By the standards of routine psychological thrillers, You Let Me In is a decent piece of work, though a very slow boiler indeed; one’s three hundred pages into the story before the shoes start dropping. But I expected so much more, because the author is Lucy Clarke, author of The Blue, now renamed No Escape. (Why do publishers do this? Are they trying to trick readers into buying it twice? Shame!) The Blue, the name of a sailing yacht, was my choice for the best novel of 2017, a hauntingly tragic account of a doomed ocean passage with a mostly young pick-up crew, a book I’d class with Joseph Conrad amongst great sea stories.
This current book is about a writer who is quite literally house-bound. Elle was catapulted into fame when her debut novel turned into a best-seller. Now she has returned to her beautiful cliff-side house in Cornwall, into which she sank all her profits, to find that an Airbnb visitor seems to have subtly vandalised her retreat. Elle is also suffering from a mammoth case of writer’s block and is far behind her deadline for the second book. Elle also seems to have a strained relationship with her sister Fiona, a journalist turned stay-at-home mum envious of her successful sister. There is also an ex with whom Elle’s not getting along, and a neighbour’s motorcyclist son who may be a stalker. To complicate matters more, there is a backstory set in 2003/4 when Elle was an undergraduate in Cardiff.
Despite the home-alone menaces, I never found the frights very scary, which made waiting for this one to boil a tedious experience. When the revelations finally start, though, I was awed and admiring of the author’s artistry. There are basically three of them, in ascending order of surprise with a nice little twist at the very end that seemed most appropriate. For me the best twists are the one’s I foresee about two pages before they are revealed. That shows they have been nicely foreshadowed. The major one I found implausible in the extreme, at least in hindsight, but it was a perfect a resolution of what had gone before and tied the threads together most delightfully. So if you’re looking for a longer read you can spend some time with, you may well find You Let Me In an agreeable four-star for a long flight. At her best, though, Lucy Clarke is capable of working at so much higher a level, artistically and spiritually, and I so wish she would give us another story as moving as The Blue.