Friday, November 27, 2015

Guest Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillian


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...

Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Guest Reviewer Laura's Thoughts:

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan doesn't require too much to sell it. The story is so obviously captivating. I mean, cute missing British kid. HELLO. There is no forgiving quality in the kidnapper, so we know exactly who to root for (OR DO WE). This novel begs the readers to immediately rally and solve the crime and the only way to do that? READ THE BLOODY BOOK, AND READ IT FAST.

I adored the way she chopped up the novel: through different POV's, official emails, transcripts plus a healthy spattering (ew that phrase) of Internet headlines, blogs and articles. I am a youngish gal; a member of the club that started childhood without the internet but became a person when it started creeping into the households. And maybe I'm reading all the wrong books, but I rarely bump in to novels that utilize the use of Internet to further the story and perspective. And why not! It's our whole world these days, and I appreciated how present it was in MacMillan's debut novel. It showed a different sort of awareness. She recognizes the power of the www and it's capacity to instill fear, incite accusation and promote an total robbery of privacy.

Macmillian did this one thing that really got under my skin at first, and then I went all "dude bro brilliant, just brilliant." When we first met Rachel Jenner, she was breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly in to the camera. We quickly became a character, the audience member she needed to tell her whole story too, granted we could stay quiet and stick with her. YEP, INTO IT. And didn't happen again until we were about 60% through the story.

"I'm also interested to know how uncomfortable you feel now. Whether you’re regretting our agreement. Remember the roles we allocated each other? Me: Ancient Mariner and Narrator. You: Wedding Guest and Patient Listener. Do you wish you could shuffle away yet? Refill your glass perhaps? Now that my grip is loosening whose side are you on?"

Initially, I thought maybe the author was just like, "FUDGE, remember that one time I started doing this one thing? Ok ummmm, *flips through manuscript* let's throw another audience participation post riiiight....*lands randomly on page* HERE." But I couldn't stop thinking about the placement of this passage, and I realized what a sneaky way that was of turning the tables on us! At this point, I had settled back into the role of docile, unaffected and removed reader but with this passage, the author let me know that I was not the only one judging; Rachel was gaging my character as much as I was hers. She knew (ha, title pun kinda) how she was being portrayed in the media and what the world was saying about her and she wanted to check in - hey loyal reader, ya still with me? The stakes in this story immediately felt gargantuan again and I immediately rallied beside Rachel, all over again. And with that renewed sense of duty, I rushed towards the ending.

Take away: What She Knew is the sort of book that does not offend, but doesn't really inspire either. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but I won't be thinking about it after I write this review. I would happily read MacMillan's work again. If this novel is an indication, she has a knack for addictive storytelling and she mixes it wonderfully with well-researched settings and ideas (you'll be an expert on the inner layout of a police station after this one, guaranteed). I feel like I've been reading a lot of these lately, but What She Knew is a great novel if you're looking to be wildly (albeit momentarily) entertained and never have to work too hard. Another beach read for those with a darker disposition.

Thank you publishers for a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. You dah best. :)

Rating: 4/5 Stars


  1. Great review :) Interesting that the author included the reader. Food for thought. Thanks for sharing!

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