This impressive debut by British author Gilly Macmillan has been creating buzz since before its US release last month. An Indie Next pick, LibraryReads list pick, Target Book Club pick are a few of its many well-deserved recognitions. What She Knew (December 2015) is a skillfully crafted psychological thriller from an up-and-coming author who is certain to have a long writing career.
Macmillan takes her time setting the stage. A prologue set a year after the events in the novel includes sections from Rachel Jenner who questions whether she is a good mother and a second from Jim Clemo, a criminal investigative unit officer, who suffers from insomnia. These two narratives continue throughout the novel and tell the story of Benedict Finch.
The novel takes place over the course of nine days—from the day eight-year-old Benedict (“Ben”) disappears to the closing of his case. The reader quickly learns Ben’s disappearance is the reason why Rachel questions her mothering skills and DI Jim Clemo can’t sleep.
What She Knew is a gripping story from the beginning and doesn’t let go. The psychological tension is so strong! People aren’t who they seem. Every time you think you’ve figured out what happened to Ben, someone else begins to look suspicious. For example, at one point, the family liason officer assigned to the case, Emma Zhang, is suspicious of Rachel’s involvement in Ben’s disappearance. Something instinctual tells her to be cautious. For one, she observes Rachel with her older sister, Nicky, and feels Nicky treats Rachel with great care, like she is on the verge of a breakdown. Is this because of the trauma with losing her son or is this pre-existing? At this point in the novel, I couldn’t help but question the reliability of Rachel, one of the main narrators. I just love novels like this.
Although I found the British police hierarchy to be a bit tricky to understand, the author frequently references those on the force by their professional titles. This was very helpful. It was done often enough to keep track of everyone, but not overdone to distraction.
I highly recommend What She Knew to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers. Gilly Macmillan is an author to watch!
Reviewed by Libby Bridges
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