants and needs.

This moves me on to the police officer Kelly Swift.  While she is intuitive and can eek out things that others cannot seem to glean because she does have fresh eyes, her decision-making skills are sorely lacking and she’s pretty ill-suited to being a police officer.  Kelly’s demotion in her police department is a result of her poor impulse control, which seems to be a theme throughout the book.  I’m not talking, Dirty Harry, I have a mission and I’ll take out anyone I need to in the process.  Oh no, I’m talking, I make a decision that is completely contrary to orders I’ve received for the sake of following what I want to do rather than looking at the big picture.

Kelly stumbles onto the investigation as Zoe was able to piece a few things together to give Kelly a decent lead and in into the investigation. She takes the leads she was given and is able to see the patterns and pull the information together in a way that was most useful to the task force.  By all means, she should have been on the task force.  However, her use of asking for a favor, where her previous superior, who covered for her in her other mishap, does her a complete solid and adds her to the team after she approached the lead on the task force and was shot down.  As with Zoe, she is single-minded and selfish.  Her desire to get on the task force wasn’t for the sake of the victims, but getting her out of her mundane job and to be thrust back into a situation where she could make an impact.

Kelly’s inability to see the big picture is the glaring issue I have with her character.  Her own twin was sexually assaulted at university, but she only sees her way as the correct way for the twin to deal with the situation, even years later.  She cannot comprehend that everyone deals with trauma differently.  Kelly takes too much of a personal offense to trauma caused to her sister and other victims in this novel.  She almost acts as if she were the person violated and not the actual victim.  This type of egotism does not allow her to empathize with the victim and see things from their perspective and how just moving on in their life is their coping mechanism, while she dwells and wants to try to control the outcome, when she has no real dog in the fight other than to be supportive or to do her job.  She chastises her sister for withdrawing support for prosecution, on an unidentified assailant, many years later.  As Nick said and I love him for it, “it’s not about you.”

Kelly’s sense of duty to the greater good vice one person is amazingly short-sighted.  On one level it pushes the story along so that certain next steps and situations to evolve, but on another level, she should have been sacked straight away.  Diggers, her former superior, allowed her on the task force with the caveat that she is to abide expressly by the rules set out for her.  So how is it that within the first hours of being officially on the investigation, she goes expressly against her direct superior’s direction and releases confidential information to Zoe.  Not only did you violate your duty, Zoe takes steps that could skew the investigation and put innocent folks at risk for prosecution also.  So your impulse control pushes the buttons of another impulse control deviant into some ill-advised action.  This is straight off the blocks.  So you have absolutely no respect or consideration for the fact that people have put their reputations and careers on the line for you to have a possible last hurrah as an investigator.  I know no police organization in the world that releases details of an investigation to a victim while trying to build their case and identify the offenders.  Yet, Kelly makes this decision, not once but twice with complete disregard for protocol and the greater good.

Nick Rampello is a proper cop and a great leader by my estimation.  I like the scene where Kelly comes in to meet and provide a little information before joining the task force, while Nick is giving a briefing.  He speaks quietly, making people engage, lean forward and listen to what he is saying.  He’s commanding his audience in a subtle but very effective way.  Not only can he handle his crew, he can handle a suspect deftly without causing too much of a commotion.  He also is quick on his feet, despite Kelly expressly disobeying his orders on communicating with Zoe, he has Kelly’s back with the brass and keeps her out of harms way and from getting sacked as well she should.  Nick doesn’t do it once, but twice and allows her the opportunity to explain herself.  He recognizes Kelly’s talent in deduction and as an investigator.  However, but her ability to follow the game plan truly is a detriment and something he should be more stringent about.  After all, she hadn’t really earned that benefit from him, but he afforded it graciously anyway.

The concept of the crime ring was truly imaginative and I appreciate the thought Mackintosh put into the website being the forum of identifying “candidates.”  Also, how CCTV is there for our protection, yet can be a weapon against us.  How our own behaviors, routines and traits can make us a victim because we have become predictable.  I hate many of the characters, but each served their purpose and pushed the story along quickly and bringing it to a very pleasing conclusion.  It sounds like there may be a sequel, but if Zoe and Kelly are prominent again, I definitely couldn’t read it.

Esbe’s Favorite Character(s):  Nick Rampello.

Lady Esbe read the Berkley hardcover version of this selection.

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Elle Tea:  Scoring Liked Book

I’ll start by saying that this book had me reassessing my whole OCD, creature-of-habit schtick, that’s for sure.  I’m not even joking – I’ve made it a habit since finishing this novel to switch it up quite a bit just on the off-chance that anyone who’s watching can’t memorize my schedule.

You know.  In case they want to stalk and kill me.  World’s Most Paranoid Woman of the Year, here I come – look out, BillMo, I’m coming for your title.

