What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

KK Conley Review

GM What She Knew

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I’ve read a second debut novel in the last month. This one is a police procedural told in part by the mother of a missing eight-year-old boy. I love the writing in this novel set in England.

A thirty-something mother lets her son have some independence on their weekly walk in nearby woods. The boy disappears without a trace in the few minutes he’s out of sight. The mother struggles with guilt, believing its her fault her son has disappeared. This isn’t helped by the negative journalism and an avid blogger that want to lay blame on her as well.

She relies on family and close friends to see her through this, and finds that she can no longer trust the people she thought had her back.

The lead detective has his own crisis and guilt to deal with in the aftermath of the child’s disappearance.

The characters are well defined, and the writing is fresh and original. Some examples:

“What do you think, Jim?” I should relish the question. It’s an opportunity to put myself forward, to prove myself. A year ago, I would have. Now I focus on the chipped plastic shard on the end of my pen. Through the pall of my exhaustion, I have to force myself to raise my head and look at the three expectant faces around me. All I can think about is how the insomnia has smeared the clarity of my mind.

I admired those eyes. I thought they were lively and sparky. The  flashed around the room, assessing and flirting, teasing and charming. After John had gone, I thought of them as magpie eyes, darting and furtive, foraging for other people’s treasure to line her nest.

This is a great read, and I look forward to Macmillan’s next book due out this fall.

Booklist Online Review

It is every parent’s nightmare: your young child goes missing after being out of sight for just one moment. When eight-year-old Ben runs ahead of his mother, Rachel, as they walk home from the park, she thinks nothing of it. After all, he has the family dog with him, and she knows the clearing he is headed for. But when she arrives mere minutes later, he’s nowhere to be found, and the dog is there with a broken leg. After an intense police search of the area, Rachel and her ex-husband are left frightened and confused, and they know time is running out. Days pass and the police have few leads, while an anonymous blog (complete with awful comments from the peanut gallery) threatens to derail the investigation. The ensuing media circus turns Rachel’s neighbors against her, and she is having a hard time trusting her own family, to say nothing of her ex. Macmillan peppers her debut with subtle red herrings and a variety of potential suspects, ratcheting up the tension slowly but oh so deliciously.— Rebecca Vnuk

© Booklist Online

Amazon Description and Rating

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…

4.4 stars, <100 reviews

Goodreads Rating

4.0 stars, 2,000+ ratings

Author’s Description

Gilly Macmillan’s debut novel Burnt Paper Sky is a psychological thriller published in over seventeen territories worldwide in 2015 and 2016 including Little, Brown in the UK and Harper Collins in the US, where the title is What She Knew.

Gilly has been named a Rising Star by TheMediaEye.com and an Amazon Rising Star 2015.

Burnt Paper Sky was Amazon’s Debut of the Month in August 2015, a Bookseller pick of the month for August 2015 and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick in Autumn 2015.

What She Knew is an IndieBound Pick, a Target Book Club Pick, A LibraryReads List Pick, and a Featured Book for Book-Of-The-Month Club for December 2015.

What She Knew is the US edition of Burnt Paper Sky, published Dec 1 2015.

Romantic Times Top Pick for December 2016
Shortlisted for RT Reviewers Choice Award (First Mystery)
Featured Pick for Book-of-the-Month Club December 2015

Book Trailer 

Gilly talks about the Dutch version.