I Know You

By Claire McGowan

Thomas & Mercer

Pub date: 19-Oct-2021

I Know You cover by Claire McGowan


AMBER LOVE 28-SEP-2021 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’ve also curated lists of books and other things I like on Amazon so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.

Publisher’s summary:

In this tense thriller from the bestselling author of What You Did and The Other Wife, a woman finds a dead body. Will she make the same mistake as last time?

When Rachel stumbles upon a body in the woods, she knows what she has to do: run. Get away. Do not be found at the scene. Last time, she didn’t know, and she ended up accused of murder. But when this victim is identified as her boyfriend’s estranged wife, Rachel realises she’s already the prime suspect.

With mounting evidence against her, Rachel’s only hope is to keep the truth about herself well hidden. Because twenty years ago she was someone else — Casey, a young nanny trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles. When the family she worked for were brutally murdered, all the evidence pointed to her and she went to prison. Back then, she narrowly escaped the death penalty and managed to free herself on appeal. Now she’s fighting to save the life she’s spent years piecing back together.

But with her behaviour raising suspicion and the police closing in, Rachel can’t help wondering: Was her discovery in the woods really just an awful coincidence, or is someone framing her for murder? Someone who knows who she is, and wants revenge.


I KNOW YOU follows an interesting pattern of the main character’s life. In her early years, she was known by her legal name Casey Adams; after turmoil which landed her in an American prison on death row, she got back to England and began using her middle name Rachel and married surname Caldwell (haven’t we all? :wink:) Since Rachel is her present time period name, I’ll use that.

I felt for Rachel like I did with our real world’s Amanda Knox. I cannot imagine how terrifying it would be to end up in prison in a foreign country and on death row no less. Even with a common language, British English and American English differences were enough to cause yet more grief and add to the perceived guilt of poor Rachel.

McGowan did a perfect job of bouncing through time from the Casey years to the Rachel years. Casey’s nineteen-year-old naive period as an au pair for a pretentious, high-maintenance Los Angeles couple with two children are chapters of pure muscle-tightening tension. Expect to grind your teeth when reading about Casey trying to deal with a spoiled and abused little girl, Madison, and her anorexic, angry mother Abigail. David, the husband/father, seems like Casey only ally and she dreams of being cast in one of his films. David’s drinking and mercurial moods give Casey mixed signals. For such a young woman who was still trying to hold onto her dreams, the family drives her to the brink of collapse.

The entire Safran family except for baby Carson is composed of manipulative, self-serving people. When everyone except the baby is murdered, the nanny — who dared to have social media images of her partying back in England — was quickly arrested and convicted. The Innocence Project handles her appeal in what the media dubbed The Mary Poppins Murders.

How many murders does the average person come across in their lifetime? None, right?

The present/later years when going by Rachel, readers are lulled into a false sense of security, but never truly lets her guard down. She is protective of anyone offering her food or drinks. She changes her hair and dresses frumpy to be sure she’s never called promiscuous again. Rachel volunteers at a dog shelter where she is truly happy though never relaxed. She falls in love with the wrong man, Alex, and her life falls apart in the worst ways. What are the odds of Rachel stumbling upon yet another dead body? This time, at least she’s in her home country but in a quiet, small town. Of course you know she’ll be the prime suspect again.

What McGowan does that keeps the suspense going is methodically dropping in new potential suspects in the murder of Anna Devine. Where does Jeremy, Rachel’s ex-husband and only champion, fit into the equation? Did someone follow Rachel from the US to the UK specifically to frame her again for murder?

The ending, not necessarily the reveal of Anna Devine’s killer, but the events that unfold are quite surprising. Rachel isn’t the only one with a secret identity (to be honest, I figured out this other person easily), but she has to make another decision about whether someone is friend or foe. Then she has to weigh her past, her previous behavior, her experience with the judicial systems (and the public and media) — and decide what course of action is best. Does Rachel rise to the occasion and face another battle or does she flee? I won’t dare spoil that.

Rachel represents the average heterosexual woman who makes terrible mistakes in judgment as most of us do at one time or another, especially when only nineteen. She has one friend and yet she doesn’t feel connected to him at all. Even Jeremy wanted something from her — love. No one ever gives Rachel a helping hand simply to be nice. She is weathered and traumatized. As a grown woman, Rachel’s dog is honestly the only unconditional love she has and even that gets taken away from her for a while.

While I Know You may get on lists for “women’s fiction” or “women’s reading” or “women in crime” — Rachel is the type of protagonist that men should read to see this side of what some women want. She can be shallow (a defense mechanism). She can be passionate. Ultimately, it’s Rachel’s street smarts that keep her alive. Male readers are perhaps used to the “unkillable male hero” like John McClane or Harry Bosch. This portrayal of intimate partner/domestic violence shows all the flaws of the female hero that is often lacking in male counterparts.

five star rating

Rating: 5 stars

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