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  • Writer's pictureNia Forrester

'I Know You' by Claire McGowan

This one opens with action right away, which is always a good thing: Rachel, out in the woods with her dog and ruminating about her life and new lover Alex, stumbles across a body on her usual walking route. But rather than simply call the police, she does something that seems counterintuitive; she runs home and attempts to get on with her day as though nothing happened. In fact, even when the body is later discovered by someone else and the police come calling to see whether she saw anything on her walk, Rachel maintains---at first----that she didn't see it. This is the first clue we have that she has something to hide. And I'll admit, it was definitely a secret worth hiding, and one that explains completely why Rachel would not have called the police in the first place.

Rachel, you see, used to be called Casey. When she was a 19-year-old nanny, working for a Hollywood-adjacent couple in L.A., she went to America looking to, as her mother put it, "make her fortune" in the film industry. Except what she got instead were long, hot days working for a dysfunctional couple, taking care of their two kids---an 8-month-old and a bratty, difficult five-year-old child actress. Just when Casey begins to think her biggest problems will be the coldness and cruelty of the woman of the house, and the almost too warm attention of the man of the house, the entire family, except for the baby is killed and she is charged with the crime. After an appeal however, Casey is released, returns to the UK and changes her name. Pretty good reason not to immediately raise your hand and say you found a body.

The best part of this read for me was the parallel timelines---one in the past with Casey, the other in the present with Rachel, dealing with this new horror. For me, that was the single most interesting element of this book. The character development of the couple Casey worked for was stellar, even though Casey herself seemed less interesting. The book faltered somewhat with the mystery that was taking place in the present. The murder mystery was not in fact much of a mystery. If you read this genre, you'll guess who did it within a few chapters and every attempt at misdirection will fall spectacularly flat. What also fell flat was Rachel's very belated realization of the culprit. So much so, that I think the plot of the present-day story could have been dispensed with altogether in favor of a very interesting single narrative thread following Casey from starry-eyed nanny and wannabe actress to murder suspect.

One other thing that bothered me a little about this book was a tiny, perhaps wonky detail. Casey kept saying she was "exonerated" when her conviction was overturned on appeal. That is not the same thing. Far from it. It made me think the author did very shallow research on the American legal system. It would have been forgivable if it had been mentioned only once, and if there was very little detail in general about the legal process that led Casey to being imprisoned. But if you're going to include great detail, as was the case here, I think you should make sure you get it right.

All things considered, an entertaining, light mystery-suspense read. I wouldn't rush to recommend it, necessarily, but it kept me listening and turning the pages.

AUDIOBOOK NOTE: Didn't love this narrator. Her voice took on a whiny, petulant quality at times that made Casey/Rachel exasperating at times. And her male voices were sometimes ... not so great.

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑

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