What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew is a serviceable thriller, which ultimately muddles around too much to pack a powerful punch. Sure to touch a nerve with parents, it follows the disappearance of seven-year-old Ben, who runs ahead one day in the woods, only to vanish entirely.

Mother Rachel is understandably distraught, but as a narrator seems far too preoccupied with her public persona for my liking. Certainly, it must be hard to have an entire nation convinced you’ve offed your beloved offspring, but is this really something that would register significantly with a child still missing?

Readers are presented with any number of suspects – could Ben have been taken by his father and new stepmother? The beloved aunt who has always wanted a son of her own? Perhaps the unnerving classroom assistant who sets the police on edge? The ultimate solution proved satisfyingly surprising, but I would have liked to have spent more time with the perpetrator to better understand their motives.

Half the plot is told from the POV of Detective Inspector Clemo, who is largely a blank canvass with daddy/girlfriend/anger issues. A fairly large portion of the story involves an internal media leak, which I don’t feel added much to the overall tension or plot.

For the most part, I enjoyed What She Knew while I was reading it, but it has proven forgettable since (I’m writing this review a couple of weeks after finishing, and had to look up all the main characters’ names, which is never a great sign!). I was at least going to offer it a great big round of applause for being decent female-driven thriller that doesn’t compare itself to Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, except then I saw:

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.


[Read from 28 October-1 November 2016]

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