Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Title: What She Knew
Author: Gilly Macmillan
Published: December 2015, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 496 pages
Source: Publisher

In her enthralling debut, Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller as gripping and skillful as The Girl on the Train and The Guilty One.

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes. 

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking...

My thoughts: It's no surprise that I love a good psychological thriller and this one definitely hit the mark - in fact, it's probably one of my favorites of the year. I had heard a lot of chatter about this one from across the pond, as it had been released there earlier in the year (under a different name - Burnt Paper Sky) and I was desperate to read it! 

I loved how this was told - I really think the narration added a nice element to the story -  alternating between Rachel's point of view, DI Clemo's point of view and the news pieces and blog entries. Hearing the mother's side of the story adds the emotional part, hearing the DI's part of the story gives the impartial part, and the newspaper clippings and blog stories are just such a part of today's world that it all ties together. Of course, through Rachel and DI Clemo, we do meet the other characters that make up the rest of the book - Rachel's husband John, Rachel's sister Nikki, her friend Laura, Ben's teacher, Clemo's partner and other co-workers. 

This is an emotional read, yet at the same time, it's such a thrilling, edge-of-your seat type of read. I was suspicious of many of the people that we meet along the way and I kept changing who I thought was responsible for taking Ben. 

What I found most interesting was how quick the media was to vilify Rachel when they really knew next to nothing about her. They were so fast to point the finger at her and make snap decisions and so many people were just at quick to jump on that bandwagon. It really got me thinking how often we do that when we see a news story of similar caliber on tv...do we ever really know what is going on in someone's life when something like this happens to them? That's where Gilly Macmillan excels with this book - she provides us with just enough insight on each of the characters to help us know them so that we might not be so quick to make that snap judgement. This, I think, makes us feel sympathetic for the characters, particularly Rachel at times.

This was a phenomenal debut and I cannot wait to get my hands on Gilly's next book. She is definitely going on my list of must-read authors list!



  1. This sounds like something I would like to read! Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Kristin, this sounds like an exceptional book. Thanks for your enthusiastic recommendation. I read another review recently which also praised the book.

  3. Nice article, thank you for sharing

  4. Great review! I also really enjoyed this book, both the way it was told and the fascinating way the media is involved in the story. It was a fantastic debut :)


Thank you so much for leaving a comment! I love interacting with other book lovers and appreciate any thoughts or feedback! If you read a book after seeing my review, please let me know. Come back and leave me a link to your review so I can read it. Thank you!!!

Blogger Template Created by pipdig