As always, I’ll start with the good: I See You keeps you guessing, and it makes you paranoid.  A bit.  Not, Neighborhood Crazy Lady kind of paranoid, but it will definitely have you shadow-boxing almost every male character in the novel: one moment you’re certain it’s the boyfriend, the next it must be the boss, or maybe the ex-husband, or the neighbor, or the guy on the train, or the guy she bumps into, or the daughter’s boyfriend, or…  And then they have alibis, their shady behavior is explained away and you’re left to flounder around once more, spinning and pointing fingers – not unlike the protagonist herself.  The story itself does fizzle out around the 60 – 70% mark, but the last couple of chapters make it all well worth it – not only does the story end solidly, but the revelation of the mysterious perpetrator behind the crimes definitely has you rethinking scenes and situations from earlier chapters.

The author is a former policewoman, so the procedural aspect is spot-on, especially when it comes to the handling of Zoe Walker’s case by the detective actually assigned to it: Nick Rampello.  The writing is middle-of-the-road: there’s nothing that makes Mackintosh’s style stand out from other crime novels and police procedurals I’ve read, but there’s nothing that makes it take a nosedive, either.  And the pace, for the most part, is quite good.

Sadly, that’s about it for the good – but the ending really does save it: I’d dropped to a two-teacup score (“this book was ok”) for pretty much the entire last half of the novel, but that last chapter shot it back up a cup for sure.

Ok.  The bad.  There really wasn’t much, but what there was… unfortunate.  Doubly so, since the major flaw I found here was the protagonist herself.  But first…

First, let me talk a bit about Kelly Swift.  I expected more from this character, and maybe that was where I went wrong.  But why Mackintosh, a policewoman herself once upon a time, focuses on three police officers (two women and one man) and then gives most of the brains, talent, and natural instinct to the guy is beyond me.  And yes, I know men make great police officers, but c’mon!  Swift was a good officer at one point, but her life took a wee turn right off into Crazytown for a while, and she finds herself at the beginning of our tale basically at the bottom rung – and the fact that she wasn’t prosecuted herself was solely due to intervention she probably didn’t deserve.  She begs and cajoles until she’s temporarily given another shot at the big leagues, with not just one but two commanding officers sticking their necks out for her this go, and one of the first things she does is essentially give them both the middle finger and skip right on down the path they specifically and repeatedly tell her not to take.

And if you read it, you’ll probably find yourself thinking, “Yeah, I don’t know how I could make that decision…”  I know this, because I thought it myself.  But this is why I’m not a cop or a doctor or a member of the fire department or in the military: because I don’t want to ever have to make that sort of decision.  Jobs where the safety and security of the many are your primary duty and where you are guaranteed to be repeatedly called upon to make snap decisions about who to save and who to leave to fend for themselves throughout your tenure are not for the weak of heart, mind, or spirit – but they’re also not for the weak-willed: if you can’t be trusted not to jeopardize the lives of many for the good of one, then don’t go into public safety jobs.  Because I know I wouldn’t want to be slaughtered in some horrible fashion by a sicko just because you got a domestic disturbance call from the lady who lives next door to you.

And if you’re reading this and you are in the public-safety sector, and if my life ever depends on you and you fail me because you were off doing some galactically stupid shit for an acquaintance, know this: I will haunt your sorry ass forever, and I’ll do it in creepy clown makeup.

My biggest contention with I See You is the protagonist.  She is so… she’s just so… aarrrrrgggh!  She whines and cries and mopes about, she’s manipulative and hard-hearted, and to top it off she’s the kind of mother I absolutely abhor: she talks about how important her children are to her, she makes sure to give herself pats on the back for having withheld information from her children regarding their father and the circumstances surrounding their divorce that she feels would sully their feelings towards him, she moans and groans to anyone within earshot about how much she’s given up, how hard it’s been, how young she was when she became a mom, how broke she is, how thankless her son is and how reckless her daughter is…  But she’s bloody delusional.  She crushes her daughter’s dreams at every turn, she allows her boyfriend to harass her son about his lack of a job (which is just vile, once you find out what’s going on there), she moves said boyfriend in and gives space promised to her kids to him so he can have a quiet spot in an otherwise rowdy house to call his very own…  That is not the dossier of Mom of the Year to me.

Yes, she’s got a problem.  A big one.  Namely someone seems to be watching her every move, and I get that.  Her fear, her paranoia, her suspicion… I get that.  But picking your boyfriend’s wants over your kids’ needs?  Knowing your ex-husband and the father of your children is still in love with you, even after all these years, so much so that he is still willing to hang around on the off-chance that someday you’ll forgive him enough to give him another chance, and using him for free cab rides and money when you’re strapped for cash?  Taking information that someone gives you in an effort to help you and then stabbing them squarely between the shoulder blades with it?  Repeatedly showing up at your friend’s place of business whenever the hell you want so you can have a good cry on someone’s shoulder – a friend who, by the way, has already provided you with years of free babysitting, a place to have family meals, money, and a job for one of your wayward offspring?

She’s a black hole – she just takes and takes and takes from everyone around her.  Hell, by 70% I was ready to push her in front of a train as a favor to all of the supporting characters.  “There ya go, guys… You’re freeeee!”

So, to sum it all up: I’d recommend it on a rainy day when you’re home alone and can get the most out of the paranoid feeling it will give you – just don’t lose heart when it all seems to be coming apart… hang in there: the end is worth it all.

Elle’s Favorite Character(s):  Nick Rampello, hands down.  He’s the only character I never wanted to rip out of the pages and beat with a shoe.

Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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