We’ll never know who could be watching us

“I See You” by Clare Mackintosh (Berkley, 374 pages, $26).

Over the last few years there has been a delightful eruption of extraordinary mystery novels written by women in the United Kingdom. The list keeps expanding — Paula Hawkins, Harriet Lane, Fiona Barton, and most recently, Clare Mackintosh.

Mackintosh burst upon the crime scene last year with her debut, “I Let You Go.” That book, which is out now in paperback, opens as a woman is walking along the street with her young son while holding the boy’s hand. She lets go of him for just a second. A car rushes by. The boy is struck and killed. The vehicle doesn’t stop. It speeds off.

“I Let You Go” is a brilliantly conceived police procedural. When we get near the end the author astonishes us with an elegant twist that had this reviewer going back to reread the story to try to figure out how she did that.

This writer knows a lot about police procedures. Mackintosh is a former police officer. She had taken some time off from that job to be with her young children and to write. As her leave of absence was about to end she obtained a publishing contract, a two book deal. She was then able to retire from policing to focus on her writing.

That first book, “I Let You Go,” went on to sell half a million copies in the U.K. Her second book, “I See You,” just came out in the United States. She has outdone herself this time. In an interview she told me she got the idea for this second novel after she traveled with a friend through the Tube, the extensive underground London subway system.

Her friend demonstrated a trick. She explained that if they stood in an exact spot on the platform that when the train arrived and the doors opened they would be in a perfect position to board and obtain some of the only available seats in the train car.

And it was true. It happened exactly like that. The author began to think about how we are all creatures of routine, walking, standing, sitting, in the same places day after day. And the London Underground is filled with cameras that are recording the movements of millions of commuters.

In “I See You” a woman is riding on the subway when she notices a newspaper advertisement for a service that offers to connect men with women. There’s a photo of a woman in the ad. She cannot believe it. It is a photo of her. Disturbing, right?

She hadn’t provided her photo to this service? What’s going on here? She begins checking the newspaper every day to see which photos they are using. One of the photos they publish in an ad turns out to be that of a woman who then becomes a crime victim.

I’ll say one more thing about this fabulous mystery; the twist at the end of this one will leave readers spinning. You can hear my interview with Clare Mackintosh Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO (91.3FM).

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